The End of Power

It has become commonplace to observe that power is shifting: from states to nonstate actors, from institutions to networks, and so on. In this fascinating book, Naím makes the more provocative claim that power is, in fact, declining. Naím focuses on the flagging ability of large organizations—government ministries, corporations, militaries, churches, educational and philanthropic foundations—to get their way. He acknowledges that wealth is now more concentrated than ever in the hands of elites and the institutions they control. But he argues that the ability of elites to use their assets to influence and shape the world has dissipated. This much is convincing, but the argument that power itself is slipping away or disappearing is less so. What Naím shows, rather, is that power now manifests itself in new ways and places. New technologies and novel social groupings have allowed inventors, activists, terrorists, and many other types of people to exercise more influence. Naím might overstate the significance of this change, but his book should provoke a debate about how to govern the world when more and more people are in charge.

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