On January 26, The Institute of World Politics hosted a webinar entitled “The Trend Toward a Concentration of Power and China’s Hegemonic Goal,” led by Dr. Anders Corr, founder of Corr Analytics, Inc. This event is part of the China Series sponsored by The Institute of World Politics. Dr. Corr’s presentation focused on the historical trend of concentration of power, and he provided twelve theories for understanding hierarchical change as it relates to historical conflicts.
A Globally Inherited Legacy
Dr. Corr began his lecture by discussing the complexity of threats that face the United States today, including internal divisiveness, allies turning inwards and away, and the facing of offensive fronts. He then claimed that this is part of a trend throughout history that politics moves towards a broader and deeper aggregation of organization and political power that is not always democratic in nature, a process that has developed over thousands of years.
Dr. Corr continued his remarks by describing the twelve theories of hierarchy examined in his recent book, The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy & Hegemony. These twelve theories aid in explaining the organization of power and what causes hierarchical change.
- Concentration of power: Power has been concentrated over thousands of years in the direction of a single global hegemon.
- Oscillation of power imbalances: Power imbalances oscillate randomly, providing opportunities to expand.
- The ratchet effect: Political, economic, and military ratchets keep larger units from breaking into smaller parts when the smaller parts might have the advantage.
- The two-step process of expansion: Disintegration does occur throughout history, but it is part of a two-step process of aggregation.
- The punctuated equilibrium of concentration: The reincorporation of disintegrated parts into the expanding parts creates a punctuated equilibrium of expansion and concentration over time instead of the equal rise and fall of empires. There is an upward sloping trend toward larger empires and power concentration.
- Sovereign flux: The way we label the dominant political power over a given territory changes over time.
- Hierarchical skimming, siphoning, and pumping: Power concentrates through what can be called hierarchical skimming, siphoning, and pumping. Those at the top seeking to aggregate power can absorb that power by directly skimming from the middle level or through a two-step process of siphoning from middle to lower levels for later pumping to the top.
- The division of power between emergent hegemons and councils of those in support: The history of power and hierarchies is the history of hegemons emerging from what used to be relative equals in an anarchic system to a new hegemon, reorganizing the old equals into councils that support the new hegemon.
- The network theory of power: The analysis of power can be sliced and diced in any number of arbitrary ways. This book created a three-by-three grid with rows divided into military, economic, and informational power, and columns divided into personal, national, and international.
- The acceleration of power concentration: The theory of intersectionality often used to analyze ascriptive hierarchies can be applied to international relations to understand the positive and negative compounding of power. Entities like corporations, countries, and international organizations, having multiple forms of power on the network, generally find their power compounded.
- A lack of leadership in the hierarchy: There is a lack of leadership in international hierarchies because national leaders usually respond to their own electorates.
- Hierarchical drift: Competition between political units has historically put major constraints on leaders to maximize the power they squeeze from those they control. Hierarchical drift occurs when a lack of competition removes the constraint to act in accordance with ideas popular with the masses.
Looking Toward the Future
Dr. Corr concluded his remarks with the idea that U.S. strength serves as a deterrent force against those who oppose unity and seek to undermine the territorial integrity of nations around the world. If the U.S. fails, the result could be massive instability. In closing, Dr. Corr reminded the audience that conflict, while not inevitable, is likely. Therefore, it is important to be prepared for conflict by building up ally capabilities and understanding the motives, strengths, and weaknesses of opposing forces.
About the Speaker
Dr. Anders Corr is the founder of Corr Analytics Inc, designed to provide clients with business intelligence and strategic analysis of international politics. He is the Publisher of the Journal of Political Risk. Dr. Corr’s areas of expertise include Asia, grand strategy, historical analysis, international security, public opinion, social movements, and quantitative analysis.
Dr. Corr studied and researched in Britain, Italy, and Kenya, and he analyzed Brunei, China, Israel, Japan, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam for private clients. He led the U.S. Army Social Science Research and Analysis group in Afghanistan, overseeing 600 Afghan contract employees on 44 survey projects alongside conducting quantitative predictive analysis of insurgent attacks. Dr. Corr conducted analysis for U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC), and U.S. European Command (EUCOM) on risks to U.S. national security in Asia and Europe, including in Bangladesh, Nepal, the Philippines, and Ukraine. He conducted red team modeling and simulations for the Defense Department on terrorist attacks against sensitive military facilities and worked on social networking for early warning of pandemics and biological weapons of mass destruction.
Dr. Corr’s current research focuses on alliance politics, authoritarian political influence, effects of military technology on the likelihood and outcome of war, grand strategies, international organizations, and military strategy. He authored No Trespassing: Squatting, Rent Strikes, and Land Struggles Worldwide (South End Press, 1999) and edited Great Powers, Grand Strategies: The New Game in the South China Sea (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2018).