Anne-Marie Slaughter on Our Hyper-Networked World

Monday 3 April 2017, 7pm | Emmanuel Centre

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Anne-Marie Slaughter is one of the world’s top foreign policy thinkers, admired by influential global leaders such as Joe Biden, Condoleeza Rice and Eric Schmidt. A former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton in the State Department, she hit the headlines in 2012 when she published an article in The Atlantic called ‘Why Women Still Can’t Have It All’. The piece went viral and sparked off a massive debate about the future of work-life balance.

But long before this, Slaughter was hailed in political circles for her understanding of the emerging world of networks. She was among the first to see how networks are overturning traditional hierarchies, upending international diplomacy and transforming patterns of global power and politics. Now once again, with the launch of her new book The Chessboard and the Web, she has moved ahead of conventional thinking and came to the Intelligence Squared stage to share her insights.

The power of networks, she explained, has grown so quickly with the advance of digital technology that we have barely begun to fully understand it and see how it can transform our world. Take government, which has traditionally been a vertical and closed system (apart from periodic elections). Why not embrace a ‘wiki’ model of power, using digital networks to make government decision-making truly open and participatory? In other words, government with the people rather than government for the people. Or take the tech world, which has become dominated by a handful of giants with closed business models. Counterintuitively, Slaughter argued, these companies would benefit if they were to loosen up and open their platforms to other parties, thereby benefiting from the robustness of the whole network, rather than concentrating power in a single hub. Or look at how ordinary citizens are using peer-driven networks, such as Occupy or Black Lives Matter, to effect change in society, or using data to help the authorities with crisis communications in disaster zones.

At a time when so many of us feel that our voices aren’t being heard where it matters, could progress lie in Slaughter’s prescription for a more open, participatory world where governments and citizens, armed with 21st century technology, come together to forge a new social and political contract?

Slaughter was joined by former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and connectivity expert Geoff Mulgan. Steering the conversation was the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland.

Praise for The Chessboard and the Web

‘When it comes to thinking about, and explaining, America’s role in the world at a time of incredible challenge and change, Anne-Marie Slaughter is one of this country’s most valuable players. She brings the discipline of a leading academic together with keen political insight. I greatly value her advice.’ – Joe Biden, Former Vice-President of the United States

‘A profound and insightful view of geopolitics from one of the greatest living foreign policy thinkers. This book should be required reading for any student or practitioner of international relations. It will only become more relevant and prescient over time.’ – Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Alphabet Inc.

‘Must reading for policymakers and citizens alike. Anne-Marie Slaughter has taken on the enormous task of rethinking grand strategy in an interconnected world where government is but one of the key players. There is little doubt that an Open Order world would be more prosperous and safer. The Chessboard and the Web launches an important conversation on how to get there.’ – Condoleezza Rice, Former US Secretary of State


Leading American political thinker, who was the first woman to serve as Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department. She is President and CEO of the New America Foundation and is former Dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. In 2012 she published the article ‘Why Women Still Can’t Have It All’ in The Atlantic, which quickly became the most read article in the history of the magazine and spawned a national debate on the continued obstacles to genuine full male-female equality. Her latest book is The Chessboard and the Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World. Previous publications include A New World Order and Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family, named one of the best books of 2015 by the Washington Post, the Economist, and NPR.

Chief executive of Nesta, senior visiting scholar at Harvard, founder of the think tank Demos, and a former head of Tony Blair’s Policy and Strategy Units. His most recent book is The Locust and the Bee. He has a longstanding interest in what he calls ‘connexity’, the understanding that the growing connectedness of the world is the most important social and economic fact of our times.

Cabinet minister in the governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, where he served as Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Leader of the Commons, and Justice Secretary. Labour MP for Blackburn from 1979-2015. He is a Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy at University College London.


Jonathan Freedland

Guardian columnist, broadcaster and author.



Speakers are subject to change.