While there is little doubt that Sweden's military power is dwarfed by that of the United States, in a networked world Sweden may nevertheless find itself better equipped than the US to exert influence on the global stage, argues contributor Stefan Geens.
The Arab Spring makes clear that the nature of power wielded by states is evolving as societies get networked digitally. Intriguingly, a new network-centric theory of power appears to favor Sweden's open and collaborative nature as a multiplier of its influence globally.
International relations theorists have long talked about hard power and soft power; hard power is coercive, embedded in military might and financial means, whereas soft power is attractive, derived from positive views of a nation's cultural and social institutions.
The United states is a superpower in both realms. Sweden, not so much.
In 2009, a professor of international affairs at Princeton University, Anne-Marie Slaughter, wrote an influential article for Foreign Affairs in which she began to extend the hard/soft theory of power to incorporate the effects of Internet-enabled networks.
She argued that in the Internet age, "the measure of power is connectedness", and that this favors the US because American society has all the right traits for connectivity. Now Slaughter has expanded on her thinking with a new article in The Atlantic that argues the old notions of power just won't suffice to explain what happened on Tahrir Square, so she identifies a new kind, "collaborative power".
Collaborative power isn't "power over" but "power with". It is an "emergent phenomenon" of the network, and although it cannot be commanded, those who are willing to align with its aims — who "move to the center" of the network — can guide it.
How is the United States positioned to "guide" collaborative power?
How is Sweden positioned?
Many of the social and demographic traits in the US identified by Slaughter as beneficial to connectivity are also present in Sweden.
In fact, Sweden is often better positioned than the US to become a collaborative superpower, especially in the Middle East.
What are these traits?
Slaughter proceeds through a whole list: a small population (compared with China), which makes a country more manageable politically and less prone to secessionism; many immigrants, since they contribute strong trusted connections back to their country of origin, facilitating trade; international exposure, especially by a country's youth, through travel and global engagement; open and transparent government, which promotes trust in state actors; innovation based on "constructive conflict" and the challenging of authority; and economic and social equality, which fosters inclusion.
More here: http://www.thelocal.se/38426/20120110/