Many people know what is known as Hard Power. The idea that someone with more weapons, larger arms, and superior military skill could compel someone to do something against their will, but that’s almost entirely in favor of those who hold the gun. History is full of situations, from the ancient Chinese, Persian, and Roman to the British , French, American, and Russian.

While hard power may win in the short term, Soft Power and popular culture are likely to negate it in the longer term. Everybody in school would be afraid of the bully, so if he or she cornered you on the playground, you would probably hand over your candy or lunch to stop fighting.

But, as soon as they left the local area, you will hate them more than ever. Your friends would help you, and most of the school would just do what the bully said for the few moments when they were being threatened, and the bully would end up being ostracized in any other way, and specifically without the power and control they wanted.

Everybody knows hard work and these days it has fallen out of favour. This is simply not appealing to any big country to tell every other nation what to do and how to live under the threat of military interference. We know that often, militarily and economically, others might change their position. Strong control may be related to “carrots” or “sticks”.

Yet sometimes, without clear threats or payoffs, you will get the results you want. Cue in power-soft. Joseph Nye first coined the word in his book Bound to Lead, 1990: The Shifting Nature of American Influence, while the ideas behind Soft Power go back decades.

Soft Power is by far the world’s most important idea right now. It’s the ability to manipulate others without the use of intimidation or threat. On a narrower definition, it is to influence  with common culture, ideas and lifestyles through the use of diplomacy, mutual values or economic favours, and more culturally. It doesn’t even have to be a state or citizens to use Soft Power successfully; in Poland and in Eastern Europe, Pope John Paul II used it to great effect.

This indirect way of achieving what you want has often been called “the second facet of power.” A country may achieve the results it wants in world politics because other countries respect its ideals, imitate its example, aspire to its degree of stability and transparency. This soft power — making others want the results you want — co-opts people, rather than coercing them.

Political power depends on being able to influence other people’s desires. Smart executives in the business world know that leadership is not just about issuing commands but also about leading by example and attracting others to do what you want. Likewise, current community-based policing approaches depend on making the police comfortable and appealing enough that a community wants to help them achieve shared objectives.

A country’s soft power is its ability to make friends and influence people — not through military force, but through its most desirable properties , especially culture, education , language, and values. In short, these are the things that make people love a country rather than hate it; things that are often the product of individuals , corporations and brands rather than governments.

Political leaders have long understood the power that comes from attraction. If I can get you to want to do what I want, then I do not have to use carrots or sticks to make you do it. Soft power is a staple of daily democratic politics. The ability to establish preferences tends to be associated with intangible assets such as an attractive personality, culture, political values and institutions, and policies that are seen as legitimate or having moral authority. If a leader represents values that others want to follow, it will cost less to lead.

Hard power doesn’t all look the same as force. Influence can also rely on the hard power of threats or fees, after all. And soft power, while it is an important part of it, is more than just persuasion or the ability to persuade people through suggestion. This is also the capacity to attract, and sometimes attraction contributes to acquiescence. To put it simply, in terms of behaviour, soft power is attractive. Soft power resources are the assets that produce such attraction.

When I am convinced to go along with your intentions without there being any overt threat or exchange — in short, when my conduct is dictated by an apparent but intangible attraction — soft power is at work. Soft power makes use of a different kind of currency — not force, not money — to create cooperation. It uses an attraction for shared values, and the fairness and obligation to contribute to the achievement of to those values.

Check out my related post: Would you host the Olympics?


Interesting reads:

https://www.ed.ac.uk/news/2017/soft-power-can-bring-nations-concrete-benefits

https://www.britishcouncil.org/research-policy-insight/insight-articles/how-soft-power-can-help-meet-international-challenges

https://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/the-benefits-of-soft-power

https://www.e-ir.info/2014/05/14/the-effectiveness-of-soft-hard-power-in-contemporary-international-relations/

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/stephen-liddell/soft-power_b_5528526.html

https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/08/20/the-rise-and-fall-of-soft-power/

https://www.softpowerdestinations.com/outcomes-benefits

 

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