The Information Revolution

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The Paradox of American Power: Why the World's Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone Joseph S. Nye

Print publication date: 2003 Print ISBN-13: 9780195161106 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003 DOI: 10.1093/0195161106.001.0001

The Information Revolution Joseph S. Nye (Contributor Webpage)


Abstract and Keywords The information revolution, which is now transforming societies around the world, is also changing the nature of governments and sovereignty, increasing the role of non‐state actors, and enhancing the importance of “soft” power in foreign policy. The U.S. foreign policy needs to anticipate its effects in shaping interstate relations at three levels that affect the utility of “soft” power: first, in terms of the distribution of information management skills; second, in terms of competitive economic advantage; third, in terms of strategic intelligence‐ gathering. These levels do not lie in the narrow domain of government action, but reflect broad arenas of societal capability in which “hard” power is merely tangential.

Keywords:   foreign policy, hard power, information revolution, soft power, U.S.A

In 1997, Jodie Williams, then a Vermont‐based grassroots activist, won the Nobel peace prize for helping to create a treaty banning antipersonnel land mines despite the opposition of the Pentagon, the strongest bureaucracy in the strongest country in the world. She organized her campaign largely on the Internet. In 1999, fifteen hundred groups and individuals met in Seattle and disrupted an important meeting of the World Trade Organization. Again, much of their campaign was planned on the Internet. The next year, a young hacker in the Philippines launched a virus that spread round the world and may have caused $4 billion to $15 billion in damage in the United States alone. Unknown hackers have stolen information from the Pentagon, NASA, and major corporations such as Microsoft. The hard drives of computers seized from terrorists have revealed sophisticated networks of communication. On the other

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hand, young Iranians and Chinese use the Internet surreptitiously to plug into Western web sites and to discuss democracy. An information revolution is dramatically altering the world of American foreign policy, making it harder for officials to manage policy. At the same time, by promoting decentralization and democracy, the information revolution is creating conditions that are consistent with American values (p.42) and serve our long‐term interests—if we learn how to take advantage of them.

Four centuries ago, the English statesman‐philosopher Francis Bacon wrote that information is power. At the start of the twenty‐first century, a much larger part of the population both within and among countries has access to this power. Governments have always worried about the flow and control of information, and the current period is not the first to be strongly affected by changes in information technology. Gutenberg's invention of movable type, which allowed printing of the Bible and its accessibility to large portions of the European population, is often credited with playing a major role in the onset of the Reformation. Pamphlets and committees of correspondence paved the way for the American Revolution. In the tightly censored world of eighteenth‐century France, news that circulated through several media and modes outside the law— oral, manuscript, and print—helped lay the foundation for the French Revolution. As Princeton historian Robert Darnton argues, “Every age was an information age, each in its own way.”1 But not even Bacon could have imagined the present‐day information revolution.

The current information revolution is based on rapid technological advances in computers, communications, and software that in turn have led to dramatic decreases in the cost of processing and transmitting information. The price of a new computer has dropped by nearly a fifth every year since 1954. Information technologies have risen from 7 percent to nearly 50 percent of new investment in the United States. Computing power has doubled every eighteen months for the last thirty years and even more rapidly in recent times, and it now costs less than 1 percent of what it did in the early 1970s. If the price of automobiles had fallen as quickly as the price of semiconductors, a car today would cost $5.

Traffic on the Internet has been doubling every hundred days for the past few years. In 1993, there were about fifty web sites in the world; by the end of decade, that number had surpassed five million.2 Communications bandwidths are expanding rapidly, and communications costs continue to fall even more rapidly than computing power. As late as 1980, phone calls over copper wire could (p.43) carry only one page of information per second; today a thin strand of optical fiber can transmit ninety thousand volumes in a second.3 In terms of 1990 dollars, the cost of a three‐minute transatlantic phone call has fallen from $250 in 1930 to considerably less than $1 at the end of the century.4 In 1980, a

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gigabyte of storage occupied a room's worth of space; now it can fit on a credit‐ card‐sized device in your pocket.5

The key characteristic of the information revolution is not the speed of communications between the wealthy and powerful—for more than 130 years, virtually instantaneous communication has been possible between Europe and North America. The crucial change is the enormous reduction in the cost of transmitting information. For all practical purposes, the actual transmission costs have become negligible; hence the amount of information that can be transmitted worldwide is effectively infinite. The result is an explosion of information, of which documents are a tiny fraction. By one estimate, there are 1.5 billion gigabytes of magnetically stored digital information (or 250 megabytes for each inhabitant of the earth), and shipments of such information are doubling each year. At the turn of the twenty‐first century, there were 610 billion e‐mail messages and 2.1 billion static pages on the World Wide Web, with the number of pages growing at a rate of 100 percent annually.6 This dramatic change in the linked technologies of computing and communications, sometimes called the third industrial revolution, is changing the nature of governments and sovereignty, increasing the role of non‐state actors, and enhancing the importance of soft power in foreign policy.7

Lessons from The Past We can get some idea of where we are heading by looking back at the past. In the first industrial revolution, around the turn of the nineteenth century, the application of steam to mills and transportation had a powerful effect on the economy, society, and government. Patterns of production, work, living conditions, social class, and political power were transformed. Public education arose to satisfy the need for literate, trained workers to work in increasingly complex (p.44) and potentially dangerous factories. Police forces such as London's bobbies were created to deal with urbanization. Subsidies were provided for the necessary infrastructure of canals and railroads.8

The second industrial revolution, around the turn of the twentieth century, introduced electricity, synthetics, and the internal combustion engine and brought similar economic and social changes. The United States went from a predominantly agrarian nation to a primarily industrial and urban one. In the 1890s, most Americans still worked on farms or as servants. A few decades later, the majority lived in cities and worked in factories.9 Social class and political cleavages were altered as urban labor and trade unions become more important. And again, with lags, the role of government changed. The bipartisan Progressive movement ushered in antitrust legislation; early consumer protection regulation was implemented by the forerunner of the Food and Drug Administration, and economic stabilization measures by the Federal Reserve Board.10 The United States rose to the status of a great power in world politics.

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Some expect the third industrial revolution to produce analogous transformations in economy, society, government, and world politics.11

These historical analogies help us understand some of the forces that will shape world politics in the twenty‐first century. Economies and information networks have changed more rapidly than governments have, with their scale having grown much faster than that of sovereignty and authority. “If there is a single overriding sociological problem in post‐industrial society—particularly in the management of transition—it is the management of scale.”12 Put more simply, the building blocks of world politics are being transformed by the new technology, and our policies will have to adjust accordingly. If we focus solely on the hard power of nation‐states, we will miss the new reality and fail to advance our interests and our values.

Centralization or Diffusion? Six decades ago, the eminent sociologist William Ogburn predicted that new technologies would result in greater political centralization (p.45) and strengthening of states in the twentieth century. In 1937, Ogburn argued that “government in the United States will probably tend toward greater centralization because of the airplane, the bus, the truck, the Diesel engine, the radio, the telephone, and the various uses to which the wire and wireless may be placed. The same inventions operate to influence industries to spread across state lines. . . . The centralizing tendency of government seems to be world‐wide, wherever modern transportation and communication exist.”13 By and large, he was right about the twentieth century, but this trend is likely to be reversed in the twenty‐first century.

Questions of appropriate degrees of centralization of government are not new. As the economist Charles Kindleberger pointed out, “how the line should be altered at a given time—toward or away from the center—can stay unresolved for long periods, typically fraught with tension.”14 If the nation‐state has “become too small for the big problems of life and too big for the small problems,”15 we may find not centralization or decentralization but a diffusion of governance activities in several directions at the same time. The following table illustrates the possible diffusion of activities away from central governments— vertically to other levels of government and horizontally to market and private nonmarket actors, the so‐called third sector. Nonprofit institutions have grown rapidly in the United States, now accounting for 7 percent of paid employment (more than the number of federal and state government employees) and United States–based international nongovernmental organizations expanded tenfold between 1970 and the early 1990s.16 If the twentieth century saw a predominance of the centripetal forces predicted by Ogburn, the twenty‐first may see a greater role of centrifugal forces.

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The height of twentieth‐century centralization was the totalitarian state perfected by Josef Stalin in the Soviet Union.17 It aptly fit—indeed, was made possible by—industrial society, and it was ultimately undermined by the information revolution. Stalin's economic model was based on central planning, which made quantity rather than profits the main criterion of a manager's success. Prices were set by planners rather than by markets. Consumers as customers played little role. The Stalinist economy was successful in mastering relatively (p.46)

Table 2.1 The Diffusion of Governance in the Twenty‐first Century

unsophisticated technologies and producing basic goods such as steel and electricity on a massive scale. It was effective in extracting capital from the agricultural sector in the 1930s and using it to build heavy industry. It was also effective in postwar reconstruction, when labor was plentiful. However, with a diminishing birthrate and scarce capital, Stalin's model of central planning ran out of steam.18

In addition, Soviet central planners lacked the flexibility to keep up with the quickened pace of technological change in the increasingly information‐based global economy; they did not come to terms with the third industrial revolution. As Russian specialist Marshall Goldman once put it, “Stalin's growth model eventually became a fetter rather than a facilitator.”19 As computers and microchips became not merely tools of production but imbedded in products, the life cycles of products shortened, sometimes dramatically. Many products were now becoming obsolete in only a few years or even (p.47) sooner, even though a rigid planning system might take much longer to react or simply continue toward obsolete goals. The Soviet bureaucracy was far less flexible than markets in responding to rapid change, and for years the very word market was practically forbidden.20

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Stalin's political legacy was yet another hindrance to the Soviet Union. An information‐based society required broadly shared and freely flowing information to reap maximum gains. Horizontal communication among computers became more important than top‐down vertical communication. But horizontal communication involved political risks, in that computers could become the equivalent of printing presses. Moreover, telephones multiplied these risks by providing instant communication among computers. For political reasons, Soviet leaders were reluctant to foster the widespread and free use of computers. Two simple statistics demonstrate the Soviet disadvantage in the expanding information economy of the 1980s: by the middle of the decade, there were only fifty thousand personal computers in the USSR (compared to thirty million in the United States), and only 23 percent of urban homes and 7 percent of rural homes had telephones.21 Although this situation made political control easier, it had disastrous economic effects. In the mid‐1980s, the Soviets failed to produce personal computers on a large scale. At the end of the decade, Soviet officials reluctantly admitted that their computer technology lagged seven to ten years behind that of the West. Further, lack of freedom for hackers and other informal innovators severely handicapped the development of software. The Soviets paid a heavy price for central control.22

Governments of all kinds will find their control slipping during the twenty‐first century as information technology gradually spreads to the large majority of the world that still lacks phones, computers, and electricity. Even the U.S. government will find some taxes harder to collect and some regulations (for example, concerning gambling or prescription drugs) harder to enforce. Many governments today control the access of their citizens to the Internet by controlling Internet service providers. It is possible, but costly, for skilled individuals to route around such restrictions, and control does not have to be complete to be effective for political purposes. But as societies develop, (p.48) they face dilemmas in trying to protect their sovereign control over information. When they reach levels of development where their knowledge workers want free access to the Internet, they run the risk of losing their scarcest resource for competing in the information economy. Thus Singapore today is wrestling with the dilemma of reshaping its educational system to encourage the individual creativity that the information economy demands, and at the same time maintain some existing social controls over the flow of information. In the words of Singapore's prime minister, Goh Chok Tong, “We have to reinvent ourselves. We have to go beyond being efficient and productive to create and attract new enterprise.”23 When asked how Singapore could control the Internet after its schools educated a new generation in how to work around the controls, the senior minister, Lee Kuan Yew, replied that at that stage it would not matter anymore.24 Closed systems become more costly, and openness becomes worth the price.

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China is a more complicated case than Singapore because of its size and lower level of economic development. The Chinese government has traditionally doled out information depending on bureaucratic rank and discouraged the flow of information among individuals. As Sinologist Tony Saich has described, “Under such a system the real basis of exchange is secrets and privileged access to information.”25 Now the Chinese government is trying to profit from the economic benefits of the Internet without letting it unravel their system of political control. They do this by authorizing only four networks for international access, blocking web sites, and forbidding Chinese web sites to use news from web sites outside the country. The Internet is censored via the service providers and the portals that host bulletin boards.

Use of the Internet in China has grown dramatically, from a million users in 1998 to about twenty million two years later. Nonetheless, those users represent only about 1.3 percent of the population and are mostly relatively well‐off city dwellers, not the majority rural population. Some sites and topics are quickly suppressed, but general critiques of communist leaders and the party's monopoly on power are common, as are debates about the growing divide between rich (p.49) and poor in China.26 Underground dissident journals are sent to hundreds of thousands of Chinese e‐mail accounts from the safety of overseas. The New York Times reported recently that the influence of “shadow media is growing exponentially, along with China's Internet, as articles from even the most obscure newspapers quickly find their way onto web sites and into chat rooms.”27

Some of the articles are radical and chauvinistic rather than liberal and democratic. During the crisis following the spring 2001 midair collision between a U.S. surveillance aircraft and a Chinese fighter plane, the Chinese government toughened its public position after monitoring the nationalistic responses on the Internet.28 The Internet is not necessarily a fast path to liberal democracy. The Chinese leadership is aware that it cannot control completely the flow of information or access to foreign sites by its citizens. Its intention is to lay down warnings about limits.29 In a sense, Chinese leaders are betting that they can have the Internet à la carte, picking out the economic plums and avoiding the political costs that come with the whole menu. In the near term, they are probably correct in their bet, but the long run remains more doubtful. In the opinion of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew, “Over the next 30 to 40 years there is going to be a drift into all the cities and the small towns will become big ones, all with access to the Internet, access to information. There is no way you can govern a well informed, large managerial/professional class without taking their views into account.”30

One political effect of increased information flows through new media is already clear: governments have lost some of their traditional control over information about their own societies. In 2001, for example, the Indian government lost

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several ministers and nearly collapsed after reports of corruption appeared on an Internet news site. Scandals that were once more easily contained in New Delhi proved impossible to control. “Not only did reveal the corrupt underbelly of the Indian military: it also helped fan the controversy by serving as a bulletin board for readers and politicians to air their views.”31 In the Philippines, hundreds of thousands of protesters working successfully to oust President Joseph Estrada “were able to call meetings at short notice by sending text messages on their (p.50) mobile phones.”32 Corruption remains a problem in many countries, but it is no longer solely a domestic affair, as nongovernmental organizations now publicize corruption rankings of countries on the Internet. Countries that seek to develop need foreign capital and the technology and organization that go with it. Increasingly, foreign capital demands transparency. Governments that are not transparent are less credible, since the information they offer is seen as biased and selective. Moreover, as economic development progresses and middle‐class societies develop, repressive measures become more expensive not merely at home but also in terms of international reputation. Both Taiwan and South Korea discovered in the late 1980s that repression of rising demands for democracy would be too expensive in terms of their reputation and soft power.

Countries will vary in how far and how fast the information revolution will push decentralization. Some states are weaker than the private forces within them, others not. Private armies have played a key role in Sierra Leone; drug cartels are a major force in Colombia. Ecuador and Haiti have far weaker bureaucracies than South Africa and Singapore. Even in the postindustrial world, most European countries have a tradition of stronger central government than the United States does. Total government spending is about half of gross national product in Europe, while it has held steady at around a third of the economy in the United States and Japan and declined in New Zealand.33

Two other trends are closely related to the information revolution and reinforce the prospect that this century will see a shift in the locus of collective activities away from central governments. As we shall see in the next chapter, globalization preceded the information revolution but has been greatly enhanced by it, opening up opportunities for private transnational actors such as corporations and nonprofits to establish standards and strategies that strongly affect public policies that were once the domain of central governments. Similarly, the information revolution has enhanced the role of markets. The balance between states and markets shifted after the 1970s in a way that made the state just one source of authority among several.34 Even in Sweden and France, not to mention Eastern Europe and the less economically developed countries, significant privatizations have (p.51) expanded market forces in the past two decades. The causes of marketization involved more than just the information revolution. They include the failure of planned economies to adapt to the information revolution, the inflation that followed the oil crises of the

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1970s, the early success of the East Asian economies, and changes in political and ideological coalitions (the Thatcher‐Reagan revolution) inside wealthy democracies. The net effect, however, is to accelerate the diffusion of power away from governments to private actors, and that, in turn, presents new challenges and opportunities for American foreign policy.

As the Revolution Progresses We are still at an early stage of the current information revolution, and its effects on economics and politics are uneven. As with steam in the late eighteenth century and electricity in the late nineteenth, productivity growth lagged as society had to learn to fully utilize the new technologies.35 Social institutions change more slowly than technology. For example, the electric motor was invented in 1881, but it was nearly four decades before Henry Ford pioneered the reorganization of factories to take full advantage of electric power. Computers today account for 2 percent of America's total capital stock, but “add in all the equipment used for gathering, processing and transmitting information, and the total accounts for 12% of America's capital stock, exactly the same as the railways at the peak of their development in the late nineteenth century. . . . Three‐quarters of all computers are used in the service sector such as finance and health where output is notoriously hard to measure.”36 As we will see in chapter 4, the increase in productivity of the American economy began to show up only as recently as the mid‐1990s.37

The advent of truly mass communications and broadcasting a century ago, which was facilitated by newly cheap electricity, provides some lessons about possible social and political effects today. It ushered in the age of mass popular culture.38

The effects of mass communication and broadcasting, though not the telephone, tended to have a centralizing political effect. While information was more (p.52) widespread, it was more centrally influenced even in democratic countries than in the age of the local press. Roosevelt's use of radio in the 1930s worked a dramatic shift in American politics. These effects were particularly pronounced in countries where they were combined with the rise of totalitarian governments, which were able to suppress competing sources of information. Indeed, some scholars believe that totalitarianism could not have been possible without the mass communications that accompanied the second industrial revolution.39

In the middle of the twentieth century, people feared that the computers and communications of the current information revolution would create the central governmental control dramatized in George Orwell's vision of 1984. Mainframe computers seemed set to enhance central planning and increase the surveillance powers of those at the top of a pyramid of control. Government television would dominate the news. Through central databases, computers can make government identification and surveillance easier, and commercialization has already altered the early libertarian culture and code of the Internet.40

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Nonetheless, the technology of encryption is evolving, and programs such as Gnutella and Freenet enable users to trade digital information anonymously.41

They promise greater space for individuals than the early pessimists envisioned, and the Internet is more difficult for governments to control than the technology of the second information revolution was. On balance, the communication theorist Ithiel de Sola Pool was correct in his characterization of “technologies of freedom.”42

As computing power has decreased in cost and computers have shrunk in size and become more widely distributed, their decentralizing effects have outweighed their centralizing effects. The Internet creates a system in which power over information is much more widely distributed. Compared with radio, television, and newspapers, controlled by editors and broadcasters, the Internet creates unlimited communication one‐to‐one (e.g., via e‐mail), one‐to‐many (e.g., via a personal home page or electronic conference), many‐to‐one (e.g., via electronic broadcast), and, perhaps most important, many‐to‐many (e.g., an online chat room). “Internet messages have the capacity to flow farther, faster, and with fewer intermediaries.”43 (p.53) Central surveillance is possible, but governments that aspire to control information flows through control of the Internet face high costs and ultimate frustration. Rather than reinforcing centralization and bureaucracy, the new information technologies have tended to foster network organizations, new types of community, and demands for different roles for government.44

What this means is that foreign policy will not be the sole province of governments. Both individuals and private organizations, here and abroad, will be empowered to play direct roles in world politics. The spread of information will mean that power will be more widely distributed and informal networks, such as those mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, will undercut the monopoly of traditional bureaucracy. The speed of Internet time means that all governments, both here and overseas, will have less control of their agendas. Political leaders will enjoy fewer degrees of freedom before they must respond to events, and then will have to share the stage with more actors. Privatization and public‐private partnerships will increase. As we shape our foreign policy in the information age, we will have to avoid being mesmerized by terms such as unipolarity and hegemony and by measures of strength that compare only the hard power of states run by centralized governments. The old images of sovereign states balancing and bouncing off each other like billiard balls will blind us to the new complexity of world politics.

A New World Politics The effects on central governments of the third industrial revolution are still in their early stages. Management expert Peter Drucker and the futurists Heidi Toffler and Alvin Toffler argue that the information revolution is bringing an end to the hierarchical bureaucratic organizations that typified the age of the first

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two industrial revolutions.45 In civil societies, as decentralized organizations and virtual communities develop on the Internet, they cut across territorial jurisdictions and develop their own patterns of governance. Internet guru Esther Dyson refers to the “disintermediation of government” (p.54) and portrays a global society of the connected being overlaid on traditional local geographical communities.46

If these prophets are right, the result would be a new cyberfeudalism, with overlapping communities and jurisdictions laying claims to multiple layers of citizens' identities and loyalties. In short, these transformations suggest the reversal of the modern centralized state that has dominated world politics for the past three and a half centuries. A medieval European might have owed equal loyalty to a local lord, a duke, a king, and the pope. A future European might owe loyalty to Brittany, Paris, and Brussels, as well as to several cybercommunities concerned with religion, work, and various hobbies.

While the system of sovereign states is still the dominant pattern in international relations, one can begin to discern a pattern of cross‐cutting communities and governance that bears some resemblance to the situation before the Peace of Westphalia formalized the state system in 1648. Transnational contacts across political borders were typical in the feudal era but gradually became constrained by the rise of centralized nation‐states. Now sovereignty is changing. Three decades ago, transnational contacts were already growing, but they involved relatively small numbers of elites involved in multinational corporations, scientific groups, and academic institutions.47 Now the Internet, because of its low costs, is opening transnational communications to many millions of people.

The issue of sovereignty is hotly contested in American foreign policy today. The sovereigntists, closely allied with the new unilateralists, resist anything that seems to diminish American autonomy.48 They worry about the political role of the United Nations in limiting the use of force, the economic decisions handed down by the World Trade Organization, and efforts to develop environmental institutions and treaties. In their eyes, the notion of an international community of opinion is illusory.

But even excluding the fringe groups that believe the United Nations has black helicopters ready to swoop into American territory, the debate over the fate of the sovereign state has been poorly framed. As a former UN official put it, “There is an extraordinarily impoverished mind‐set at work here, one that is able to visualize (p.55) long‐term challenges to the system of states only in terms of entities that are institutionally substitutable for the state.”49 A better historical analogy is the development of markets and town life in the early feudal period. Medieval trade fairs were not substitutes for the institutions of feudal authority. They did not tear down the castle walls or remove the local lord. But they did

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bring new wealth, new coalitions, and new attitudes summarized by the maxim “Town air brings freedom.”

Medieval merchants developed the lex mercatoria, which governed their relations, largely as a private set of rules for conducting business.50 Similarly today, a range of individuals and entities, from hackers to large corporations, are developing the code and norms of the Internet partly outside the control of formal political institutions. The development of transnational corporate intranets behind firewalls and encryption “represent private appropriations of a public space.”51 Private systems, such as corporate intranets or worldwide newsgroups devoted to specific issues like the environment, do not frontally challenge the governments of sovereign states; they simply add a layer of relations that sovereign states do not effectively control. Americans will participate in transnational Internet communities without ceasing to be loyal Americans, but their perspectives will be broader than those typical of loyal Americans before the Internet came into existence.

Or consider the shape of the world economy, in which a nation's strength is usually measured by its imports and exports from other sovereign nations. Such trade flows and balances still matter, but the decisions on what to produce and whether to produce it at home or overseas are increasingly made within the domains of transnational corporations. Some American companies, such as Nike, produce virtually none of their products inside this country, though intangible (and valuable) design and marketing work is done here. In the 1990s, declining information and telecommunications costs allowed firms to broaden the geographic dispersion of their operations. Thus imports and exports provide a very incomplete picture of global economic linkages. For example, overseas production by American transnational corporations was more than twice the value of American exports; sales by foreign‐owned companies inside the United (p.56) States were nearly twice the value of imports.52 Microeconomic links “have created a nonterritorial ‘region’ in the world economy—a decentered yet integrated space‐of‐flows, operating in real time, which exists alongside the spaces‐of‐places that we call national economies.”53 If we restrict our images to billiard ball states, we miss this layer of reality.

Even in the age of the Internet, the changing roles of political institutions is likely to be a gradual process. After the rise of the territorial state, other successors to medieval rule such as the Italian city‐states and the Hanseatic League persisted as viable alternatives, able to tax and fight for nearly two centuries.54 Today, the Internet rests on servers located in specific nations, and various governments' laws affect access providers. The real issue is not the continued existence of the sovereign state, but how its centrality and functions are being altered. “The reach of the state has increased in some areas but contracted in others. Rulers have recognized that their effective control can be enhanced by walking away from some issues they cannot resolve.”55 All

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countries, including the United States, are facing a growing list of problems that are difficult to control within sovereign boundaries—financial flows, drug trade, climate change, AIDS, refugees, terrorism, cultural intrusions—to name a few. Complicating the task of national governance is not the same as undermining sovereignty. Governments adapt. However, in the process of adaptation they change the meaning of sovereign jurisdiction, control, and the role of private actors.

Take, for example, the problems of controlling U.S. borders. In one year, 475 million people, 125 million vehicles, and 21 million import shipments come into the country at 3,700 terminals in 301 ports of entry. It takes five hours to inspect a fully loaded forty‐foot shipping container, and more than 5 million enter each year. In addition, more than 2.7 million undocumented immigrants have simply walked or ridden across the Mexican and Canadian borders in recent years. As we have seen, terrorists easily slip in, and it is easier to bring in a few pounds of a deadly biological or chemical agent than to smuggle in the tons of illegal heroin and cocaine that arrive annually. The only way for the Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization (p.57) Service to cope with such flows is to reach beyond the national borders through intelligence and cooperation inside the jurisdiction of other states, and to rely on private corporations to develop transparent systems for tracking international commercial flows so that enforcement officials can conduct virtual audits of inbound shipments before they arrive. Thus customs officers work throughout Latin America to assist businesses in the implementation of security programs that reduce the risk of being exploited by drug smugglers, and cooperative international mechanisms are being developed for policing trade flows.56 The sovereign state adapts, but in doing so it transforms the meaning and exclusivity of governmental jurisdiction. Legal borders do not change, but they blur in practice.

National security—the absence of threat to our major values—is changing. Damage done by climate change or imported viruses can be larger in terms of money or lives lost than the effects of some wars. But even if one frames the definition of national security more narrowly, the nature of military security is changing. As the U.S. Commission on National Security in the Twenty‐first Century pointed out, the country has not been invaded by foreign armies since 1814, and the military is designed to project force and fight wars far from our shores. But the military is not well equipped to protect us against an attack on our homeland by terrorists wielding weapons of mass destruction or mass disruption or even hijacked civil aircraft.57 Thus in July 2001, the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, dropped from the Pentagon's planning priorities the ability to fight two major regional conflicts and elevated homeland defense to a higher priority. But as we discovered only a few months later, military measures are not a sufficient solution to our vulnerabilities.

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Today, attackers may be governments, groups, individuals, or some combination. They may be anonymous and not even come near the country. In 1998, when Washington complained about seven Moscow Internet addresses involved in the theft of Pentagon and NASA secrets, the Russian government replied that phone numbers from which the attacks originated were inoperative. We had no way of knowing whether the government had been involved or not. More than thirty nations have developed aggressive computer‐warfare programs, but as (p.58) anyone with a computer knows, any individual can also enter the game. With a few keystrokes, an anonymous source anywhere in the world might break into and disrupt the (private) power grids of American cities or the (public) emergency response systems.58 And U.S. government firewalls are not enough. Every night American software companies send work electronically to India, where software engineers can work while Americans sleep and send it back the next morning. Someone outside our borders could also embed trap‐doors deep in computer code for use at a later date. Nuclear deterrence, border patrols, and stationing troops overseas to shape regional power balances will continue to matter in the information age, but they will not be sufficient to provide national security.

Competing interpretations of sovereignty arise even in the domain of law. Since 1945, human rights provisions have coexisted in the charter of the United Nations alongside provisions that protect the sovereignty of states. Article 2.7 says that nothing shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters within domestic jurisdictions. Yet the development of a global norm of antiracism and repugnance at the South African practice of apartheid led large majorities at the UN to abridge this principle. More recently, the NATO intervention in Kosovo was the subject of hot debate among international lawyers, with some claiming it was illegal because it was not explicitly authorized by the UN Security Council and others arguing that it was legal under the evolving body of international humanitarian law.59 The 1998 detention of General Augusto Pinochet in Britain in response to a Spanish request for extradition based on human rights violations and crimes committed while he was president of Chile is another example of this complexity. In 2001, a magistrate in Paris tried to summon former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to testify in a trial related to Chile.

Information technology, particularly the Internet, has eased the tasks of coordination and strengthened the hand of human rights activists, but political leaders, particularly in formerly colonized countries, cling to the protections that legal sovereignty provides against outside interventions. The world is likely to see these two partly contradictory (p.59) bodies of international law continue to coexist for years to come, and as we shall see in chapter 5, Americans will have to wrestle with these contradictions as we decide how to promote human rights and when to intervene in conflicts for humanitarian reasons.

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For many people, the national state provides a source of the political identity that is important to them. People are capable of multiple identities—family, village, ethnic group, religion, nationality, cosmopolitan—and which predominates often depends on the context.60 At home, I am from Lexington; in Washington, I am from Massachusetts; overseas, I am an American. In many preindustrial countries, subnational identities (tribe or clan) prevail. In some postindustrial countries, including the United States, cosmopolitan identities such as “global citizen” or “custodian of planet Earth” are beginning to emerge. Since large identities (such as nationalism) are not directly experienced, they are “imagined communities” that depend very much on the effects of communication.61 It is still too early to understand the full effects of the Internet, but the shaping of identities can move in contradictory directions at the same time—up to Brussels, down to Brittany, or fixed on Paris—as circumstances dictate.

The result may be greater volatility rather than consistent movement in any one direction. The many‐to‐many and one‐to‐many characteristics of the Internet seem “highly conducive to the irreverent, egalitarian, and libertarian character of the cyber‐culture.” One effect is “flash movements”—sudden surges of protest —triggered by particular issues or events, such as antiglobalization protests or the sudden rise of the anti‐fuel‐tax coalition that captured European politics in the autumn of 2000.62 Politics becomes more theatrical and aimed at global audiences. The Zapatista rebels in Mexico's Chiapas state relied less on bullets than on transnational publicity, and, of course, terrorists seek theatrical effects as well as destruction. Television is as important as weapons to them. The political scientist James Rosenau has tried to summarize such trends by inventing a new word, fragmegration, to express the idea that both integration toward larger identities and fragmentation into smaller communities can occur at the same time. But one need not alter the English language to realize (p.60) that apparently contradictory movements can occur simultaneously. They do not spell the end of the sovereign state, but they do make its politics more volatile and less self‐contained within national shells.

Private organizations also increasingly cross national boundaries. Transnational religious organizations opposed to slavery date back to 1775, and the nineteenth century saw the founding of the Socialist International, the Red Cross, peace movements, women's suffrage organizations, and the International Law Association, among others. Before World War I, there were 176 international nongovernmental organizations. In 1956, they numbered nearly a thousand; in 1970, nearly two thousand. More recently, there has been an explosion in the number of NGOs, increasing from five to approximately twenty‐seven thousand during the 1990s alone. And the numbers do not tell the full story, because they represent only formally constituted organizations.63 Many claim to act as a “global conscience” representing broad public interests beyond the purview of individual states, or interests that states are wont to ignore. They develop new

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norms by directly pressing governments and business leaders to change policies, and indirectly by altering public perceptions of what governments and firms should be doing. In terms of power resources, these new groups rarely possess much hard power, but the information revolution has greatly enhanced their soft power.64

Not only is there a great increase in the number of transnational and governmental contacts, but there has also been a change in type. Earlier transnational flows were heavily controlled by large bureaucratic organizations such as multinational corporations or the Catholic Church that could profit from economies of scale. Such organizations remain important, but the lower costs of communication in the Internet era have opened the field to loosely structured network organizations with little headquarters staff, and even individuals. These nongovernmental organizations and networks are particularly effective in penetrating states without regard to borders. Because they often involve citizens who are well placed in the domestic politics of several countries, they are able to focus the attention of the media and governments on their preferred issues. The treaty banning land mines, mentioned above, was the result of an interesting (p. 61) coalition of Internet‐based organizations working with middle‐power governments, such as Canada, and some individual politicians and celebrities, including the late Princess Diana. Environmental issues are another example. The role of NGOs was important as a channel of communication across delegations in the global warming discussions at Kyoto in 1997. Industry, unions, and NGOs competed in Kyoto for the attention of media from major countries in a transnational struggle over the agenda of world politics. And NGOs sometimes compete with each other for media attention. The World Economic Forum, an NGO that invites top government and business leaders to Davos, Switzerland, each winter, included some NGOs in its 2001 programs, but that did not prevent other NGOs from staging local demonstrations and yet others from holding a counterforum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, designed to garner global attention.

A different type of transnational community, the scientific community of like‐ minded experts, is also becoming more prominent. By framing issues such as ozone depletion or global climate change, where scientific information is important, such “epistemic communities” create knowledge and consensus that provide the basis for effective cooperation.65 The Montreal Protocol on ozone depletion was in part the product of such work. While not entirely new, these scientific communities have also grown as a result of the lowered costs of communications.

Geographical communities and sovereign states will continue to play the major role in world politics for a long time to come, but they will be less self‐contained and more porous. They will have to share the stage with actors who can use information to enhance their soft power and press governments directly, or indirectly by mobilizing their publics. Governments that want to see rapid

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development will find that they have to give up some of the barriers to information flow that historically protected officials from outside scrutiny. No longer will governments that want high levels of development be able to afford the comfort of keeping their financial and political situations inside a black box, as Myanmar and North Korea have done. That form of sovereignty proves too expensive. Even large countries with hard power, such as the United States, find themselves sharing (p.62) the stage with new actors and having more trouble controlling their borders. Cyberspace will not replace geographical space and will not abolish state sovereignty, but like the town markets in feudal times, it will coexist with them and greatly complicate what it means to be a sovereign state or a powerful country. As Americans shape foreign policy for the global information age, we will have to become more aware of the importance of the ways that information technology creates new communications, empowers individuals and nonstate actors, and increases the role of soft power.

Power Among States The information revolution is making world politics more complex by enabling transnational actors and reducing control by central governments, but it is also affecting power among states. Here the United States benefits, and many poorer countries lag behind.66 While some poorer countries such as China, India, and Malaysia have made significant progress in entering the information economy, 87 percent of people online live in postindustrial societies.67 The world in the information age remains a mixture of agricultural, industrial, and service‐ dominated economies. The postindustrial societies and governments most heavily affected by the information age coexist and interact with countries thus far little affected by the information revolution.

Will this digital divide persist for a long time? Decreasing costs may allow poor countries to leapfrog or skip over certain stages of development. For instance, wireless communications are already replacing costly land lines, and voice recognition technologies can give illiterates access to computer communications. The Internet may help poor farmers better understand weather and market conditions before they plant crops, and more information may diminish the role of predatory middlemen. Distance learning and Internet connections may help isolated doctors and scientists in poor countries. But what poor countries need most is basic education and infrastructure. As an editorial in the Far East Economic Review put it succinctly: “Closing (p.63) the digital divide would be good, but right now most of Asia's poor are still looking forward to home electricity.”68

Technology spreads over time, and many countries are keen to develop their own Silicon Valleys. But it is easier to identify the virtual keys to the high‐tech kingdom than to open the actual gates. Well‐developed communications infrastructure, secure property rights, sound government policies, an environment that encourages new business formation, deep capital markets, and

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a skilled workforce, many of whom understand English (the language of 80 percent of all web pages), will come to some poor countries in time, but not quickly. Even in India, which meets some of the criteria, software companies employ about 340,000 people, while half of India's population of one billion remains illiterate.69

The information revolution has an overall decentralizing and leveling effect, but will it also equalize power among nations? As it reduces costs and barriers of entry into markets, it should reduce the power of large states and enhance the power of small states and non‐state actors. But in practice, international relations are more complex than such technological determinism implies. Some aspects of the information revolution help the small, but some help the already large and powerful. There are several reasons why.

First, size still matters. What economists call barriers to entry and economies of scale remain in some of the aspects of power that are related to information. For example, soft power is strongly affected by the cultural content of what is broadcast or appears in movies and television programs. Large established entertainment industries often enjoy considerable economies of scale in content production and distribution. The dominant American market share in films and television programs in world markets is a case in point. It is hard for newcomers to compete with Hollywood. Moreover, in the information economy, there are network effects, with increasing returns to scale. One telephone is useless. The second adds value, and so forth as the network grows. In other words, “to those who hath a network, shall be given.”

Second, even where it is now cheap to disseminate existing information, the collection and production of new information often requires (p.64) major investment. In many competitive situations, it is new information that matters most. In some dimensions, information is a nonrivalrous public good: one person's consumption does not diminish that of another. Thomas Jefferson used the analogy of a candle—if I give you a light, it does not diminish my light. But in a competitive situation, it may make a big difference if I have the light first and see things before you do. Intelligence collection is a good example. America, Russia, Britain, and France have capabilities for collection and production that dwarf those of other nations.70 Published accounts suggest that the United States spends some $30 billion a year on intelligence. In some commercial situations, a fast follower can do better than a first mover, but in terms of power among states, it is usually better to be a first mover than a fast follower. It is ironic, but no accident, that for all the discussion of how the Internet shrinks distance, information technology firms still cluster in a congested little area south of San Francisco because of what is called the “cocktail party effect.” What makes for success is informal access to new information before it becomes public. “In an industry where new technology is perpetually on the verge of obsolescence, firms must recognize demand, secure capital and bring a product

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to market quickly or else be beaten by a competitor.”71 Market size and proximity to competitors, suppliers, and customers still matter in an information economy.

Third, first movers are often the creators of the standards and architecture of information systems. As described in Robert Frost's great poem, once the paths diverge in the wood and one is taken, it is difficult to get back to the other. Sometimes crude, low‐cost technologies will open shortcuts that make it possible to overtake the first mover, but in many instances the path‐dependent development of information systems reflects the advantage of the first mover.72

The use of the English language and the pattern of top‐level domain names on the Internet is a case in point. Partly because of the transformation of the American economy in the 1980s, and partly because of large investments driven by Cold War military competition, the United States was often the first mover and still enjoys a lead in the application of a wide variety of information technologies.

(p.65) Fourth, as argued in chapter 1, military power remains important in some critical domains of international relations. Information technology has some effects on the use of force that benefit the small and some that favor the already powerful. The off‐the‐shelf commercial availability of formerly costly military technologies benefits small states and nongovernmental actors and increases the vulnerability of large states. For example, today anyone can order from commercial companies inexpensive one‐meter‐resolution satellite images of what goes on in military bases. Commercial firms and individuals (including terrorists) can go to the Internet and get access to satellite photographs that were top‐secret and cost governments billions of dollars just a few years ago.73

When a nongovernmental group felt that American policy toward North Korea was too alarmist a few years ago, it published private satellite pictures of North Korean rocket launch pads. Obviously, other countries can purchase similar pictures of American bases.

Global positioning devices that provide precise locations, once the property of the military alone, are readily available at local electronics stores. What's more, information systems create vulnerabilities for rich states by adding lucrative targets for terrorists who engage in asymmetrical warfare. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has looked deeply into the subject, believes that “there's a real danger that a powerful nation will believe it can create the cyberspace equivalent of a Pearl Harbor sneak attack. It's conceivable in the next 25 years that a sophisticated adversary (such as a small country with cyberwarfare resources) will decide it can blackmail the United States.”74 There is also the prospect of freelance cyberattacks. For example, after the collision between the U.S. surveillance plane and the Chinese fighter, both Chinese and

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American hackers engaged in a spate of attacks on both government and private web sites in each other's countries.

Other trends, however, strengthen the already powerful. As I argued in chapter 1, information technology has produced a revolution in military affairs. Space‐ based sensors, direct broadcasting, high‐speed computers, and complex software provide the ability to gather, sort, process, transfer, and disseminate information about complex (p.66) events that occur over a wide geographic area. This dominant battle space awareness along with precision guided weapons produces a powerful advantage. As the Gulf War showed, traditional assessments of balance‐of‐weapons platforms such as tanks or planes become irrelevant unless they include the ability to integrate information with those weapons. That was the mistake that Saddam Hussein made (as well as those in Congress who predicted massive American casualties). Many of the relevant technologies are available in commercial markets, and weaker states can be expected to purchase many of them. The key, however, will be not possession of fancy hardware or advanced systems but the ability to integrate a “system of systems.” In this dimension, the United States is likely to keep its lead. In information warfare, a small edge makes all the difference. The revolution in military affairs will not diminish and may, in some circumstances, even increase the American lead over other countries.75

Three Dimensions of Information In understanding the relation of information to power in world politics, it helps if one distinguishes three different dimensions of information that are sometimes lumped together.76 The first dimension is flows of data such as news or statistics. There has been a tremendous and measurable increase in the amount of information flowing across international borders. The average cost of that information has been declining, and much of it is virtually free. Declining costs and added points of access help small states and non‐state actors. On the other hand, the vast scale of free flows puts a premium on the capacities of editors and systems integrators, which is a benefit to the large and powerful.

A second dimension is information that is used for advantage in competitive situations. With competitive information, as mentioned above, the most important effects are often at the margin. Here going first matters most, and that usually favors the more powerful. Much competitive information is associated with commerce, but as discussed (p.67) above, the effect of information on military power can also be thought of as a subset of competitive information.

The third dimension is strategic information—knowledge of your competitor's game plan. Strategic information is virtually priceless. It is as old as espionage. Any country or group can hire spies, and to the extent that commercial technologies and market research provide technical capabilities that were

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previously available only at the cost of large investment, there is an equalizing effect. But to the extent that large investments in intelligence gathering produce more and better strategic information, the large and powerful will benefit. While it is true that fewer of the interesting intelligence questions in a post–Cold War world are secrets (which can be stolen) than mysteries (to which no one knows the answer), large intelligence collection capabilities still provide important strategic advantages.

One of the most interesting aspects of power in relation to increasing flows of information is the “paradox of plenty.”77 A plenitude of information leads to a poverty of attention. When we are overwhelmed with the volume of information confronting us, it is hard to know what to focus on. Attention rather than information becomes the scarce resource, and those who can distinguish valuable signals from white noise gain power. Editors, filters, and cue givers become more in demand, and this is a source of power for those who can tell us where to focus our attention. Power does not necessarily flow to those who can produce or withhold information. Unlike asymmetrical interdependence in trade, where power goes to those who can afford to hold back or break trade ties, power in information flows goes to those who can edit and authoritatively validate information, sorting out what is both correct and important. Because of our free press, this generally benefits the United States.

Among editors and cue givers, credibility is the crucial resource and an important source of soft power. Reputation becomes even more important than in the past, and political struggles occur over the creation and destruction of credibility. Communities tend to cluster around credible cue givers, and, in turn, perceived credibility tends to reinforce communities. Internet users tend to frequent web (p.68) sites that that provide information they find both interesting and credible. Governments compete for credibility not only with other governments but with a broad range of alternatives including news media, corporations, nongovernmental organizations, intergovernmental organizations, and networks of scientific communities.

Thinking counterfactually, Iraq might have found it easier to have won acceptance for its view of the invasion of Kuwait as a postcolonial vindication, analogous to India's 1975 capture of Goa, if CNN had framed the issue from Baghdad rather than from Atlanta (from which Saddam was portrayed as analogous to Hitler in the 1930s). Soft power allowed the United States to frame the issue. Nongovernmental organizations can mount public relations campaigns that impose significant costs and alter the decisions of large corporations, as Greenpeace did in the case of Royal Dutch Shell's disposal of its Brentspar drilling rig. The sequel is equally illustrative, for Green‐peace lost credibility when it later had to admit that some of its factual statements had been inaccurate.

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Politics then becomes a contest of competitive credibility. Governments compete with each other and with other organizations to enhance their own credibility and weaken that of their opponents—witness the struggle between Serbia and NATO to frame the interpretation of events in Kosovo in 1999. Reputation has always mattered in world politics, but the role of credibility becomes an even more important power resource because of the deluge of free information and the “paradox of plenty” in an information age. The BBC, for example, was an important soft power resource for Britain in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. Now it (and other government broadcasts) has more competitors, but to the extent that it maintains credibility in an era of white noise, its value as a power resource may increase. As we shall see in chapter 5, if the U.S. goverment thought in these terms, it would invest far more than it now does in the instruments of soft power (such as information and cultural exchange programs) and be less likely to try to constrain the Voice of America as it did in September 2001. We would be more concerned about how the policies we follow at home and unilateralist foreign policies sometimes undermine our credibility.

(p.69) Soft Power in the Global Information Age One implication of the increasing importance of editors and cue givers in this global information age is that the relative importance of soft power will increase, because soft power rests on credibility. Countries that are well placed in terms of soft power do better.78 The countries that are likely to gain soft power in an information age are (1) those whose dominant culture and ideas are closer to prevailing global norms (which now emphasize liberalism, pluralism, and autonomy), (2) those with the most access to multiple channels of communication and thus more influence over how issues are framed, and (3) those whose credibility is enhanced by their domestic and international performance. These dimensions of power in an information age suggest the growing importance of soft power in the mix of power resources, and a strong advantage to the United States.

Of course, soft power is not brand‐new, nor was the United States the first government to try to utilize its culture to create soft power. After its defeat in the Franco‐Prussian War, the French government sought to repair the nation's shattered prestige by promoting its language and literature through the Alliance Française, created in 1883. “The projection of French culture abroad thus became a significant component of French diplomacy.”79 Italy, Germany, and others soon followed suit. The advent of radio in the 1920s led many governments into the area of foreign language broadcasting, and in the 1930s, Nazi Germany perfected the propaganda film. The American government was a latecomer to the idea of using American culture for the purposes of diplomacy. It established a Committee on Public Information during World War I but abolished it with the return of peace. By the late 1930s, the Roosevelt administration became convinced that “America's security depended on its ability to speak to and to win the support of people in other countries.” With World War II and the

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Cold War, the government became more active, with official efforts such as the United States Information Agency, the Voice of America, the Fulbright program, American libraries, lectures, and other programs. But much soft power arises from societal forces outside government (p.70) control. Even before the Cold War, “American corporate and advertising executives, as well as the heads of Hollywood studios, were selling not only their products but also America's culture and values, the secrets of its success, to the rest of the world.”80 Soft power is created partly by governments and partly in spite of them.

A decade ago some observers thought the close collaboration of government and industry in Japan would give it a lead in soft power in the information age. Japan could develop an ability to manipulate perceptions worldwide instantaneously and “destroy those that impede Japanese economic prosperity and cultural acceptance.”81 When Matsushita purchased MCA, its president said that movies critical of Japan would not be produced.82 Japanese media tried to break into world markets, and the government‐owned NHK network began satellite broadcasts in English. The venture failed, however, as NHK's reports seemed to lag behind those of commercial news organizations, and the network had to rely on CNN and ABC.83 This does not mean that Japan lacks soft power. On the contrary, its pop culture has great appeal to teenagers in Asia.84 But Japan's culture remains much more inward‐oriented than that of the United States, and its government's unwillingness to deal frankly with the history of the 1930s undercuts its soft power.

To be sure , there are areas, such as the Middle East, where ambivalence about American culture limits our soft power. All television in the Arab world used to be state‐run until tiny Qatar allowed a new station, Al‐Jazeera, to broadcast freely, and it proved wildly popular in the Middle East.85 Its uncensored images ranging from Osama bin Laden to Tony Blair had a powerful political influence after September 2001. Bin Laden's ability to project a Robin Hood image enhanced his soft power with some Muslims around the globe. As an Arab journalist described the situation earlier, “Al‐Jazeera has been for this intifada what CNN was to the Gulf War.”86 In fundamentalist Iran, people are ambivalent. Pirated videos are widely available, and a government ban “has only enhanced the lure of both the best and the worst of Western secular culture.”87

There are, of course, tensions even within Western secular culture that limit American soft power. In the mid‐1990s, 61 percent of (p.71) French, 45 percent of Germans, and 32 percent of Italians perceived American culture as a threat to their own. Majorities in Spain, France, Germany, and Italy thought there were too many American‐made films and television programs on national TV.88 And both Canada and the European Union place restrictions on the amount of American content that can be shown.

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But such attitudes reflect ambivalence rather than rejection. In the 1920s, the Germans were the cinematographic pacesetters, as were the French and the Italians in the 1950s and 1960s. India produces many more films than does Hollywood, but all the distribution channels in the world couldn't turn Indian movies into global blockbusters. In the eyes of German journalist Josef Joffe, the explanation is obvious: “America has the world's most open culture, and therefore the world is most open to it.”89 Or as a perceptive French critic notes, “Nothing symbolizes more the triumph of American culture than the quintessential art form of the 20th century: the cinema. . . . This triumph of the individual motivated by compassion or a noble ambition is universal . . . the message is based on the openness of America and the continuing success of its multicultural society.” But he also notes that “the more the French embrace America, the more they resent it.”90 Or as a Norwegian observed, “American culture is becoming everyone's second culture. It doesn't necessarily supplant local traditions, but it does activate a certain cultural bilingualism.”91 And like many second languages, it is spoken with imperfections and different meanings. The wonder, however, is that it is spoken at all.

Of course, Serbs wearing Levi's and eating at McDonald's not only supported repression in Kosovo, but used a Hollywood film, Wag the Dog, to mock the United States during the war. Child soldiers in Sierra Leone committed atrocities such as lopping off the hands of civilians while wearing American sports team T‐ shirts. Osama bin Laden despised American culture as do some of his fundamentalist sympathizers. For better or worse, the U.S. is “exciting, exotic, rich, powerful, trend‐setting—the cutting edge of modernity and innovation.”92

Despite vulgarity, sex, and violence, “our pictures and music exalt icons of freedom, celebrating a society conducive to upward (p.72) mobility, informality, egalitarian irreverence, and vital life‐force. This exaltation has its appeals in an age when people want to partake of the good life American style, even if as political citizens, they are aware of the downside for ecology, community, and equality.”93 For example, in explaining a new movement toward using lawsuits to assert rights in China, a young Chinese activist explained, “We've seen a lot of Hollywood movies—they feature weddings, funerals and going to court. So now we think it's only natural to go to court a few times in your life.”94 At the same time, such images of a liberal society can create a backlash among conservative fundamentalists.

Ambivalence sets limits on popular culture as a source of American soft power, and marketing by American corporations can create both attraction and resistance. As historian Walter LaFeber puts it, transnational corporations “not only change buying habits in a society, but modify the composition of the society itself. For the society that receives it, soft power can have hard effects.”95

Protest is often directed at McDonald's and Coca‐Cola. For better and worse, there is not much the U.S. government can do about these negative impacts of American cultural exports. Efforts to balance the scene by supporting exports of

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American high culture—libraries and art exhibits—are at best a useful palliative. Many aspects of soft power are more a by‐product of American society than of deliberate government actions, and they may increase or decrease government power. The background attraction (and repulsion) of American popular culture in different regions and among different groups may make it easier or more difficult for American officials to promote their policies. In some cases, such as Iran, American culture may produce rejection (at least for ruling elites); in others, including China, the attraction and rejection among different groups may cancel each other. In still other cases, such as Argentina, American human rights policies that were rejected by the military government of the 1970s produced considerable soft power for the United States two decades later when those who were earlier imprisoned subsequently came to power.

The Argentine example reminds us not to exaggerate the role of popular culture and that soft power is more than just cultural power. As we saw in chapter 1, soft power rests on agenda setting as well as (p.73) attraction, and popular culture is only one aspect of attraction (and not always that). The high cultural ideas that the United States exports in the minds of the half a million foreign students who study every year in American universities, or in the minds of the Asian entrepreneurs who return home after succeeding in Silicon Valley, are more closely related to elites with power. Most of China's leaders have a son or daughter educated in the United States who portray a realistic view of the United States that is often at odds with the caricatures in official Chinese propaganda.

Government polices at home and abroad can enhance or curtail our soft power. For example, in the 1950s, racial segregation at home undercut our soft power in Africa, and today, our practice of capital punishment and weak gun control laws undercut our soft power in Europe. Similarly, foreign policies strongly affect our soft power. Jimmy Carter's human rights policies are a case in point, but so also are government efforts to promote democracy during the Reagan and Clinton administrations. Conversely, foreign policies that appear arrogant and unilateral in the eyes of others diminish our soft power, as we will explore further in chapter 5.

The soft power that is becoming more important in the information age is in part a social and economic by‐product rather than solely a result of official government action. NGOs with soft power of their own can complicate and obstruct government efforts to obtain the outcomes it wants, and purveyors of popular culture sometimes hinder government agents in achieving their objectives. But the larger long‐term trends are in our favor. To the extent that official policies at home and abroad are consistent with democracy, human rights, openness, and respect for the opinions of others, the United States will benefit from the trends of this global information age, even though pockets of reaction and fundamentalism will persist and react in some countries. But there

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is a danger that we may obscure the deeper message of our values through arrogance and unilateralism. Our culture, high and low, helps produce soft power in an information age, but government actions also matter—not only through programs such as the Voice of America and Fulbright scholarships but, even more important, when our policies avoid arrogance and (p.74) stand for values that others admire. The trends of the information age are in our favor, but only if we avoid stepping on our own message.

Conclusion A century ago, at the height of the industrial age, the great German sociologist Max Weber identified a monopoly on the legitimate use of force as a defining characteristic of the modern state. That still remains true, but in the information age, governments are less securely in control of the major sources of power than in the past century. Large states still have overwhelming military advantages, but the spread of technologies of mass destruction opens opportunities for terrorists and creates vulnerabilities in postindustrial societies. And for preindustrial societies, private armies and criminal groups in some instances have forces that can overwhelm governments.

In terms of economic power, transnational corporations operate on a scale that is larger than that of many countries. At least a dozen transnational corporations have annual sales that are larger than the gross national products of more than half the states in the world. For example, the sales of Mitsubishi are larger than the GNP of Vietnam; the sales of Shell are three times the GNP of Guatemala; those of Siemens are six times the GNP of Jamaica.96 And with soft power, while large countries such as the United States have a lead, the government is often unable to control it. Moreover, as soft power becomes more important in an information age, it is worth remembering that it is the domain where nongovernmental organizations and networks are poised to compete because it is their major power resource. The state remains sovereign, but its powers, even for the United States, are not what they once were. As two perceptive foreign observers put it, “If the state remains at the centre of governance in the world, what has changed? In a word everything. Never have so many different nonstate actors competed for the authority and influence that once belonged to the states alone.”97

What conclusions can we draw in this early phase of the global information age? Predictions of the equalizing effect of the information (p.75) and communications revolutions on the distribution of power among states are wrong. In part this is because economies of scale and barriers to entry persist in regard to commercial and strategic information, and in part because with respect to free information, the larger states will often be well placed in the competition for the credibility that creates soft power. Second, cheap flows of information have created an enormous change in channels of contact across state borders. Nongovernmental actors and individuals operating transnationally

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have much greater opportunities to organize and to propagate their views. States are more easily penetrated and less like black boxes. Our political leaders will find it more difficult to maintain a coherent ordering of foreign policy issues.

Third, the Internet is creating a new transnational domain that is superimposed on sovereign states in the same way newly created medieval markets were centuries ago, and it promises an equally significant evolution of attitudes and identities. Fourth, the information revolution is changing political processes in such a way that open democratic societies like the United States will compete more successfully than authoritarian states for the key power resource of credibility, but democratization will not be rapid in much of the preindustrial world. Fifth, soft power is becoming more important in relation to hard coercive power than it was in the past, as credibility becomes a key power resource for both governments and nongovernmental groups. Although the United States is better placed in terms of credibility and soft power than many countries, the coherence of government policies is likely to diminish. Finally, geographically based sovereign states will continue to structure politics in an information age, but the processes of world politics within that structure are undergoing profound change. The power of the sovereign state will still matter, but it will not be what it used to be.

What this means is that many of the traditional measures of American preeminence that we saw in chapter 1 will prove to be illusory. Talk about unipolarity and hegemony will begin to sound increasingly hollow. If all we had to do in a global information age was fend off new military challengers, the tasks of American foreign policy would be relatively straightforward and our hard power would suffice. (p.76) By traditional measures, no sovereign state is likely to surpass us, and terrorists cannot defeat us. But an information revolution is posing more subtle challenges by changing the very nature of states, sovereignty, and control—and the role of soft power. Fewer issues that we care about will prove susceptible to solution through our dominant military power. Policy makers will have to pay more attention to the politics of credibility and the importance of soft power. And they will have to share a stage crowded with newly empowered nongovernmental actors and individuals. As we shall see in the next chapter, all this will occur in a very diverse world in which globalization is shrinking the distances that provided protection in the past.


(1.) Robert Darnton, “An Early Information Society” (presidential address), American Historical Review, February 2000, 1.

(2.) Douglas McGray, “The Silicon Archipelago,” Daedalus, spring 1999, 147–76.

(3.) Jeremy Greenwood, The Third Industrial Revolution: Technology, Productivity, and Income Inequality (Washington, D.C.: AEI Press, 1997), 20–23;

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“Electronic Commerce Helps to Fuel US Growth,” Financial Times (London), April 16, 1998, 5; Intel cofounder Gordon Moore formulated his now famous Moore's law of microprocessing power and cost in 1965—as Intel's Web site essay on Moore's law notes, “The average price of a transistor has fallen by six orders of magnitude due to microprocessor development. This is unprecedented in world history; no other manufactured item has decreased in cost so far, so fast” (; U.S. Department of Commerce, The Emerging Digital Economy, chapter 1, “The Digital Revolution” (; K. G. Coffman and Andrew Odlyzko, “The Size and Growth of the Internet,”First Monday: Peer‐ Reviewed Journal on the Internet ( index.html).

(4.) Richard Adams, “U.S. the Dominant Economic Model,” Financial Times Annual Survey: Markets 2000, January 11, 2000, 26.

(5.) Pippa Norris, The Digital Divide: Civic Engagement, Information Poverty, and the Internet Worldwide (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 8.

(6.) Hal Varian, “How Much Information Is There?” (http://‐much‐info/summary.html).

(7.) See, for example, Peter Drucker, “The Next Information Revolution,” Forbes, August 24, 1998, 46–58; Alvin Toffler and Heidi Toffler, The Politics of the Third Wave (Kansas City, MO: Andrews and McMeel, 1995); Don Tapscott, The Digital Economy: Promise and Peril in the Age of Networked Intelligence (New York: McGraw‐Hill, 1996); Richard Rosecrance, The Rise of the Virtual State (New York: Basic Books, 1999).

(8.) David S. Landes, The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), chapters 2–3; David Thomson, England in the Nineteenth Century, 1815–1914 (New York: Viking Penguin, 1978 [1950]), 63–68; Alfred Chandler Jr., The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1977), 90–91.

(9.) Zane L. Miller, The Urbanization of Modern America: A Brief History, 2nd ed. (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovitch, 1987), passim.

(10.) Stuart W. Bruchey, Growth of the Modern American Economy (New York: Dodd Mead, 1975); Thomas McCraw, Prophets of Regulation: Charles Francis Adams, Louis D. Brandeis, James M. Landis, Alfred E. Kahn (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1984), chapters 1–5.

(11.) At the same time, one must be cautious with grand analogies. Revolution, defined as a disjunction of power, is often difficult to discern except in

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retrospect. Moreover, historians differ on the dating and duration of earlier industrial revolutions. The term was not coined until 1886, a century after it began. While there may have been discontinuities in technological progress, with new leading sectors in each era, it has been difficult to specify the timing of long waves or cycles of economic growth. See Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post‐ Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting (New York: Basic Books, 1999 [1973]), 5. Also Nathan Rosenberg, Exploring the Black Box: Technology, Economics, and History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), chapter 4.

(12.) Bell, The Coming of Post‐Industrial Society, 94, 97.

(13.) William Fielding Ogburn, “The Influence of Inventions on American Social Institutions in the Future,” The American Journal of Sociology, November 1937, 370.

(14.) Charles Kindleberger, Centralization Versus Pluralism (Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School Press, 1996), 13. See also Gary Marks and Liesbet Hooghe, “Optimality and Authority: A Critique of Neo‐Classical Theory,” Journal of Common Market Studies, December 2000, 795–816.

(15.) Bell, The Coming of Post‐Industrial Society, 94.

(16.) Lester Salamon, “The Rise of the Nonprofit Sector: A Global Associational Revolution,” Foreign Affairs, July 1994, 109–22; Jessica T. Matthews, “Power Shift,” Foreign Affairs, January 1997, 50–66; Ann Florini, ed., The Third Force (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment, 2000); Nonprofit Almanac, 1996–97 (San Francisco: Jossey‐Bass, 1996), 29.

(17.) Carl F. Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1965).

(18.) Marshall I. Goldman, Gorbachev's Challenge: Economic Reform in the Age of High Technology (New York: W. W. Norton, 1987), chapter 2.

(19.) Ibid., 15.

(20.) Abel Aganbegyan, “Economic Performance,” in Abel Aganbegyan, ed., Perestroika 1989 (New York: Scribner's, 1988), 101.

(21.) “Life Beyond the Kremlin,” New York Times, May 30, 1988, 7–8.

(22.) “Soviets Launch Computer Literacy Drive,” Science, January 10, 1986, 109– 10; “Glasnost: Soviet Computer Lag, Science, August 26, 1988, 1034.

(23.) Sheila McNulty, “Equipping a Nation for the New Economy,” Financial Times (London), September 15, 2000, 12.

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(24.) Author's conversation with Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore, January 1999.

(25.) Tony Saich, “Globalization, Governance, and the Authoritarian State: China,” in Joseph S. Nye Jr. and John Donahue, eds., Governance in a Globalizing World (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press), 222.

(26.) Wang Jisi, “The Internet in China: A New Fantasy?” New Perspectives Quarterly, winter 2001, 22; Richard McGregor, “Internet Chatrooms,” Financial Times (London), November 13, 2000, viii.

(27.) Elizabeth Rosenthal, “China Struggles to Ride Herd on Ever More Errant Media,” New York Times, March 17, 2001.

(28.) Susan Lawrence and David Murphy, “How to Start a Cold War,” Far Eastern Economic Review, April 12, 2001, 15.

(29.) Saich, “Globalization, Governance, and the Authoritarian State,” 223.

(30.) Lee Kuan Yew interview with John Thornhill and Sheil McNulty, Financial Times (London), April 11, 2001, 4.

(31.) John Thornhill, “Asia's Old Order Falls into the Net,” Financial Times (London), March 17, 2001, 7.

(32.) Ibid.

(33.) Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, “The Presence of Government in National Economies,” table 1, “General Government Total Outlays” (

(34.) Susan Strange, The Retreat of the State (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 14.

(35.) Douglass North, Structure and Change in Economic History (New York: W. W. Norton), 163–64. See also Paul A. David, “Understanding Digital Technology's Evolution and the Path of Measured Productivity Growth: Present and Future in the Mirror of the Past,” in Erik Brynjolfsson and Brian Kahin, eds., Understanding the Digital Economy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), 50–92.

(36.) “Productivity: Lost in Cyberspace,” The Economist, September 13, 1997, 72.

(37.) U.S. Department of Commerce, “Digital Economy 2000” (http://

(38.) Drucker, “The Next Information Revolution.”

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(39.) Friedrich and Brzezinski, Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy. On the other hand, as films, cassettes, and faxes spread, the later technologies of the second information revolution helped to undermine governmental efforts at information autarky—witness the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The overall effects were not always democratizing. In some cases, such as Iran, the technologies of the second information revolution merely changed the nature of the autocracy.

(40.) Lawrence Lessig, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (New York: Basic Books, 2000).

(41.) For example, Ian Clarke, the youthful Irish inventor of Freenet, says he is a free‐speech absolutist who makes no exception for child pornography or terrorism. “My point of view is not held by most people, but the technology has given me the ability to do what I think is right without having to convince anyone.” “Entertainment Industry Vows to Fight Against Online Piracy,” Boston Globe, May 31, 2000, 1.

(42.) Ithiel de Sola Pool, Technologies of Freedom (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1983).

(43.) Norris, The Digital Divide, 232.

(44.) For speculation on how the Internet will affect government, see Elaine Kamarck and Joseph S. Nye Jr., eds., (Hollis, NH: Hollis Publishing, 1999), chapter 1.

(45.) See Toffler and Toffler, The Politics of the Third Wave; Drucker, “The Next Information Revolution.”

(46.) Esther Dyson, Release 2.1: A Design for Living in the Digital Age (New York: Broadway Books, 1998).

(47.) Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye Jr., Transnational Relations and World Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997).

(48.) Peter Spiro, “The New Sovereigntists,” Foreign Affairs, November‐ December 2000.

(49.) John G. Ruggie, “Territoriality and Beyond: Problematizing Modernity in International Relations,” International Organization, winter 1993, 143, 155.

(50.) Henry H. Perrritt Jr., “The Internet as a Threat to Sovereignty?” Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, spring 1998, 426.

(51.) Saskia Sassen, “On the Internet and Sovereignty,” Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, spring 1998, 551.

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(52.) Joseph Quinlan and Marc Chandler, “The U.S. Trade Deficit: A Dangerous Illusion,” Foreign Affairs, May‐June 2001, 92, 95.

(53.) Ruggie, “Territoriality and Beyond,” 172.

(54.) Hendryk Spruyt, The Sovereign State and Its Competitors (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).

(55.) Stephen Krasner, “Sovereignty,” Foreign Policy, January‐February 2001, 24; see also Linda Weiss, The Myth of the Powerless State (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998). See also “Geography and the Net,” The Economist, August 11, 2001, 18–20.

(56.) Stephen E. Flynn, “Beyond Border Control,” Foreign Affairs, November‐ December 2000, 57–68.

(57.) U.S. Commission on National Security in the Twenty‐first Century, Road Map for National Security: Imperative for Change ( PhaseIIIFR.pdf), chapter 1.

(58.) James Adams, “Virtual Defense,” Foreign Affairs, May‐June 2001, 98–112.

(59.) Adam Roberts, “The So‐called ‘Right’ of Humanitarian Intervention,” Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law, summer 2001.

(60.) Harold Guetzkow, Multiple Loyalties: Theoretical Approach to a Problem in International Organization (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955).

(61.) Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 1991).

(62.) Norris, The Digital Divide, 191.

(63.) Florini, The Third Force, chapter 1; Margaret E. Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998), chapter 2; James N. Rosenau, Turbulence in World Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 409; “The Non‐ Governmental Order,” The Economist, December 11, 1999.

(64.) Michael Edwards, NGO Rights and Responsibilities (London: The Foreign Policy Centre, 2000); Florini, The Third Force; Jessica T. Matthews, “Power Shift,” Foreign Affairs, January 1997.

(65.) Peter M. Haas, “Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination,” International Organization, winter 1992.

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(66.) At the beginning of the new century, the United States had 159 million computers in use; all of Latin America had only 18 million. Of 350 million Internet users, nearly half were in North America; less than 0.5 percent were in Latin America. North America had 493 Internet users per thousand population, Western Europe 221, the Middle East and Africa 8. “Innovation and Technology,” Wall Street Journal, September 25, 2000, R6.

(67.) Norris, The Digital Divide, 8.

(68.) Editorial, “The Digital Divide,” Far Eastern Economic Review, April 12, 2001, 6.

(69.) Robert Litan, “The Internet Economy,” Foreign Policy, March‐April 2001, 16.

(70.) See Suzanne Daly, “French Prosecutor Investigates US Global Listening System,” New York Times, July 5, 2000, A7.

(71.) Douglas McGray, “The Silicon Archipelago,” 167.

(72.) Clayton Christensen, “The Great Disruption,” Foreign Affairs, March‐April 2001.

(73.) “Top‐Secret Kodak Moment in Space Shakes Global Security,” Christian Science Monitor, March 21, 2000, 2.

(74.) Newt Gingrich, “Threats of Mass Destruction,” Information Security, April 2001 ( columns_security_persp.shtml).

(75.) Joseph S. Nye Jr. and William A. Owens, “America's Information Edge,” Foreign Affairs, March‐April 1996.

(76.) I owe these distinctions to Robert O. Keohane. See Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye Jr., “Power and Interdependence in the Information Age,” Foreign Affairs, fall 1998.

(77.) Herbert A. Simon, “Information 101:It's Not What You Know, It's How You Know It,” The Journal for Quality and Participation, July‐August 1998, 30–33.

(78.) Of course, as I argued above, soft power varies with the targeted audience. Thus American individualism may be popular in Latin America at the same time that it appears offensively libertine in some Middle Eastern countries. Moreover, governments can gain and lose soft power depending on their performance at home.

(79.) Richard Pells, Not Like Us (New York: Basic Books, 1997), 31–32.

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(80.) Ibid., 33, xiii.

(81.) Jerome C. Glenn, “Japan: Cultural Power of the Future,” Nikkei Weekly, December 7, 1992, 7.

(82.) “Multinational Movies: Questions on Politics,” New York Times, November 27, 1990, D7.

(83.) “Japanese News Media Join Export Drive,” International Herald Tribune, May 10, 1991; David Sanger, “NHK of Japan Ends Plan for Global News Service,” New York Times, December 9, 1991.

(84.) Calvin Sims, “Japan Beckons and East Asia's Youth Fall in Love,” New York Times, December 5, 1999, A3; “Advance of the Amazonesu,” The Economist, July 22, 2000, 61.

(85.) Mark Huband, “Egypt Tries to Tempt Back Broadcasters,” Financial Times (London), March 7, 2000, 14.

(86.) John Kifner, “Tale of Two Uprisings,” New York Times, November 18, 2000, A6.

(87.) Chris Hedges, “Iran Is Unable to Stem the West's Cultural Invasion,” New York Times, March 28, 1992, A11.

(88.) United States Information Agency Office of Research, “European Opinion Alert,” March 16, 1994, and May 27, 1994.

(89.) Josef Joffe, “America the Inescapable,” New York Times [Sunday] Magazine, June 8, 1997, 38.

(90.) Dominique Moisi, “America the Triumphant,” Financial Times (London), February 9, 1998, 12; Moisi, “The Right Argument at the Wrong Time,” Financial Times (London), November 22, 1999, 13.

(91.) Quoted in Todd Gitlin, “World Leaders: Mickey, et al.,” New York Times, May 3, 1992, Arts and Leisure section, 1.

(92.) Neal M. Rosendorf, “Social and Cultural Globalization: Concepts, History, and America's Role,” in Nye and Donahue, eds., Governance in a Globalizing World.

(93.) Todd Gitlin, “Taking the World by (Cultural) Force,” The Straits Times (Singapore), January 11, 1999, 2.

(94.) Elisabeth Rosenthal, “Chinese Test New Weapon From West: Lawsuits,” New York Times, June 16, 2001.

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(95.) Walter LaFeber, Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism (New York: Norton, 1999), 157.

(96.) Data drawn from CIA World Factbook 2000 ( publications/factbook/) and Hoover's Handbook of World Business 2001 (Austin: Reference Press, 2001).

(97.) Gordon Smith and Moises Naim, Altered States: Globalization, Sovereignty and Governance (Ottawa: International Development Research Centre, 2000), 10.

  • The Information Revolution
    • Joseph S. Nye
  • The Information Revolution
    • Joseph S. Nye (Contributor Webpage)
  • Abstract and Keywords
  • The Information Revolution
  • The Information Revolution
  • Lessons from The Past
  • The Information Revolution
  • Centralization or Diffusion?
  • The Information Revolution
  • The Information Revolution
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  • As the Revolution Progresses
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  • A New World Politics
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  • Power Among States
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  • Three Dimensions of Information
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  • (p.69) Soft Power in the Global Information Age
  • The Information Revolution
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  • Conclusion
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    • Notes:
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