Last Sunday, August 29, a crowd of 200.000 "welcomed" W. Bush in New York, voicing their discontent with his policy. An interesting question is: how do these kind of (protest) movements have their influence ? Are they able to make a difference ? Certainly on this side of the Ocean, we hope for another US international policy, and let us face it, probably also for another person as President. But is a movement like the one of Sunday able to create the necessary power to realize that ?
The phenomenon is not new. We just have to recall the Thursday evening demonstrations in Dresden, that certainly contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Much older we have the Ghandi policy on non-violent opposition. On the more "violent" side we have had the power of the Vietcong in the Vietnam war, that for most classical thinkers was ununderstandable. We have known the same kind of (indeed network) structures in the resistance movement during the Second World War.
The power of networks is what we do not really seem to understand, as long as we do not understand how e.g. terrorist networks operate. Never any straight forward (static and non-linear) attack will be able to stop a network operation. We have had some sad examples in the past, but unfortunately we respond to it with the wrong arms. The logic of a network is one that cannot be broken with the logic of a (military) chain operation.
As much as this is true for military (geo-political) matters, this is true for business networks. Networks of national (the construction industry fraude in the Netherlands) and international (drug money laundry) fraude are just some examples of the negative power of networks.
The same power networks can of course also be used in a positive sense, like for creating momentum to force a necessary political change, or momentum to start doing something for fostering sustainable development in the world.
Anyway, a better understanding of the power of networks would allow us to get a more realistic view of the world of today, and how we could probably manage it for the better. Axelrod has written a few interesting books on the underlying theories of networks.