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Network Power

Network Power: The Social Dynamics of Globalization

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    Network Power
    Book Description:

    For all the attention globalization has received in recent years, little consensus has emerged concerning how best to understand it. For some, it is the happy product of free and rational choices; for others, it is the unfortunate outcome of impersonal forces beyond our control. It is in turn celebrated for the opportunities it affords and criticized for the inequalities in wealth and power it generates.

    David Singh Grewal's remarkable and ambitious book draws on several centuries of political and social thought to show how globalization is best understood in terms of a power inherent in social relations, which he callsnetwork power. Using this framework, he demonstrates how our standards of social coordination both gain in value the more they are used and undermine the viability of alternative forms of cooperation. A wide range of examples are discussed, from the spread of English and the gold standard to the success of Microsoft and the operation of the World Trade Organization, to illustrate how global standards arise and falter. The idea of network power supplies a coherent set of terms and concepts-applicable to individuals, businesses, and countries alike-through which we can describe the processes of globalization as both free and forced. The result is a sophisticated and novel account of how globalization, and politics, work.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14512-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    IMAGINE FOR A MOMENT that you are lost in New York City without a cell phone or any other way to contact a friend whom you were planning to meet that very same day. Expecting to coordinate at the last minute, you failed to specify a meeting place in advance. You might think it absurd to suppose that the two of you—lacking any way to communicate and lost in the middle of several million people—will ever find a way to meet up. But if you had to pick a time and location in the hope that your friend...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Defining Network Power
    (pp. 17-43)

    WITH THE END OF THE COLD WAR, a world divided into hostile halves suddenly became “one world” in the middle of a historic transformation: the integration and consolidation of activities not just at the national or even continental level, but on the global scale too. Commerce, technology, media, and cultural imagery spilled across national borders in what appeared to some commentators to be a new worldwide free-for-all. Thus was the revolution of “globalization” suddenly upon us—as it has been, in fact, for the past few centuries.

    In most contemporary discussions, globalization is presented as constituting a break from the...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Power of Sociability
    (pp. 44-69)

    IN THE LAST CHAPTER, I introduced the idea of network power and suggested that this concept can help us to make sense of globalization. In my discussion, there was a notable lacuna: politics. This omission was no accident, since network power forms a crucial part of the process in which large-scale social structures emerge through the accumulation of decentralized, individual decisions without necessarily involving political intervention. The construction of the transnational networks that constitute what we commonly call “globalization” is largely based on such a cumulative pattern, rather than on constructive political effort. It is this feature of contemporary globalization...

  7. CHAPTER THREE English and Gold
    (pp. 70-105)

    THE UNIVERSAL STANDARD DESCRIBED in the first chapter is not merely hypothetical. Over the last century, we have seen such universal standards come and go during various episodes of globalization. In this chapter, I focus on two of the most well known, the English language and the gold standard, in order to explore how such standards originate, become universal (or near-universal), and crowd out alternatives.

    Nowhere are the dynamics of network power clearer than in the domains of language and money. Within a single linguistic or monetary community, we take these systems of exchange for granted. Language and money are...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Power and Choice in Networks
    (pp. 106-140)

    IN PREVIOUS CHAPTERS, I have examined the way in which convergence on a dominant standard can occur through choices that can be viewed as both free and forced, and I called the dynamics driving this convergence “network power.” What does it mean for these network dynamics to constitute a form or relation of power? In this chapter, I take up this question, first examining in more detail the conditions of choice that are generated given great inequalities of network power. Choices made in such conditions can become more and more constrained by the lack of acceptable alternatives until they prove...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Evaluating Network Power
    (pp. 141-165)

    IN THE LAST CHAPTER, we explored the characterization of network power as power in the light of theories in which consent and coercion are viewed as running together. However, claiming that the dynamics of network formation should be understood as a form of power tells us nothing about the instances in which its exercise may be unjust, needing to be countered if at all possible. While the concept of network power enables us to see how the dynamics of network formation constitute part of the dynamics of social structuration more generally, and thus constitute a relation of power, nothing in...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Countering Network Power
    (pp. 166-192)

    IN THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER, I suggested different ways in which our concerns about distributive justice and identity might motivate the normative evaluation of network power. Once we have decided that a particular network configuration is abusive or unjust, we may wish to change it. However, how best to counter network power—which is driven by consent rather than direct coercion—is difficult to determine. A strategy based on negative rights that demarcate a zone of autonomy will prove of limited use against a kind of power driven by our desire to connect with one another. Neither can the provision of...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Network Power in Technology
    (pp. 193-224)

    THE DYNAMICS OF NETWORK POWER outlined in the previous chapters are clearly evident in the domain of high technology, the globalization of which is a defining feature of our age. New technologies of communication and media have helped to establish a world of global commerce, culture, and consciousness. These technologies solve practical problems of coordination, facilitating interactions across great distances and building on the great eighteenth-and nineteenth-century advances that mark the modern age off from those preceding it. The Internet and the airplane, in our day, have furthered the compression of distance begun by the sailing ship, the railroad, and...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Global Trade and Network Power
    (pp. 225-246)

    BESIDES THE GLOBALIZATION of technology, the globalization of commerce is one of the most significant features of our age. Here, too, the idea of network power can help us to make sense of how global networks of sociability have been remaking our world—and why the standards on which they depend have the power that they do.

    Although there are many different ways in which global trade is managed, the most important—and the most visible—is through the World Trade Organization (WTO), an institution that represents the culmination of several centuries of uneven advance toward a global free trade...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Global Neoliberalism
    (pp. 247-265)

    THE WTO INSTITUTIONALIZES the economic philosophy of “neoliberalism” in the world’s multilateral trading order. Neoliberalism is the philosophy behind what is often referred to as “economic” globalization—which includes the liberalization not just of international trade, but also of international capital flows and, more generally, the deregulation of domestic economies. Indeed, as it is usually understood, neoliberalism is a philosophy of economic governance that privileges markets and distrusts government intervention in the regulation of the economy, whether at the domestic or global level. Neoliberalism works across both domestic and international space in that it prescribes a set of policy arrangements...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Network Power and Cultural Convergence
    (pp. 266-291)

    BEHIND THE WORRY about the rise of universal standards in technology or policy is a concern not just about the distributive justice of globalization or the autonomy of democratic politics but also about the possible cultural loss that the rise of a dominant standard can entail. Technologies and institutions are rarely, if ever, only neutral solutions to existing problems. Rather, they reflect the selection of one direction among many.

    One of the most common complaints against globalization is that it produces or hastens cultural loss and homogenization. On this view, it generates circumstances of increasing global uniformity, the haunting specter...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 292-296)

    IN THIS BOOK, I have argued that globalization is best understood as the emergence and consolidation of transnational and international networks that link people—or groups of people, including entire countries—through the use of shared coordinating standards. These standards are social conventions that exhibit economies of scale in their adoption by new users, giving rise to what I have called network power. Although this dynamic emerges as a result of the exercise of formally free choice, it can result in the elimination of the alternatives over which free choice may be exercised effectively. I have exemplified this argument by...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 297-376)
    (pp. 377-394)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 395-405)