Saturday, November 14, 2020

Review of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics by Joseph S. Nye

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Politics
Intriguing Connections: To Cooperate Or To Defect?

Elaborate Description

Military and economic power have tangible assets and are part of hard power. In political parlance, hard power assets are discussed due to their measurability. With hard power, to get what one desires and the needed outcome requires a payments or coercion. Joseph Nye points out that culture, policies, and institutions are not measurable but certainly can help or diminish the ability to get the desired outcomes. These assets are part of soft power, which Nye explains in this book. At its core, soft power is attracting others to accept a viewpoint because they find it attractive. Altering behavior without commanding their acceptance. Other sources of power can have influence and persuasion is not a requirement of soft power, what matters is attraction.

Attractive ideology and culture encourage others to mobilize their own activities for the preferred goals. Using soft power in a legitimate way from the vantage of others encounter less resistance. Hypocritic, indifference, and narrow policies undermine soft power. Inclusiveness matters for others to want to partake in a particular policy or activity. For countries, inclusiveness can be simply as seeking international support for international activities. Bypassing international and committing foreign policies independently can backfire by having allies less willing to comply with requests.

Any power resource requires context to make effective use resources. Some soft power resources can encourage a particular policy but can demoralize in other situations. A policy that supports one group at the expense of another, will elicit attraction from one group and repulsion from the other. Many soft power resources are created via culture such as depicting certain people in entertainment in a particular way. How each message is screened and under what circumstances alter the outcome of any given use of resources.

An extremely eloquent book but lacks systematic explanations. Most of the book is filled with real events, and each example is given a few background details. Those few details have been selected to support the idea of soft power. The problem with the few details, is the potential for other details to drastically change the use of soft power. The lessons from where soft power work and do not can be altered based on how well the reader knows the event under observation.

Soft power becomes ever more important where power is dispersed. Dispersed power requires each decision maker to solicitate long-lasting relationships. Policies which foster cooperation in the future increase soft power assets. Joseph Nye does a magnificent job at explaining what soft power is and why it’s becoming an increasing important reason for why some countries have an easier time getting policy acceptance than other countries.

Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9781586483067
Pages to read:   155
Publication:     2004
1st Edition:      2004
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     5
Content           4
Overall           4