The Fission of Power: Flex and Flux in an Age of Fragmentation

March 13th 2015 - 15:36

Something’s afoot with power. The nation state is being challenged structurally and institutionally. Its model of hierarchical power, monopoly on violence, and binding law, is being squeezed from below and from above - by grassroots organizations on the one end and supranational organizations on the other. Development aid is becoming caught up with strategic interests in the political, military and economic areas. Centralized power with major international oil companies is a thing of the past. The internet has the capacity to bring people together, or to divide them. All of these developments are changing our world drastically, and altering our view on the world.

In ‘The Fission of Power’, we make sense of these different changes, and demonstrate what they have in common. Power is becoming more widely distributed, more accessible, and more evanescent—but without losing amplitude. As a result, actors of all kinds must be more ‘flexible under flux’: they must take on a more agile and networked approach to implementing their decisions, prepare for change, and engage in more iterative and experimentalist forms of decision-making. The first step is to recognize the changing nature of power in a fragmented world.

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Stephan De Spiegeleire is Principal Scientist at HCSS. He has Master’s degrees from the Graduate Institute in Geneva and Columbia University in New York, as well as a C.Phil. degree in Political Science from UCLA. He worked for the RAND Corporation for nearly ten years, interrupted by stints at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik and the WEU’s Institute for Security Studies. Mr. De Spiegeleire started out as a Soviet specialist, but has since branched out into several fields of international security and defense policy. His current work at HCSS focuses on strategic defense management, security resilience, network-centrism, capabilities-based planning, and the transformation of defense planning.
Dr. Willem Theo Oosterveld is a non-resident senior fellow at HCSS. His areas of expertise include the politics of the Middle East, conflict analysis and peacebuilding, as well as law and development. He holds degrees in political science, international law, and history, having studied in Amsterdam, Leiden, Paris and New York, and was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. A former Fulbright scholar, he earned a PhD from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland.