Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics

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Public Affairs, 2004 - Political Science - 191 pages
5 Reviews
Joseph Nye coined the term "soft power" in the late 1980s. It is now used frequently--and often incorrectly--by political leaders, editorial writers, and academics around the world. So what is soft power? Soft power lies in the ability to attract and persuade. Whereas hard power--the ability to coerce--grows out of a country's military or economic might, soft power arises from the attractiveness of a country's culture, political ideals, and policies. Hard power remains crucial in a world of states trying to guard their independence and of non-state groups willing to turn to violence. It forms the core of the Bush administration's new national security strategy. But according to Nye, the neo-conservatives who advise the president are making a major miscalculation: They focus too heavily on using America's military power to force other nations to do our will, and they pay too little heed to our soft power. It is soft power that will help prevent terrorists from recruiting supporters from among the moderate majority. And it is soft power that will help us deal with critical global issues that require multilateral cooperation among states. That is why it is so essential that America better understands and applies our soft power. This book is our guide. Anti-Americanism has increased dramatically over the past few years. Polls show a sharp drop in the attractiveness of the United States around the world. We have lost a lot of our soft power the ability to get what we want by attracting rather than coercing others. I first developed the concept of soft power fifteen years ago to argue that the United States was not only the strongest country in military and economic power, but also in a thirddimension of power. It is nice to see the concept being used by top political leaders and editorial writers around the world, but some have misunderstood it. misused it, and trivialized it as merely the influence of Coca-Cola, blue jeans, and money. Even more frustrating, some policy makers have ignored it and made us all pay the price by unnecessarily squandering our soft power. And that is why I have written this book--to explain the importance of soft power, outline a strategy for its use, and urge that we begin to take it more seriously. The United States used its soft power to win the Cold War. We can do it again to help in the war on terrorism.

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a well-researched, well-written clarification of nye's concept of "soft power". it's essence is offered as "attractive power" that results in "obtaining a certain outcome."
the disparate sources
of soft power are given as culture, domestic values and foreign policy. nye points out that the effectiveness of traditional hard power is waning; non-state actors (NGOs) are a player in this space and democracies are not really amenable to hard power coercions. the importance of soft power is rising.
nye makes a strong case for a more intelligent use of public diplomacy suggesting that some public diplomacy is better than none but leaves it open to how much is needed and whether efforts are doomed to the huge private/corporate sector interests.
it is conceeded near the end that nye, in agreement with niall fergusson, are skeptical that domestic politics can achieve the coordination between foreign policy actions and public diplomatic messages required to generate and preserve soft power. only the jeffersonian and old wilsonian foreign policy traditions are sensitive to soft power. this suggests a new approach is needed - one that seems to parallel organizational changes suggested for the state department.
i found the measures of "culture" to be a little narrow. nye gives figures of output - i.e. the usa produces x number of books, y number of music, etc.. relative measures of market share are given as well. but nothing is really said about consumption. what seems most important in nye's formulation is that "others" are attracted to "our values" without any reciprocity ... other than a point about being seen to "listen" so as to be able to refine the message. sadly, there is no real concept of "dialogue" in the text.
 

Review: Soft Power: The Means To Success In World Politics

User Review  - Jonathan - Goodreads

an interesting idea but awfully vague. he spends a lot of time talking about examples but without concrete detail, or much in the way of practical applicability. seems like an essay that ate too many words. Read full review

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About the author (2004)

Joseph S. Nye is Dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

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