The Global Politics of Science and Technology - Vol. 2

Part of the series Global Power Shift pp 117-141


Hidden in Plain View: Exploring the Knowledge Power of States

  • Katharina C. BelowAffiliated withUniversity of Konstanz
  • , Sarah HerwegAffiliated withFree University Berlin Email author 
  • , Ruth KnoblichAffiliated withRuhr-University BochumBonn University
  • , Krystin UnverzagtAffiliated withBonn University

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Inspired by the notion of “structural power”, this paper presents an approach to conceptualizing the knowledge power of states. Knowledge power derives from the occupation of a favorable position in the global knowledge-structure. Regarding states as actors in the structure, four clusters of proxy variables serve to empirically map structural effects and dynamics: grass-roots, cutting-edge artifacts, infrastructural embeddedness and knowledge regimes. Empirical findings confirm initial theoretical considerations on the asymmetric and path-dependent nature of the knowledge-structure. Due to path-dependency, the structure exerts a hampering effect on change. It provides an inert environment, in which states face restraints on their way up to leading positions. As the asymmetric distribution of knowledge capacities derives from past differences in foundational knowledge indicators, power shifts cannot appear out of a sudden, and established powers are likely to prevail.


Knowledge power Global knowledge-structure Asymmetry Path-dependency Technology clubs Digital divide Susan Strange Innovation Science and technology Cutting-edge artifacts Infrastructure