Difference between Hard and Soft Power

The hard power, as it is stated in the name is using the hard powers (military and economic) in order to oppress the others that change their position. [Joseph Nye] The hard power always comprises the direct way of using power. However, Soft power is an indirect way of using the power which was called “the second face of power” according to Joseph Nye. Unlikely from hard power, soft power resources are very hard to control. They often are out of the control of the governments that disseminate them and the effects of soft power can only be visible in the deeds of the population of the receiver countries. 1|897080ae-4ee4-11de-8c10-00144feabdc0The population of other countries may admire the music science, culture and etc. of a country. For instance, the populations of Middle East admire the soap operas of Turkey or another example can be the interest towards Indian culture that helps to change the aggressive governments’ position towards them. The Soft Power can be difficult to achieve rather than hard power because the hard power is just using the hammer against the rivals or other countries which you want to rule. Hard power comprises the military and economic (sanctions) power that with the help of these it governments can oppress and coerce the others and it is also called straightforward power. On the other hand, soft power is the ability to use the information, financial aid, culture and other influential and attractive power types.2|

Using hard power today has become difficult and it is not similar as it was used in the past. Because the international relations have been changing and therefore, it is not appropriate to use hard power such as military in order to force others to accept your objectives. Every state has military equipment and using them can end the humanity. Joseph Nye says that “today, however, the direct use of force for economic gain is generally too costly and dangerous for modern great powers. Even short of aggression, the translation of economic into military power resources may be very costly.”3| If we look at the history then we will see the broad scene of wars that powerful states always achieved their needs with making wars. But now the zeitgeist of the world has changed and used of the military is limited, because nuclear power, the spectrum of guns can be deadly for all the world population.
There are false notions by some scholars that the hard power can be measured but the soft power cannot. According to the – “Think Again: Soft Power” article written by Joseph Nye in Foreign Policy journal in 2006, he stated that soft power can be measured and compared with the help of polls and surveys in society and among the public. On the other hand, measuring hard power is not as easy to measure as it seems. We can give an example in the measurement of soft power by the world famous periodical Monocle. They annually make surveys in soft power and give the rank of countries. Recently, Monocle announced its 2016-2017 research in Soft Power among the several countries. According to the survey, France is in the 5th place which is followed by Great Britain in 4th place. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd places have been occupied by the USA, Germany, and Japan and this three place remained almost unchanging in all annual survey rankings.4| However, Turkey was also amongst the mighty Soft Power user country – 26th according to the 2014-2015 5| survey and even could raise 25th place in 2015-2016 years survey. 6| The ranking for China was different. In 2014-2015 annual survey it was in 19th place, but in 2015-2016 it dropped to 21st place.
If we look at the international relations then it will be obvious how North Korea threatened the world with its iron hand (nuclear) and always used its hard power against the region. But now we can see how North Korea will welcome Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 which is the clear image of using soft power. In my opinion, this is the testimony of how international actors shifting their power and trend shows the step towards soft power.
Joseph Nye gives an argument about the link between hard power and military. Some people think that when the government uses the hard power it means they will deploy military crafts, tanks and etc. However, military power can also possess soft power elements and it can deter the real fight between countries. As well as training and connections between military armies also establish peace among them that is the element of soft power.
Also, Soft Power can be a crucial tool in preventing and destroying terrorist beliefs. Stopping terrorism is not killing and capturing terrorists, it is stopping their way of thinking.7| If individuals think about bombing one city then they will do it, but if other countries or states can use soft power, such as spreading the culture, respect, admiration then it can eradicate terrorism.8|
At the end, Soft Power is not an influence it is rather an attraction for the purposes. Influence can also be linked to hard power but soft power is the power of attraction. We cannot just constrain the soft power with only persuasion or “the ability to move the people by argument”. 9| Soft power is the intangible power that the cooperative countries share the same values and “contribute to the achievement of those values.



1. Joseph S. Nye Jr. The Benefits of Soft Power. Harvard Business Review, February 8, 2004, http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/4290.html
2. International Relations: Soft Power. http://internationalrelations.org/soft-power/
3. Joseph Nye – Power in the Global Information Age: From Realism to Globalization (pg. 72)
4. Monocle Online Magazine. Soft Power Survey: https://monocle.com/film/affairs/soft-power-survey-2016-17/
5. Monocle Online Magazine. Soft Power Survey: https://monocle.com/film/affairs/soft-power-survey-2014-15/
6. Monocle Online Magazine. Soft Power Survey: https://monocle.com/film/affairs/soft-power-survey-2015-16/
7. Coursera. Universiteit Leiden – Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Comparing Theory and Practice. Taught by: Edwin Bakker, Prof. Dr. https://www.coursera.org/learn/terrorism

8.  http://www.coedat.nato.int/publication/workshop_reports/04-Diplomacy_Soft_Power_Report.pdf
9. Joseph S. Nye Jr. The Benefits of Soft Power. Harvard Business Review, February 8, 2004, http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/4290.html


2 thoughts on “Difference between Hard and Soft Power

  1. Very nice article indeed. Thank you. One good example of soft power ruled by hard power is cinema industry of USA. Pentagon pays millions to film directors to build a strong image for themselves. I bet presidents, even North Korea’s Kim enjoys these Hollywood films which infulences them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading the article. Yes, you are right. They especially focus on movie making and other staff for a better ruling.


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