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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

Edited By 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 16: Ulrich Beck: Redefining Power in the Global Age: Eight Theses


491 C H A P T E R 1 6 Redefining Power in the Global Age: Eight Theses Ulrich Beck How should such concepts as “power”, “dominance”, and “authority” be redefined from a cosmopolitan perspective? I have eight theses. First thesis: The world economy stands in relation to the state as a kind of meta- power; it can change the national and international rules. The economy has broken out of the cage of the territorially and nationally organized power conflict and has acquired new power moves in digital space. It’s like playing chess and changing the rules of the game along the way. The pawn – the economy – suddenly becomes the knight (given new possibilities of mobility by information technology) and can thus checkmate the king – the state. But perhaps the state can also “jump” and check- mate the knight-economy in new ways. From what do capital strategies draw their new meta-power? The basic principle was summed up in the headline of an east European newspaper on the occasion of the visit of the German chancellor: “We Forgive the Crusaders and Await the Inves- tors.” It is the precise opposite of the classic theory of power: the threat is no longer of an invasion but of the non-invasion (or withdrawal) of investors. There is only one thing worse than being overrun by big multinationals: not being overrun by mul- tinationals. This kind of authority is not tied to the execution of orders, but to the possibility of going somewhere else – to...

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