Soft Power

Soft Power




Soft Power

Is soft power an essential enabler of other forms of power?

Slide 2

Soft power refers to the ability to get others to want what you want. Nations exercise soft power through attraction rather than coercion. This can be manifest in the form of culture, political values, and foreign policies (Nye, 2006). It constitutes changing other people’s preferences to what one would want without any use of force, violence, or coercion. Contrary to what many people would want to believe, soft power does have much influence, and it results in greater consequences. It involves persuading people and changing their ideas. This is better than actually trying to win a war or trying to change people’s preferences through military force. It is challenging since it depends on the willingness of the other parties.

Slide 3

Hard power depends on the use of strength and violence. It is the traditional form of power as well as the most recognized (Duncan et al., 2008). It is dependent upon an entity’s ability to exercise physical strength and apply force. It is practically impossible to exercise this kind of power without being strong economically. The availability of wealth, which can be in the form of money or other valuable resources, determines a country’s economic power, which in turn determines its ability to exercise hard power. For instance, America’s economic strength in the past enabled it to achieve great success and military strength during the Second World War and the years following. This made the country more powerful internationally (Efthymiou, 2012). Countries can use their economic strengths as inducements if they choose to use hard power. Positive inducements are visible through the form of grants. Negative inducements include issuing economic sanctions (Nye, 2006).

Slide 4

The use of soft power includes using intangible resources such as ideas, values, culture, institutions, and legitimacy of the established policies. It depends on pull factors that attract the target towards a country. For instance, some of the values that America has exported include its use of open markets and democracy. Culturally, Hollywood productions have had a large effect on people’s perception concerning the country (Cox & Stokes, 2012). A country will attract others because of its sense of morality and a good reputation. Another source of soft power is domestic policy. Countries form their perception of the government based on how it treats its citizenry. They take this to determine and form an opinion of how such a government will act on a global stage (Annells, 2014; Hall, 2010).

Slide 5 and 6

The use of hard power mostly depends on tangible resources such as money and military strength. However, other intangibles such as patriotism and morale of the people involved can also be a huge determinant of the outcomes of any event. It is possible to use hard power resources to produce behavior associated with soft power (Nye, 2006). For instance, countries can use their military strength to offer relief and other forms of assistance. This will change people’s perception concerning the country providing assistance. The people will change their perception because they will feel that such a state is concerned about their welfare. This will increase the confidence and trust of the people. Such intangibles are often associated with soft power. On the other hand, the sole use of hard power is often associated with fear since it involves using force. The same resources can be used in winning a battle. Over time, there is the realization of the need to combine both hard and soft powers (Nye, 2006).

A country will face much opposition if it solely depends on hard power alone. It needs to show and convince other countries of the necessity of its actions (Hayden, 2012). This involves changing their minds and such outcomes can only be achieved using soft power. Many people tend to express their patriotism when they feel threatened by external forces. Therefore, they will show their willingness to fight against their perceived enemy even if they would not have considered such an action. For instance, organizations such as al Qaeda were able to recruit people in the past when American forces depended on hard power during their fight in Iraq (Cox & Stokes, 2012).

Slide 7 and 8

Governments cannot solely depend on soft power. This is because not every person is willing to engage in public diplomacy and other soft power policies. Dependence on soft power alone without investing in hard power will make a country vulnerable to threats of aggression and attack. Countries have to combine both forms of power. Having hard power will ensure that a country can resist threats and that it will not be disempowered. Hard power resources are necessary to ensure the realization of justice, secure beneficial results, and prevent increasing sources of danger on the international front. In some cases, a country will use its hard power to force another to do the right thing such as the prevention of atrocities and genocides (Gallarotti, 2010). Countries have often used hard power for peacekeeping. This has become essentially important today where many countries face terror threats and an increase in civil wars. Hard and soft powers are complementary. Countries use different forms of soft power as follow-up operations of hard power (Campbell, 2007).

Slide 9

Much as soft power is necessary, it is challenging and hard for many nations to implement it. Countries that want to use soft power have to be consistent in their behaviors, especially in the way they choose to demonstrate their values. This is in line with one of the major resources of attraction and persuasion, which is the legitimacy of a country’s values. It is difficult to form and change people’s perceptions if they do not see any positives associated with the changes. It is also challenging to persuade people or to frame their agendas. Another challenge is the fact that countries that use this form of power often have to wait for long before realizing any effects. The fact that some of the resources used are intangible means that the government is not in a position to control all of them.

Slide 10 and 11

The information age has significantly changed the main players and holders of power. This has required many governments to decentralize their authority and power. Governments have been compelled to delegate some of their duties and to work with the civil societies and non-governmental organizations. Civil societies act as pull factors, and they are necessary for ensuring attraction. In addition to this, governments are now depending on information technologies to give the right information, and this has helped to avoid propaganda. Propaganda is no longer seen as a viable use of power because it affects credibility (Cox & Stokes, 2012). The use of social media has helped to enhance communication. However, it is used more as a tool for forming relationships, which is necessary for the establishment of soft power (Annells, 2014).

Slide 12

Soft and hard powers are essential for any nation to function well and avoid threats. Hard power depends on economic power and military strength. However, it also uses other intangible resources. It helps to ensure that a country can avoid threats and that it does not remain susceptible to any form of aggression. The goal of a country to effect change will determine its use of soft power. Countries realize less resistance when they can influence other actors through persuasion and attraction. Soft power is necessary for changing people’s mind and in encouraging them to change their behavior. A combination of both soft and hard power is necessary. Soft and hard powers are mutual enablers for many countries today.



Annells, A. (2014). Maximizing soft power assets: Towards prosperity. Retrieved from

Campbell, K. (2007). Hard power: The new politics of national security. Cambridge, MA: Basic Books

Cooper, R. (2004). Hard power, soft power and the goals of diplomacy. Retrieved from

Cox, M., & Stokes, D. (2012). US foreign policy. New York, NY: OUP Oxford

Duncan, R. W., Webster, H. B., & Switky, B. (2008). World politics in the 21st century. New York, NY: Cengage Learning

Efthymioy, P. (2012). The emergence of the United States as a global power. Retrieved from

Gallarotti, M. G. (2010). Cosmopolitan power in international relations: A synthesis of realism, noeliberalism, and constructivism. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press

Hall, T. (2010). An unclear attraction: A critical examination of soft power as an analytical category. The Chinese Journal of International Politics, 3(2), 189-211

Hayden, C. (2012). The rhetoric of soft power: Public diplomacy in global contexts. Lexington Books

Mellisen, J. (2005). The new public diplomacy: Soft power in international relations. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan

Nye, J. S. (2006). Think again: soft power. Foreign Policy. Retrieved from

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