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"The Second Superpower"
Alex Steffen, 1 Oct 03

Do large networks of people acting together politically equal a political force even when there's no readily-apparent leadership?

Jim Moore thinks so. In fact, he thinks these networks may be signs of a transformation in world politics. In his essay The Second Superpower, Moore argues that the combined weight of distributed worldwide public opinion adds up to a counterweight to American establishment hegemony - that all those protesters, blog-writers, email activists, meet-up campaigners and hacktivists are, in fact, a "second superpower."

"[T]he new superpower demonstrates a new form of “emergent democracy” that differs from the participative democracy of the US government. Where political participation in the United States is exercised mainly through rare exercises of voting, participation in the second superpower movement occurs continuously through participation in a variety of web-enabled initiatives. And where deliberation in the first superpower is done primarily by a few elected or appointed officials, deliberation in the second superpower is done by each individual—making sense of events, communicating with others, and deciding whether and how to join in community actions. Finally, where participation in democracy in the first superpower feels remote to most citizens, the emergent democracy of the second superpower is alive with touching and being touched by each other, as the community works to create wisdom and to take action.

"How does the second superpower take action? Not from the top, but from the bottom. That is, it is the strength of the US government that it can centrally collect taxes, and then spend, for example, $1.2 billion on 1,200 cruise missiles in the first day of the war against Iraq. By contrast, it is the strength of the second superpower that it could mobilize hundreds of small groups of activists to shut down city centers across the United States on that same first day of the war. And that millions of citizens worldwide would take to their streets to rally. The symbol of the first superpower is the eagle—an awesome predator that rules from the skies, preying on mice and small animals. Perhaps the best symbol for the second superpower would be a community of ants. Ants rule from below. And while I may be awed seeing eagles in flight, when ants invade my kitchen they command my attention."

Opinions differ, obviously, but Second Superpower is still required reading.

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