The Real Way to Succeed in a Rivalry: The Societal Foundations of National Competitiveness

June 2022 No Comments

Speaker(s): Mazarr, M. (RAND)

Date: 6 July 2022

Speaker Session Summary

SMA hosted a speaker session with Dr. Michael Mazarr (Senior Political Scientist, RAND) as part of its SMA General Speaker Series.

A country’s societal dynamism is directly linked to its international competitiveness, according to Dr. Mazarr. There are seven societal characteristics related to a country’s international competitiveness: national ambition and will, unified national identity, shared opportunity, activity, effective government institutions, learning and adapting mentally, and diversity and pluralism. Synergy between all of these factors enables a country to grow international political influence. However, non-societal factors also influence a country’s geopolitical competitiveness, including structural factors, exogenous factors, other national qualities, and non-societal advantages.

The United States’ societal legacy is a free state—giving it the most potent recipe for competitive dynamism in history. However, several trends are threatening its future international influence. These trends include uncertain ambition and will to compete, stagnating social mobility, a polarizing population, and a degrading information environment. The information environment is mostly being degraded by the proliferation of misinformation, according to Dr. Mazarr. Further degrading US society’s usefulness as a competitive tool, US citizens’ faith that the United States is an actor for the global good is waning; most Republican and Democratic party members view the other party as a danger to society, and the richest 1% controls 50% of the wealth. However, despite these trends, the United States is structurally more aligned with sources of advantage than its rivals—namely Russia and China. Dr. Mazarr concluded by stating that the US can also rely on the value of its partner coalitions for research and development and intellectual ties. This same framework can be applied within the DoD itself as well.

Speaker Session Recording

Briefing Materials


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