Bowling alone at the UN
Posted by aogThursday, 04 December 2003 at 15:36 TrackBack Ping URL

Yesterday’s WSJ had an article [not online as far as I can tell] about how the UN is no longer the home of “A-list” socialites. Back in the day, being a UN ambassador was an almost sure fire entreé into the New York high life. No more, apparently. UN functionaries are stuck going to each other’s parties. Interestingly, among the reasons cited is that the high social stratum in New York is sensitively attuned to power and that’s the kind of thing in short supply at the UN these days.

This is an interesting effect of the political clash over the invasion of Iraq. There is a positive feedback cycle here, where a power deficit can feed on itself. The fact that power brokers cease to invite UN officials to the parties where they can network with other power brokers of itself damages the power of the UN officials, making them even less likely to bond with the Powers That Be.

This is illustrative of how government action can catalyze a longer lasting, more thorough social action. It’s important to note, however, that such catalytic action works much better if the initial catalyst is real, not symbolic. The loss of influence by the UN by its opposition to the invasion of Iraq was not just symbolic but was a real, inarguable loss of power and influence. It’s not just Arabs who back riders on the stronger horse.