Soft Power Without Hard Power Is No Power.

1128 words 5 pages
Soft power without hard power is no power.

In the early 1990s, Joseph Nye’s book Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature Of American Power ignited a huge discussion among society of the need to transition from America’s traditional use of hard power to something more benign which he termed soft power. Before looking at the two branches of power, we first define power as the ability to do something or act in a certain way. As Nye had pointed out, nations can wield power in two forms, soft and hard power. Soft power, as coined by Nye (1990) is defined as “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than through coercion.” In contrast, hard power is seen as the use of military might or economic sanctions to coerce others into doing
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Yet, this soft power is merely hard power in disguise. Bush Jr publicly denounced the acts of terrorism and declared the war on it as righteous and claimed ‘you are either with us or against us’. This statement was structured such that it played on the representational force of attraction. No middle ground was to be taken. Either you are attracted to the US and by extension its policies on the war on terrorism or you completely reject it and associate yourself with the terrorists. While there were physical repercussions of harboring terrorists, there were no sanctions or punishments to be derived from having a differing view as that of the US. As Bially Mattern explained, representational force worked by creating disharmony within themselves as they are ‘relegated’ to the side of the terrorist (2005). Therefore, in an effort to minimize this mismatch of their belief and self, nations would be ‘forced’ agree with the way US demands of them. All in all, soft power is nothing more than a more benign way to frame hard power. It merely is a vessel for hard power to work its way in the diplomatic circles.

In conclusion, the relationship between soft and hard power is extremely convoluted. Soft power does not exist independently of hard power. As Fan (2007) mentioned, a country may have soft power sources but the ability to make full use of it is very much reliant on hard power or as she puts it ‘hard resources’. Given how soft power is embedded so much


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