Trundling along through Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order, we have surged through the Chinese and Indian experiences, pushing past Islam and on to Christianity before moving into the Rule of Law in Part Three. I had not really to this point considered the extent to which law and religion are part of my considerations; at least certainly not the law. In thinking through the impact on state legitimacy of technology, it is most likely my view that the changing nature of identity is more important, and that that, by extension, undermines the state (insofar as identity is constructed substantially by associations with non-state or super-state groups). To put it more simply, people associate less with community and nation, and more with brand and interest group, connected through globalised technology. Identity is also being changed by the decline in religious tradition, at least outside of Muslim states. However, I had a problem connecting that aspect of religion to my thesis, as it seems only peripherally attributed to the rise in technology.
Two indices we can refer to as we calculate State Legitimacy are the Foreign Policy Failed State Index, and the Interbrand Global Brand Index. I’ve referred already to the Foreign Policy Index here, and I thought I’d mentioned the Interbrand Index here, but I can’t quite put my finger on the link.
The failed state index can be inverted, as we said, to indicate the extent to which states have succeeded, which is interesting. The categories too are interesting – demographic pressures, refugees / IDPs, group grievances, human flight, uneven development, economic decline, delegitimization of the state, public services, human rights, security apparatus, factionalized elites, and external intervention. In truth it sounds like the table of contents for a rather interesting book! The methodology for the index, which is run in conjunction with the Fund for Peace, outlines how each metric is calculated, though it is most certainly an inexact science.
A data scientist at Twitter, Edwin Chen, has used twitter to measure the prevalence of the term ‘soda’ versus ‘pop’ or ‘coke’ across the US, and the world. He compares his work to work done ten years previously on a survey basis, which reveals slight changes over time, but essentially concurs with Chen’s conclusions. In order to arrive at the data set, Chen had to clean the data by removing extraneous references. For example, references to specific drinks – like Coca Cola – were eliminated; and only those references to drinks were included. Then he was left with a pretty accurate picture as represented by Americans who use Twitter – and let’s presume for now that that’s a statistically accurate sample.
Wednesday’s Op-Ed by Jules Boykoff in the New York Times criticises the IOC for its elitism and arrogance. Sidestepping the conventional criticism of corruption, Boykoff attacks governance, the preponderance of royalty on the committee, and, essentially, its condescension. It is in effect a commercial construct that denies accountability (such as the ethics committee who report to the IOC executive, populated no doubt by – as Sir Humphrey would refer to them – sound men) and retains, as he concludes, “the arrogance and aloofness” that make it very ordinary indeed.
I linked yesterday to Ann-Marie Slaughter‘s excellent presentation to PopTech on International Relations and the non-state actors that influence and even dictate so much development in the world. Watching it again this morning (and it’s worth watching twice) a number of questions crossed my mind. First, she talks about social actors and ad hoc networks, but never quite gets to social networks. Just as ad-hoc supra-national organisations are bringing together strange bedfellows, and getting ahead of the State actors in driving change, people are developing connections and social networks beyond traditional family and even cultural groups; one could argue that technological change is facilitating the re-structuring of the DNA of culture. Kin, geography, language, religion and race remain important, but they are no longer the exclusive determinants of social alignment. People connect now through trade, sports, entertainment, hobbies, and other interests, forming close relationships. People’s identity – closely tied to these relationships – is changing. National identity is less relevant.
The tension between the collective and the indididual is probably one of the most important themes of modern political thought. The isolationism that seems to inevitably follow from giving the individual, as it were, enough rope, is clearly something that society should seek to avoid. But should society tell the individual what to do? Kurt Anderson doesn’t take a view in today’s New York Times, though selfishness is a pejorative term, right?
Ann Marie Slaughter makes an intersting point – that the practice of International Relations is not a consideration of states, but of networks. Worth 22 minutes.