[#1 in a chronological series meant to update this blog with write-ups I failed to post during 2021-2022.]
2020 had resulted in publication of our long report Whose Story Wins (RAND, PE-A237-1, 2020) about the emergence of the noosphere and noöpolitics, plus a short spin-off paper titled “Rethinking Strategy and Statecraft for the Information Age: Rise of the Noosphere and Noopolitik” (2020), which I posted here last year as a draft.
During 2021 that spin-off paper led to three opportune iterations, all with basically the same contents, but each slightly revised and with a different sub-title:
— First, as a prospective chapter for a book to be published in South Africa about the implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) for the future of higher education in Africa. I received an inquiry in mid-2020 about from Willem Oliver, a scholar associated with the University of South Africa (UNISA). He initially wanted a chapter about TIMN, but I offered an adaptation of the paper we already had available about the noosphere and its implications for rethinking academic curricula and coursework about grand strategy and statecraft.
Arquilla and I are very pleased with the outcome. We soon submitted a revised draft, with a few additions about Africa, as “Rethinking Strategy And Statecraft For The Information Age: Implications For Education.” After the full book went through a couple rounds of review and placement, it was published the following year as Chapter 6, “Rethinking Strategy and Statecraft for the Age of 4IR: Implications for Higher Education,” in Erna Oliver, ed., Global Initiatives and Higher Education in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, UJ Press, University of Johannesburg, 2022, pp. 131-151, available at:
— Second, we provided “Rethinking Strategy and Statecraft for the Information Age: Whose Narrative Wins,” for a book about cognitive warfare that began full circulation in early 2021: Ajit Maan (ed.), Dangerous Narratives: Warfare, Strategy, Statecraft, Narrative Strategies Ink, Washington, D.C., 2020, Chapter 9, pp. 152-170, available at:
— Third, in August, after failing to place the 2020 original with a journal, and after making a few edits, including one I regard as quite significant (see below), I posted the new iteration on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) site, as follows:
Title: Rethinking Strategy and Statecraft for the Information Age: Rise of the Noosphere and Noopolitik
Abstract: Updating ideas first proposed years ago, this paper urges that national-security and foreign-policy strategists turn to a new concept for adapting statecraft to the information age — noopolitik, which emphasizes ideational “soft power” — as a successor to realpolitik, an aging concept that has emphasized geopolitical “hard power.” Noopolitik derives from recognizing that a new globe-circling phenomenon is emerging atop our planet’s long-existing geosphere and biosphere: namely, the noosphere, as a “thinking circuit” and “realm of the mind” enabled by the digital information revolution.
As the noosphere grows, it will profoundly affect statecraft — the conditions favoring traditional realpolitik strategies will erode, and the prospects for noopolitik strategies will grow. Strategic narratives will matter more than ever. The decisive factor in today’s and tomorrow’s wars of ideas is thus bound to be “whose story wins” — the essence of noopolitik.
Various state and non-state actors have already taken the lead in deploying dark forms of noopolitik: e.g., political warfare, weaponized narratives, epistemic attacks — what China’s leaders now call “discourse power.” This paper identifies better ways to fight back and improve future prospects for the noosphere and noopolitik. Policymakers and strategists should, among other initiatives, rethink existing concepts of “soft power,” treat the “global commons” as a pivotal issue area for both civilian and military strategy, and institute a requirement for regular, systematic reviews of their nations’ “information posture.” Courses and curricula for teaching grand strategy should be redesigned to focus better on understanding social cognition and social evolution as well.
Keywords: strategy, statecraft, realpolitik, noopolitik, noosphere
Suggested Citation: Ronfeldt, David and Arquilla, John, Rethinking Strategy and Statecraft for the Information Age: Rise of the Noosphere and Noopolitik (January 30, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3910628 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3910628
In the preceding months, after observing that our realpolitik-vs.-noopolitik framing was still not gaining traction, I figured that a geopolitics-vs.-noöpolitics framing might work better. Most U.S. strategists were, by then, writing far more in terms of geopolitics than realpolitik, and meanwhile the term noöpolitics was starting to circulate in Europe (often as a translation of our noopolitik term). So, when I posted the paper in August, I added the following Author’s Note at the very end (p. 20):
In the lead author’s view, this version, last revised and updated as of January 30, 2021, should go through another round of revision and updating before being re-submitted for journal publication. In particular, the analysis would benefit from adding new materials he has collected on Russian and Chinese concepts and strategies. The analysis could further benefit from noting the possibility of adding a second stream of thought. This paper, in keeping with our prior writings, focuses on comparing realpolitik and noopolitik — our first stream of thought. It may make good sense to at least mention the growing prospects for developing a companion stream that would focus on geopolitics versus noöpolitics — thereby urging strategists to start thinking in terms of noöpolitics as well as geopolitics.
Oddly, my proposal to add that second frame/stream of analysis became a matter of contention months later in 2022.
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