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Sunday, July 01, 2012

How to Run the World

Parag Khanna's How to Run the World - Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance was hyped as one of the major international relations books of 2011 last year. Khanna puts forward today's world as a neo-medieval one, where no single nation state can anymore rely on itself to police the world, let alone run its own diplomacy. He proposes instead a reliance on increased private-public partnerships even individual contributions in what he calls mega-diplomacy. While I agree with most of his ideas - notably on the dépassement of the nation state and the relevance of new private actors - whether they be NGOs or multinational corporations - I thought his charted course lacked in depth. He at times embraces too singlemindedly and enthusiastically examples of successful private-public partnerships and initiatives. I understand his emphasis of these developments in an American context where the - theoretical - belief in the power of the state - in foreign policy only ironically - is still far too prevalent. Robert Cooper's differentiation of the world into pre-modern, modern, and post-modern spheres come to mind here. Yet, I am far from convinced that his individual examples are necessarily relevant models for the whole world or whether they don't remain far to rare and to some extent based on individual or corporate goodwill. It seems obvious though that this will to do good is not always present or might make no economic sense at times and what then?

His is a great book for those still convinced of a 20th - or even 19th century - view of the nation state as the sole seat of power and authority, yet I felt disappointed in its outlook towards the future that the painted far too rosy and without taking into account potentially disastrous consequences of the continuously growing power of non-state actors.

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