What is Soft Power?!

In the international sphere, the term “Soft Power” became more popular where the actors began to use the instruments of it more frequently. The definition of Soft Power is defined by several Dictionaries. According to the Cambridge University Dictionary – Soft Power is “the use of a country’s cultural and economic influence to persuade other countries to do something, rather than the use of military power.” 3 Likewise, the Oxford Dictionary – proposes the statement that Soft Power “is a persuasive approach to international relations, typically involving the use of economic or cultural influence.” 4
The prominent scholar Joseph Nye argues in his article “The Benefits of Soft Power” that soft power is a core element of leadership and the skills which leadership comprises, such as communicating, attracting the people, choosing an able people who might do what you want, and making coalitions is the type of what we call “soft power”. 5 There are so many definitions for the Soft Power from different scholars. Joseph Nye who created the concept of the soft power states that soft power is persuading others to the result that you want.6 Vuving thinks that we can even add a word “accept” to the definition of soft power because with the soft power you get what you want with getting others accept your interests.


He writes that the nations have always tried to influence the other neighbor nations and establish their reputation and spread it historically. The Soft Power has used in the international relations for centuries by many countries. Especially, France was the main player of Soft Power in Europe. France not only tried to conquering Europe with hard power but also with its culture. When France fortified itself, it concomitantly influenced to al European countries too. French Revolution, the Empire of Napoleon expanded soft power in the Europe. For example, it was obvious how European countries used the French language or how this language used in courts of Prussia and Russia.
When the Third Republic collapsed in 1940 Marshal Philippe Pétain rebranded the historical slogan of France of “liberté, egalité, fraternité” to “travail, famille, patrie”. Although it was black history in the France, even the rulers of that time in France wanted to create a new national brand in order to attract other countries towards themselves. It means soft power such as corporations, the internet, and other tools added to the soft power. It is obvious how France used soft power for centuries and yet it faced so many difficulties. Knowing the methods or its instructions do not mean it will be successful or it can result positively. As Joseph Nye articulates:

“Soft power is often hard to use, easy to lose, and costly to re-establish.”

Soft power can be in the both sphere, in the realm of imagination or idea and in the sphere of real actions which may take a long period in order to show its outcomes. Also, while exerting soft power it is hard to find out who is the receiver: Diplomats, governments, ordinary people or religious group? It is worth to ask who is the target audience in the soft power because as we know soft power is the attracting the countries, their population, and minds. If we are going to think that soft power is made in order to attract only ordinary people then what the governments and diplomats are going to do? Theorist Christopher Layne suggests in his analysis that the public opinion has no weight in policymaking. But we should exemplify the situation when the USA wanted Turkey in the fight with Iraq, but Turkey refused it because of the opinion of people. There is a surplus of situations like this one.
The soft power includes every attempt that seems attractive. Even scholarships, education, summer schools work as soft power tools. For instance, American education system can work the best key for the soft power in terms of attraction of thousands of foreign applicants who want to study there. Studying and living in the USA can easily make an impression on them. A former Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that he cannot imagine how the future leaders who educated in the USA can be valuable friends to America.


1 Melissa Nisbett. Who Holds the Power in Soft Power? Arts & Affairs International Journal. (March 13, 2016) https://theartsjournal.net/2016/03/13/nisbett/
2 Joseph S. Nye Jr. The Benefits of Soft Power. Harvard Business Review, February 8, 2004 http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/4290.html

3 http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/soft-power
4 https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/soft_power
5 Joseph S. Nye Jr. The Benefits of Soft Power. Harvard Business Review, February 8, 2004 http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/4290.html
6 Joseph S. Nye Jr. The Benefits of Soft Power. Harvard Business Review, February 8, 2004 http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/4290.html

7 Melissen J. The New Public Diplomacy. Soft Power in International Relations – 2005 (pg. 169-170)
8 Stephen Walt. The downside of soft power. Foreign Policy, January 28, 2009 http://foreignpolicy.com/2009/01/28/the-downside-of-soft-power/#_=_


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