GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES

Heterarchy: An Idea Finally Ripe for Its Time

MIN READFeb 3, 2016 | 08:00 GMT

Rock, Paper, Scissors is a Popular Way to Make a Decision.

Rock, Paper, Scissors is a Popular Way to Make a Decision.

People are talking about "the American Century," or "the Chinese Century," as if it is perfectly natural that some nation must be number one. I was invited to give a talk at Rand a few years after the fall of the Soviet Union. The concern at Rand was how to manage a "unipolar world" now that the bipolar order of the Cold War had come to an end. I tried to tell the researchers at Rand about heterarchy ... but they were not interested. There was a mindset there, a hierarchical mindset, that insisted that somebody must be "number one," and it better be us. You see this mindset at play in the well-worn epithet of the lion as "king of the jungle." But who says the jungle has to have a king? The jungle is not a political order, however many alpha male gorillas may roam its paths. The jungle...

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