Patterns of Power: Books

The Patterns of Power books are available, in paperback and as e-books, at  The e-books are in Kindle format which, by using the free Kindle software, will work on personal computers, on Android-based tablets and mobile phones, and on the iPad.

Booksellers will be able to sell the paperback versions by setting up arrangements with

The books identify common patterns in the ways in which people, organisations and institutions exercise power – either inside or outside the structures of economic, moral, legal and political governance. The characteristics of each pattern have been described in a compilation of reference material, which is available online and which offers links to its Internet sources where possible. This reference material includes recent news articles, the opinions of respected writers and commonly-encountered arguments.

The books assess these patterns of power in terms of whether they are likely to prove acceptable to all the people affected and lead to favourable outcomes. They illustrate this approach by analysing the invasion of Iraq, and they use their findings to suggest ways of improving governance.

It is hoped that they will be used to provoke and inform debate on the uses and abuses of power, so that leaders will be held more accountable in future. People can use them as tools to assess how power is being used and to make their own arguments when holding politicians to account and pressing for change.

Edition 3 of the books is currently work in progress.  Each edition has changed the format of the books as well as bringing them up to date with additional material:

The first edition was envisaged as a single book, to be read linearly.

The following Notes on Edition 2 describe how the format was changed into two separate books: an Overview book with links to the online content, and the full Edition 2 with all the reference material as it was at the time of its publication in August 2014.

The following Notes on Edition 3 describe how further material has been added. There will be fewer endnotes in the electronic version of this book, as many have been replaced by direct hyperlinks to the Internet source material.  Edition 3 is work in progress; the website is being updated progressively – but the books will only be published when the update is complete.

Preface and Acknowledgements

The organisation was set up to help people to understand how power is being used, to make research information readily available, and to comment on misuses of power.  The books were written to classify the different types of power that people exert over each other and to link research material to each type, so that readers can quickly see who benefits and what is likely to happen if the pattern is repeated.

The research was prompted by the difficulties I experienced in trying to understand why America and others invaded Iraq in 2003.  It seems that decision-makers in today’s global society repeat earlier mistakes, despite the evidence of experience.  As I read the published material I began to realise that people frequently switch between different types of argument – sometimes unconsciously, sometimes perhaps intentionally.  These switches of argument make it difficult to see clearly.  I felt that it should be possible to reach a better understanding by identifying what types of power were being exercised and by whom.

Many of the patterns of power are huge subjects in their own right, but it is only possible to touch on the surface of each topic in a pocket-sized book.  Previous writers have addressed these questions, usually only one or two at a time, in more detail and with more academic rigour.

The pattern commentaries refer to numerous sources, so I have avoided the use of the first person in the text and I am using a pen-name on the cover.  I have acknowledged all my sources, in the endnotes and the bibliography, and links have been provided to source material on the Internet where possible.  Many of the references are to items of news, which are used to illustrate the different uses of power; for these, I have tried to select material from organisations who maintain good on-line archives, such as the BBC, The Economist and Prospect magazine, because the Internet links to some less robust sources are more likely to get broken.  The books act as portals to this extended information.

I gratefully acknowledge the help of my wife – who has commented, proof-read and suggested changes but most of all has discussed the concepts with me, providing a lively challenge to my personal views.

The RSA helped me to carry out research in India, and the RSA Fellows in Delhi were particularly generous.

I also acknowledge the role played by the discussion groups that I belong to, which have provided a wide range of viewpoints.

I am grateful to the following people for reading, and in some cases re-reading, parts of this book as it has emerged: Chris Ellis, Ken Figueredo, Geoff Hoon, David Lokkerbol, Richard Nevill, Mike Radcliffe, Bill Swan, and Chris Taylor.

In later editions I shall also acknowledge the contributors to my blog at, naming the people whose views are incorporated.

Notes on Edition 2

Edition 2 was essentially a reformatting of the first edition of this book (published in January 2013, in full Kindle and paperback versions, as Patterns of Power: a Rough Guide), which had been written in the expectation that it might be read from beginning to end, like any other book.  The re-formatting was to improve the usefulness of the pattern commentaries by making them easier to quote from.  Some other changes were made, notably in response to further material on banking reform, inequality and drones.

The full edition of this book can be thought of as comprising two separate books:

An analysis of how power can be classified and assessed.

A compilation of commentaries on each of the patterns of power.

It was made easier for readers of the full edition to bypass the pattern commentaries if they wish to get an understanding of the overall methodology without being overwhelmed by detail.  All the pattern commentaries were numbered, to provide easy access to items of interest – and the pattern numbers are hyperlinked in the book’s electronic version.

The second full edition was accompanied by another, much shorter, overview edition which provided online access to the pattern commentaries via links to this website at

Notes on Edition 3

Edition 3 reflects the four years since Edition 2 was published.  Periodically, the Patterns of Power books and the associated website material need to be updated to replace website links which no longer work and to refresh reference material where relevant.  This new edition, though, also reflects major changes in the political landscape since the previous edition was published four years ago.

Voters in wealthy Western countries have become discontented.  Economic factors are largely responsible: globalisation has resulted in some jobs going to developing countries; inequality has continued to increase, as the proceeds of economic growth have mostly been taken by people who were already wealthy; and technology has enabled many jobs to be replaced by machines.

Some politicians have seized on this discontent.  There has been a surge of ‘authoritarian populism’ – promising to roll back the impact of economic change, blaming immigration, rejecting international agreements and appearing to offer strong leadership.

These populists have been able to take advantage of a major change in the way that news travels.  Unaccountable sources, spreading innuendo and lies through social media, now play a major role in forming public opinion.

Donald Trump’s election was one example.  Authoritarian populists persuaded British voters to choose to leave the EU, and there are further examples in other European countries.  All collective international governance now appears to be more fragile, as these politicians turn their backs on international agreements.  The progress made by the Paris Accord on combating climate change might be lost.

Some sections of the book have been expanded and sub-divided to explore these issues in more depth.

Also, the 2016 Chilcot Report on the invasion of Iraq has been taken into account.  Chapter 8 of this edition now only contains a summary of the Iraq analysis that was published in Edition 2 of this book, with links to the rest of it, but it now includes a comparison between that and the Chilcot report.

Book Contents