Book Review: Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Chessboard and the Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World

Published date01 April 2018
Date01 April 2018
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews 211
Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Chessboard and the Web: Strategies of
Connection in a Networked World (New Haven, CT and London: Yale
University Press, 2017), 305 pp., $19.78 (Paperback).
DOI: 10.1177/0020881718792111
Anne-Marie Slaughter’s book engages the readers into rethinking the nature and
practices of world politics in the digital age that is informed by increasing inter-
connectedness among states and its people. The book urges the readers to broaden
their vision so that they can at once capture and comprehend two important parts
of the international reality: the chessboard and the web. The chessboard view of
world politics is dominant as it signifies an endless game among states for strate-
gic advantage, while to view the international system as a web is to see a world
comprised of intersecting and overlapping networks instead of states. While the
former highlights separation, the latter seeks integration attempting to intensify
ties across state borders. Slaughter argues that because of the multitude of press-
ing problems that the global community is facing, the traditional approach
informed by the Westphalian notion of state sovereignty is gradually being ren-
dered redundant. As global threats have increased, it has become indispensible to
abandon the tools of ‘bargaining’ as manifested in the works of Schelling and
Axelrod in favour of the tools of ‘networking’. Today’s networked threats require
networked responses, which implies that as threats emerge from people and patterns
of behaviour, it becomes imperative to build responses that directly engage people
and patterns of behaviour instead of solely relying on government institutions and
agencies. From this perspective, it then becomes crucial to abandon the prevalent
practice of foreign policy that is limited to the government.
Slaughter suggests that in the web world in contrast to the chessboard model of
world politics, it is the group of people and not the government that make a real
impact in formulating and implementing solutions to global problems. But since
there is no formal and systematic way of integrating these so-called non-state
actors into ‘frameworks that are theoretically and legally structured only for states’
(p. 23), Slaughter endeavours to map a starting point by using insights of network
theories from various disciplines ranging from economics to social physics.
In order to develop a set of network tools that foreign policymakers (by which
Slaughter means both the governmental officials and people) can use to solve policy
problems, Slaughter groups the problems under three categories: resilience prob-
lems, execution problems and scale problems. Resilience problems involve respond-
ing to natural or man-made calamities, execution problems relate to the
implementation of specific tasks by people or organizations and scale problems
arise when challenges are being overcome at the micro level but not at the macro
level. Slaughter proposes that by identifying each of these problems at the first
instance, the types of networks can be created to address them. She charts out three
types of networks that can help to solve foreign policy challenges and refers to them
as resilience, task or scale network(s). These networks draw on the ‘basic architec-
ture of centralized, decentralized and mesh networks’ (p. 157) that can aid in formu-
lating and implementing strategies of connection or disconnection in the web world
when connected to the right people or institution in the right way.

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