Soft Power

If you have decided to read through this article a little bit then surely you must have read the title and you may have found it eye-catching. So lets do a small thought experiment before you go any further with your reading. Just close your eyes for a few seconds and think about what ideas come to your mind regarding the term “soft power”. It really depends on the mental associations you may have developed with the term over the course of your life. Let me elaborate a little bit from the point of view of my conscious mind. There are actually two ideas that come to my mind by default as I try to contemplate about the term soft power. 

One way of thinking about soft power is process of dominating a group of people with the application of force, either covertly or overtly, with the help of some useful tools of force, such as military equipment. Moreover, to make use of effective incentives in a way that they are enwrapped in appropriate diplomatic wheedling of the group that is being coerced or motivated. And to do it so effectively that the party being dominated cannot refuse the offers that are being made to them. Clearly, this method of applying force resembles that of the people like mafia and  gang leaders. One thing that is obvious about this way of coercion or motivation (or whatever) is that no matter how much the group that is being dominated may be allured about the beauty of the offers, their decision to accept the deal may still be a function of the underlying threat and its consequences if they did not accept the offer.

The other idea that comes to the mind concerning soft power lacks the use any conventional tools of force. According to this theme a person, or a group of people, is motivated in doing what you want them to do in a way that they also love to do it. This is the theme of the paper titled soft power by Joseph Nye. It is basically a theory to make people want what you want them to do. This is quite obvious and self explanatory. This also makes a lot more sense too. The previous explanation given in the paragraph above is not really of soft power, but actually of hard power made to look like soft power.

This theory of Joseph Nye and his whole paper is very important in many respects. Late Samuel-P-Huntington also made passing references to the concepts of hard and soft powers respectively in his clash of civilizations. It has become quite important to comprehend this theory in order to understand the demands of the era we live in. In his paper Nye also gives rationale for why it is important to apply soft power, as opposed to hard power, when it comes to dominating people.

According to Nye the most important question while defining power is “Power to do What?” According to Nye in our times there would be overlapping yet disparate areas that would define a periphery of their own for exertion of power. For instance, while military remains one institution, economics is another independent institution with its independent power structure and interplay not only with its counterparts across borders but also with other disciplines like military and sports etc. Nye suggests that it would be the complex interplay among all such important institutions that would define and shape the geopolitics of our world. According to Nye this would also shape the geopolitical landscape from the vantage point of hegemony. Lastly, and quite importantly, according to Nye, this need for a complex interplay across important and independent institutions would also constrain the employment of hard-power based solutions. Thus, this would give rise to the need of adopting soft power based solutions. 

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CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Soft Power by Psyops Prime is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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