"Any way the wind blows" - Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody
Recently I read Susan Strange’s seminal book, “States and Markets”.Strange, who died in 1998, was a long time academic in the field of international relations and international political economy.The book was originally published in 1988, and focuses on “power” as a concept to analyze relationships in international politics and economics.Indeed, one important point she makes is that the fields of politics and economics are often split, providing for academically “clean” theories and methodologies, but loosing the capacity to understand what is happening in the real world.As Palan’s foreword notes, “Markets are integrated, politics affects economics, economics affects politics, and structural power has this uncanny ability to travel between different contexts.”Interestingly, Strange notes that, “In real life, durable conditions in political economy cannot be created which ignore the interlocking interests of powerful people.The problem – which never has an easy, quick or permanent solution – is to find that balance of interest of power that allows a working set of bargains to be hammered out and observed.”Important in any analysis, according to Strange, was the question “who benefits” (Cui bono?).
In her model, Strange identifies four key “structures of power” in the world economy, namely security, production, finance and knowledge.This seems somewhat random (or maybe evolves through time) in terms of sectors, and the balance of power between states and firms may also evolve.With some of the reading I’ve been doing recently, the question of power in the telecommunication and internet domain is particularly interesting.A great read for this has been Laura DeNardis’, “The Global War for Internet Governance”. Power and responsibilities are spread out over a range of institutions, both public and private, and constantly shifting (and arguably, not always clear).In a sense, this is “multistakeholder governance”.However, with the economic and political importance of the internet only increasing, is this sufficient?Knowing the economic importance – including with significant impact on poverty reduction – is this sufficient?Cui bono?
13.3.2019, Niamey, Niger.
 See, for example, May’s, “Strange fruit: Susan Strange’s theory of structural power in the international political economy”.
 A point also made in the above article by May.
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Online encampment of A. S. Barry. Disparate and not-so-disparate thoughts on international relations, development, writing, and life.