Edition Release Notes

Background

The initial impulse for writing these books came from a desire to understand how America and Britain were allowed to invade Iraq in 2003, despite the opposition of the UN Security Council and the public protests against the war.  Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic endorsed the decision to invade, yet the reasons for the invasion remain unclear:

Was it self-defence, in response to a perceived military threat?

Was it a moral mission, to rescue the Iraqi people from oppression?

Was there a political objective, to bring stability to the Middle East through democratisation?

Was there an economic concern for the stability of oil supplies?

Or was it to enforce an earlier UN resolution, to uphold international law?

As reported in an Economist article, Five years on, politicians said all of these things at different times, in an attempt to sell the policy to a sceptical audience:

“Mr Bush and Mr Blair refused after the war to be embarrassed by the absence of the weapons that had so alarmed them beforehand.  They stressed instead all the other reasons why it had been a good idea to overthrow Mr Hussein.”

The effect of the mixed messages was confusing, and the arguments warranted re-examination.  Previous experiences, and the perspectives of some of the stakeholders, were ignored.

The decision to invade Iraq was an example of a more general problem: politicians often have to make decisions which have a great impact on us, yet it can be hard to understand or comment on whether they are acting in our best interests.  Good governance can protect us – as in the example of Clean Air Acts in America, Britain and elsewhere – but bad decisions can affect us adversely, without our consent and often without political accountability.

The books aim to provide a way of analysing and evaluating the way in which power is used.

Notes on the First Two Editions

The first edition of this book was published in January 2013, in full Kindle and paperback versions, as Patterns of Power: a Rough Guide.  It was written in the expectation that it might be read from beginning to end, like any other book.

The second edition was essentially a re-formatting, to improve the usefulness of the pattern descriptions by making them easier to quote from.  Some other changes were made, notably in response to further material on banking reform, inequality and drones.

This book can be thought of as comprising two separate books:

  • An analysis of how power can be classified and assessed.
  • A repository of descriptions of all the patterns of power.

It was made easier for readers of the second full edition to bypass the pattern descriptions if they wish to get an understanding of the overall methodology without being overwhelmed by detail.  All the pattern descriptions 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 descriptions via links to the Patterns of Power website.

Notes on the Third Edition

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.  Edition 3 in 2018, though, also reflected major changes in the political landscape since the previous edition was published in August 2014.  The electronic version 3a in 2020 moved some of the endnote text into the main body of the book and included live hyperlinks.

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.  Progress made by the Paris Accord, to combat climate change, may be lost.

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

Also, the 2016 Chilcot Report on the invasion of Iraq was taken into account.  Chapter 8 of Edition 3 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 included a comparison between that and the Chilcot report.

Notes on the Fourth Edition

Edition 4 is being reduced in length to make it more manageable and less susceptible to change.  It excludes the contents of Edition 3 sub-sections, which contain a lot of the reference material, offering links to them instead.  This approach allows sub-section pages to be updated more frequently, to include recent examples as they arise, or to remain unchanged if appropriate.

Several major political events have been taken into account, listed here in chronological sequence:

Britain finally left the EU, in a ‘Brexit’.  The impact of that step is becoming clearer.

The coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, which started in 2020, had an enormous economic and social impact.

The incumbent President, Donald Trump, challenged the result of the U.S. Presidential Election in 2020, casting doubt on the robustness of America’s democracy.

America and Britain made a chaotic exit from Afghanistan.  This 20-year attempt to introduce regime change had resulted in abject failure and it seriously dented the credibility of the West.

Russia invaded Ukraine.  This amounted to a severe challenge to the entire international political system, causing a major reset to be necessary.

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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/Releases.htm.