Nation States: Organizational Hierarchies or Networks?

Last semester, during a seminar at Goethe Universität on Geographies of Violence: state, space and power relations in Latin America, the idea of “Nation States as institutional hierarchies” was fiercely challenged by the idea of “Nation States as networks”.

The “network party”, as Anne-Marie Slaughter calls it (2014: pp. 59), is a paradigm change for social organization. And though I do agree and believe that all interactions can now be referred to as networks, I believe it is early to redefine Nation States as networks.

Ultimately, Nation States still function as hierarchical structures, and though the concept of networked organization is indeed possible to be applied to understanding power relations, economic and social dynamics within them (and especially to their relations within the international system), understanding Nation States as networked organizations is something only feasible (to a large extent) in academic/conceptual thought.

Slaughter gives us valuable insights on why the transition from traditional hierarchical structures to networked organizations has not yet happened to Nation States. She draws a comparison between Hierarchies and Networks that clarifies why this is so:

  1. Networked organizations are more flexible (?), creative (?), adaptable (?), autonomous (?) and resilient (?) relative to hierarchies;
  2. Networks depend on trust (?) and reciprocity (?);
  3. Networks do not require a governing authority (?); and lastly
  4. Every organization features continuous  interplay between its informal networks and its formal structures (!). All formal hierarchies contain informal networks (!) ; all networks will develop informal hierarchies based on experience or expertise. (ibid.: pp. 63)

Based on her insights, Anne-Marie Slaughter helps us to understand Nation States as hierarchical structures featuring continuous interplay between its informal networks and its formal structures. I believe this is a more accurate description or even conception of the contemporary organizational model of Nation States.

Though a more detailed analysis is certainly needed to further understand the ongoing structural and paradigmatic transformation in society and in State institutions (especially through developing case studies, as different Nation States would certainly prove to be in different stages of this transformation), I suggest avoiding the assumption that the network paradigm has made its way through and substituted the hierarchical formalities of public governance.

Reference

Slaughter, A. (2017) The Chessboard and the Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World. Yale University Press.

Tech giants face US Congress hearings on competition

Just came across this article on the US Congress hearings of the giant Tech companies Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. What called my attention was the approach from the executives (you know, corporate diplomats) in stating that they face competition and are not monopolies – which, let’s be honest, is not quite accurate.

I believe that the issue with governmental affairs professionals in private organizations is the short-sighted vision on matters of public interest. This is the core scope of their work and yet, governmental affairs specialists bring this fierce attitute of business strategy to the public debate – definitely not a win-win approach. This approach will only continue to get the exact conter-productive reaction they got from congressman David Cicilline, as reported by Wired:

“I don’t think there’s any question that we cannot expect them to regulate themselves. We’ve seen the total absence of any ability to regulate themselves, so I think it will absolutely require some action by congress.”

Would it be reasonable to say that the new data economy revolves around data as the raw material of its production systems? Does this mean that these tech companies are extracting data as a commodity?

They are arguing that they extract these commudities to serve their consumers. But, aren’t their consumers the people who they also extract the raw material from?

And what do the consumers/suppliers get in exchange? Not much except an overwhelming load of personalized advertising (is this a benefit, anyway?) and access to content creation and sharing platforms – which is the over-the-top (OTT) infrastructure of the production system.

Well, I believe that it basically comes down to the fact that the emerging production mode (knowledge production systems) does not close the economic feedback loop. In the industrial mode of production, in which raw material is in fact extracted from space territory, there is a feedback loop – concessions pay taxes and royalties to the States that have sovereignty over territory and wages to workers who provide labor to extract the material. However, in the emerging information age, the story is completely different. And my argument is that people – the data subjects from which raw material is extracted, hence data providers – are shut outside of the economic loop. This has something to do with the flawed assumption that all individuals performing economic agency (i.e. as both end consumers and data providers) are conscious homo economicus.

But anyway, this is a long academic argument which I will try to elaborate on further in my next article. Until then, I offer a couple of links to the respective US Congress hearings that made headlines this week.

Elon Musk’s cyborg technology

Let me start by apologizing for the rather radical shift in the nature of my post today, but this is actually a reflection of my ongoing scientific research. I do believe, however, that this shift presents itself quite appropriately.

Our technological apparatus is advancing in such a rapid pace that I believe human-machine symbiosis is becoming an increasingly critical phenomenon in our contemporary society. Herbert Marcuse (One-Dimentional Man, 1964) anticipated our need to reflect on the totalitarian character of technological rationality in advanced industrial societies. As far as I can tell, technologies such as artificial intelligence and human-machine integration is at the verge of transforming humans into a new life form – we’re becoming cyborgs. It only sounds reasonable to discuss the political implications of such extraordinary transformation.

For this reason, I would like to share Elon Musk’s Neuralink streaming that took place on this past July 16 2019. Musk is pushing forward with yet another incredible breakthrough technology!

I also recommend the following article written by Tim Urban on April 2017: Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future. It is quite a long read, but it is definitely entertaining and extremely informative, insightful and absolutely worth it for those who are interested in further understanding the broad aspects of advancements in cyborg technologies.

The future has arrived!

Ad Hoc: Complexity in Science, Culture and Society

The research group Complexity met on April 1st of 2019 at the Research College for Human Sciences (Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften) in Bad Homburg, Germany to participate in a discussion with the South African cosmolgist George Ellis. His recent work The Dynamical Emergence of Biology From Physics: Branching Causation via Biomoleculeswas the basis for the workshop held throughout the day.

Complexity Workshop April 2019 Bad Homburg

Research group on Complexity in Science, Cuture and Society at Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften in Bad Homburg, Germany.

The increasing complexity in research and society is accelerating with new phenomena such as big data, digitization, migration flows, technologisation or even automation. As a result, science has an obligation to identify strategies for successfully dealing with complexity and solving complex problems. Examining these expectations is one of many starting points of the research project.

The overarching goal is to investigate different concepts of complexity and their theoretical justification from an interdisciplinary perspective and thus not only show new patterns for the practical handling of complexity, but also to gain new insights for the scientific research itself. A starting point of the project is the scientific-philosophical definition of complexity as a property of systems that show unexpected and unpredictable behavior due to the interaction of their elements, Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary cooperation between the natural sciences and the humanities explores questions as to whether and how such a definition can apply and be applied to scientific systems as well as to cultural and social systems.

Development and operation of the project

Since the beginning of 2017, researchers from various disciplines at the Goethe University have collaborated in the project »Complexity in Science, Culture and Society«. After a successful pilot phase funded by the Aventis Foundation , the project was headed by Prof. Dr. med. Harald Schwalbe (chemistry) and Prof. dr. Matthias Lutz-Bachmann (Philosophy) another funding commitment from the Aventis Foundation for the period from 2019 to 2020.

The research group consists mainly of natural and life scientists from the Goethe University and the University of Darmstadt, but also from humanities scholars from other institutions in Germany and abroad. She meets regularly at the Research College Human Sciences of Goethe University (FKH), where the project is administratively located. In addition, joint workshops and lectures are organized, to which internationally renowned scientists are invited to discuss with the research group different aspects and topics in the context of the complexity question.

An important part of the project work are the Complexity Fellowships , in which international guest scientists are invited to the FKH. There, they will be given the opportunity for their own research and active participation in the questions and events of the project.

2019 Global Economic Outlook: World Bank Report

The World Bank released its 2019 Global Economy Outlook in January this year. In this post I try to highlight the key facts and information from their press released and patially from the report as well.

Global Summary

  • International trade and manufacturing activity have slowed down.
  • Intensifying trade tensions could result in even weaker global growth and disrupt global interconnected value chains.
  • Borrowing costs for emerging and developing economies have increased.
  • Uprising in commodity exporters has stagnated and activity in commodity importers is decelerating.
    • Energy prices have fluctuated, mainly due to supply factors.
    • Other commodity prices have also weakened – particularly metals – posing further challenges to commodity exporters.
  • Past increases in public and private debt could heighten vulnerability to swings in financing conditions.
    • Debt vulnerability (debt-to-GDP ratio) is rising in low-income countries.
  • Maintaining low global inflation may become a challenge as long-term factors that helped reduce inflation in past decades may lose momentum.
East Asia and Pacific remains one of the world’s fastest developing regions. Regional growth expected at 6% in 2019.
  • China 6.2%
  • Indonesia 5.2%
  • Thailand 3.8%
Europe and Central Asia. Financial stress in Turkey is weightening down regional growth, expected at 2.3% in 2019.
  • Turkey 1.6% (due to high inflation, high interest rates and low market confidence)
  • Poland 4%
Latin America and Caribbean. Regional growth is expected at 1.7% in 2019.
  • Brasil 2.2% (assuming fiscal reform is quickly put in place).
  • Mexico 2%
  • Argentina -1.7% (as deep fiscal consolidation leads to loss of employment and reduced consumption and investment)
Middle East and North Africa. Regional growth expected to rise to 1.9% in 2019. Domestic factors such as policy reforms are promoting growth in the region. Oil exporters expected to pick up slightly and GCC countries expected to grow 2.6%.
  • Iran -3.6% (due to sanctions)
  • Algeria 2.3%
  • Egypt 5.6% (as investments is supported by reforms and consumption picks up)
South Asia. Regional growth expected to accelerate tp 7.1% in 2019, by strenghtening investment and robust consumption.
  • India 7.3%
  • Pakistan 3.7%
  • Sri Lanka 4%
  • Nepal 5.9%
Sub-Saharan Africa. Regional growth expected to accelerate to 3.4% due to diminished policy uncertainty.
  • Nigeria 2.2% (assuming that oil production will recover)
  • Angola 2.9% (assuming that oil sector recovers)
  • South Africa 1.3% due to constraints on domestic demand and unlimited government spending.

The United States remains stable due to fiscal stimulus and better than expected domestic deman, with GDP growth projected at 2.9% in 2019. Growth in the European Union, on the other hand, is weaker than expected at 1.6%, due to slowing exports and as monetary stimulus is withdrawn.

Source: World Bank Press Release