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A chessboard, a metaphor for the nature of power in the 21st century. Power in the 21st century is distributed in a pattern that resembles a complex three-dimensional chess game. (Photo by Flickr user soupboy licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license).

Power In the 21st Century

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The diffusion of power in the 21st century from states to nonstate actors has left more and more things outside the control of even the most powerful states. To accomplish their goals, states must do better at leveraging their smart power, which combines the hard power of coercion and payment with the soft power of persuasion and attraction. Doing so will often require wielding power with others rather than over them.

What will it mean to wield power in the global information age of the 21st century? What resources will produce power? In the 16th century, control of colonies and gold bullion gave Spain the edge; 17th-century Netherlands profited from trade and finance; 18th-century France used its larger population and armies to gain advantage; while 19th-century British power rested on its primacy in the industrial revolution and its navy. Conventional wisdom has always held that the state with the largest military prevails, but in an information age it may also be the state—or nonstate actor—with the best story that wins. ...

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