I have been thinking about the following description of individual powers, from Niven and Pournelle's best-of-breed first contact novel, The Mote in God's Eye:
"How do you compete?" Whitbread's Motie asked. "Efficiency. We have commerce, you know. [...] Partly, Masters buy responsibilities -- that is, they show they can handle the job. They get other powerful givers of orders to support them. [...] And some givers of orders work for others, you know. Never directly. But they'll have a job they take care of, and they'll consult a more powerful Master about policy. A Master gains prestige and authority when other givers of orders start asking her for advice. And of course her daughters help."
"It sounds complex," Potter said. "I think o' nae time or place similar in human history."
"It is complex," said Whitbread's Motie. "How could it be anything else? How can a decision maker be anything but independent?"
[Emphasis mine.] This reminds me strongly of the mix of cooperation and competition, and the endless struggle for links and prestige, that we call the blogosphere. Not bad for 1974.
[Update 26 October: Mote is up to #45,770 on Amazon, in a compelling demonstration of the power of the blogosphere!]