The powerlessness of power?

This below is from a Quarterly Essay  called Unfinished Business: Sex, Freedom and Misogny by Anna Goldsworthy.  It’s in the correspondence bit, talking about the previous essay, ‘Not Dead Yet‘ by Mark Latham. I have added the links.

[Moises] Nairn is the author of a well-received recent book, The End of Power [Guardian Review], which argues that ‘Being in charge isn’t what it used to be.’ In the Washington Post essay which summarises his book, Nairn relates a conversation in which [Joschka] Fischer said that when he was elected to government, ‘one of my biggest shocks was the discovery that all the imposing government palaces and other trappings of government were in fact empty places,’ and that ‘the imperial architecture of governmental palaces masks how limited the power of those who were there really is.’ In Nairn’s detailed and compelling assessment, strong forces around the world – such as the explosion of the middle class, global mobility and a cognitive transformation that values individual freedoms – are working to fragment power. As Nairn describes it, ‘The More Revolution helps the challengers overwhelm the barriers, the Mobility Revolution helps them circumvent them, and the Mentality Revolution helps them undermine them,’ so that decision-makers in and out of politics have far less influence.

Chalmers, J. 2013. Correspondence, in Quarterly Essay 50, p.86

It reminds me of lots of things, including Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians and Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hype.

On Gillard and misogyny, I’m looking forward to doing enough work on my thesis to be able to then read “Bewitched and Bedevilled: Women Write the Gillard Years.”

This is from the Guardian Review linked to above –

It’s easy to see why Mark Zuckerberg likes Moisés Naím’s The End of Power. Naím’s thesis is that “in the 21st century, power is easier to get, harder to use – and easier to lose.” Zuckerberg understands this (as shown by his strategic acquisitions of potential competitors WhatsApp and Instagram) and grasps that Facebook’s success depends on bridging the gap between old corporate and new grassroots models of power. Facebook is constantly balancing demands for user control – or the appearance of it – against a careful, authoritarian, behind-the-scenes apparatus that maximizes efficiency in ways that benefit the company.

In this sense, Facebook is the perfect test case for Naím’s book. The End of Power lucidly describes and extols the extent to which recent developments have made traditional repositories of power – whether political, corporate, or cultural – newly vulnerable to challenges from smaller, nimbler entities….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: