Friday, December 7, 2012

Hard, Soft, Smart Power: A Quick Review

In the 1780s a significant shift occurred in the way man thought about thinking. Immanuel Kant suggested that man alone possessed rational thought.[1] Thoughts were distillations of man’s own imaginations and therefore afforded man the self-determined power of reason. This led to a revolutionary change regarding who determined morality which further suggested political power could be determined not only on materially inherited strength (realism theory) but on the strength of man-made ideas (liberalism). In the 1990s a similar shift occurred. The notion of power had been fixed on tangible, outward measures of coercion, i.e. military might and the purchasing power of a state’s economy. Joseph Nye suggested instead that an alternative form of power existed in the form of attraction or soft power. His re-defining power led to entirely new ways of conceptualizing international political relations because it recognized the relevance of realism foundations of tangible strength, such as hard power, as well as liberalism foundations of ideas. Foreign policy practitioners today attempt to synthesize his two domains of hard and soft power in pragmatic “smart power” strategies.