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The Meta-Power Paradigm

Impacts and Transformations of Agents, Institutions, and Social Systems-- Capitalism, State, and Democracy in a Global Context

Tom R. Burns and Peter M. Hall

This work presents, elaborates, and illustrates what is arguably the most important concept in the social sciences: power. It focuses particularly on a major class of power phenomena, meta-power, that is, power over power, transformative and structuring power. This encompasses powers to establish, reform, and transform social systems (institutions, power hierarchies, cultural formations, and socio-technical and infrastructural systems). Understanding meta-power is essential to the effective analysis of the formation of societal structures, their dynamics and evolution. This collection presents numerous illustrations and case studies at local, meso, and macro levels, showing how meta-powering is mobilized and operates in different contexts. The book should be of particular interest to business and management researchers, anthropologists, historians, legal scholars, political scientists, and, of course, sociologists.

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C H A P T E R 15: J. P. Singh: The Meta-power of Interactions: Security and Commerce in Networked Environments

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469 C H A P T E R 1 5 The Meta-power of Interactions: Security and Commerce in Networked Environments1 J. P. Singh We need a theory of interaction in global politics to understand global transfor- mations. That we have lacked one so far is because in a world ordered by nation- states and their interactions, global transformations were fairly regularized, with the quotidian trumpeting the transformational. Global interactions tended to repeat or reinforce the cultural and sociological patterns in place. Most current theories, there- fore, take actors’ identities and preferences for granted, derived from static global cultural understandings, and then proceed to analyze outcomes that result from them. That successive interactions might affect identity and preferences will come as no surprise to a child psychologist. Human interactions can reproduce and rest up- on existing cultural practices, but they can equally lead to new or hybrid cultures. If cultural identity is constituted and preferences come about as a result of this identi- ty, then it is time not just to re-specify outcomes but to reconceptualize one of the basic understandings of political science, namely that of power. This chapter at- tempts such conceptualization by reformulating the concept of meta-power and then examines its implications broadly for global governance patterns in security and commerce. The conceptualization of meta-power is offered after reviewing rel- evant social science literatures in the context of a proliferation of information tech- nologies, which offer a useful case for analyzing the concept. The discussion of the security...

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