Networked Societies and Hierarchical States: The Emerging Challenge to Political Order
Nitin Pai and Sneha Shankar
Conference paper in
Promoting Democracy for Creating a Better and Peaceful World: Regional, National and Local Perspectives
Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.
The structure of the modern nation-state was forged in the Industrial Age. It now confronts the demands of the Information Age and is increasingly found wanting. A networked society is flat, its demands are diverse and often inchoate, decision-making processes are amorphous, and leadership diffuse. However, such a society is governed by a government that operates in a hierarchical manner, top-down and bottom-up, in silos, bound by hard rules and distinct leadership. While a networked society moves fast, a hierarchical government moves relatively slowly on account of its structure. To members of networked societies the hierarchical government appears slow, less responsive and remote, hence lacking in credibility and legitimacy. One reason the United States emerged on top of the world order is because it had the best political system for post-Enlightenment industrial age societies. It may well be that the nation that best reinvents itself for the information age will have a shot at being the next great superpower. The presentation will interrogate the relationship between structures of the contemporary states and the expectations of their networked societies.