MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA Columnist and author Moisés Naím (left) and Director of Asian Studies Victor Cha (right) discuss the nature of power in a chaotic world in Riggs Library on Monday evening.
Columnist and author Moisés Naím (left) and Director of Asian Studies Victor Cha (right) discuss the nature of power in a chaotic world in Riggs Library on Monday evening.

Dr. Moisés Naím spoke about the changing dynamics of world power contributing to a more chaotic world in Riggs Library on Monday afternoon in a converstion with Director of Asian Studies Victor Cha, sponsored by the Office of the President.

Naím expanded on the theories in his book “The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be.”

Naím, a senior associate in the International Economics Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and an internationally syndicated columnist, told the audience that scholars generally agree that there is a shift in power occurring worldwide, but his more provocative theory is that the nature of power itself has changed.

“The central message of the book is … that power has become easier to acquire, much harder to use and easier to lose,” Naím said.

This inconsistent nature of power is well demonstrated by the rise in start up businesses that challenge multinational, well-established corporations. Naím called these new powers that oppose traditional powers “micropowers.” He compared Kodak’s demise to the simultaneous success of Instagram.

“Kodak is no longer,” Naím said. “And very interestingly, at the very same time that Kodak was starting bankruptcy proceedings, Chapter 11 proceedings, a small company with 13 employees and three years of age was sold for a billion dollars. That company is called Instagram.”

This trend, Naím said, also translates to the battlefield. The changing nature of power allows for the success of “David and Goliath” stories outside of the business world. He discussed a study by a Harvard scholar that found that in contemporary battles, the weaker side, as designated by the number of weapons and other similar qualifications, was more likely to win.

“I think that the trends I describe are trends that reflect a world with more opportunity, with more possibilities, where those excluded can now have the hope and the opportunity of being included,” Naím said.

On the other hand, this optimism does not translate to politics in the same way. The new constraints of powers cause governmental risks and possible stagnation.

“In a world that is more full of opportunities, there is almost more risks,” Naím said. “The book also shows some of the risks that are mostly in the way we govern ourselves. And we have seen around the world the difficulty that governments are having in governing, making decisions and creating the consensus that is needed to move a society forward.”

Naím believes that this changing nature of power needs to be accounted for by governments.

Lauren Allen (SFS ’17), a member of the audience, which flowed out the library doors, said she was interested in Naím’s idea that young people have a greater ability to gain power in the current climate.

“It stood out to me how the world is so much younger, and it’s talking about these small companies that are headed by very young people that end up being micropowers and just how changeable the power scene is now,” Allen said. “Things are not as fixed as they used to be and I think that’s just a crazy concept.”

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