Soft Power Without Hard Power Is No Power.

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Soft power without hard power is no power.

In the early 1990s, Joseph Nye’s book Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature Of American Power ignited a huge discussion among society of the need to transition from America’s traditional use of hard power to something more benign which he termed soft power. Before looking at the two branches of power, we first define power as the ability to do something or act in a certain way. As Nye had pointed out, nations can wield power in two forms, soft and hard power. Soft power, as coined by Nye (1990) is defined as “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than through coercion.” In contrast, hard power is seen as the use of military might or economic sanctions to coerce others into doing your will.

Even as soft power gains traction among world leaders today, many still find the concept vague and hard to wield. While soft power may be beneficial in certain context, it does not work independently of hard power and requires the underlying use of hard power to back it up. This paper looks at the nature of soft power and its relationship with hard power.

As Nye stated (2004a), soft power is based on the concept of attraction. In other words, it’s the power of attraction. However, this concept is based on the premise that attraction equates the ability to influence (Fan 2007). Often, this is not the case. While a country may be positively perceived in the eyes others, this rarely translates into the ability to influence. According to Monocle magazine’s annual Soft Power survey in 2012, the UK overtook US as the nation with the ‘softest’ power. Looking at UK now, we see a declining superpower whose shine as long faded off. Its presence on the world stage has often been limited. Given its top ranking, this has not translated into a proportionate global influence. This can be contrasted with US whose reputation have taken a beating but yet hold much sway in the world. A country like Norway may be respected for...
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