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Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics Paperback – 1 Jun 2005

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs,U.S.; New Ed edition (Jun. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586483064
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586483067
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 13.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 118,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Joe Nye is one of the most astute observers of the changing nature of international polities."

About the Author

Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, was Chairman of the National Intelligence Council and Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration. He is the author of several books, including The Paradox of American Power: Why the World's Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone and Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. PublicAffairs will publish his political thriller, The Power Game, in Fall 2004.


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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
We all know what "hard" power is: You can make someone do whatever you want them to do . . . either by coercion or by intimidation backed up by the potential for coercion. What is "soft" power? That's the subject that Kennedy School dean Joseph S. Nye, Jr. explores in this interesting book.
Dean Nye originally coined the term "soft power" so he's a good person to develop the concept. He sees government power coming from three sources: Military power; economic power; and soft power. Military power is all bout coercion, deterrence and protection through threats and force. Government pursues this path through war, coercive diplomacy, and alliances. Economic power is the carrot and the stick enforced through payments and sanctions. Payments take the form of aid and bribes, and sanctions can be anything from boycotts to interdictions.
Soft power looks at the other hand from the gloved fist: Attraction and agenda setting. Countries use their values, culture, policies and institutions to make inroads as applied through various forms of diplomacy.
These themes are explored in the context of the Cold War, the policies of the Clinton and two Bush administrations, and the war on terror. In making his arguments, Dean Nye addresses philosophical arguments made by conservative and neo-conservative thinkers who favor the fist in all situations (including unilateral action), and provides examples of what has and has not worked.
Dean Nye's basic point is that a country should use both its hard and its soft power to obtain the best results. He analyzes what this means for the major countries in the world in specifics (the choices for Finland are a lot different than for the United States or Japan).
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Format: Paperback
This book is a very important analysis of soft power. Soft power is a loose term whereby a country improves its reputation and ability to persuade others by its actions and principles, rather than its overt and covert threats to bully others.

The author argues that power exists on three dimensions - military, economic and cultural. The author argues that America is the unrivalled master of "hard" power as the world's only military super power. But on the soft power dimensions of trade/economy and popular culture, America is nowhere near as all triumphant. The author feels that America must pay attention to developing its soft power if it is to remain dominant, and not have to rely on its hard power. Given the difficulties in Iraq, America more than ever needs to cultivate its soft power, which the author feels is well within America's capability.

There is also an interesting analysis of the history of soft power, such as when the USSR used ballet tours to promote Soviet/communist culture in the West, and America's use of jazz music on Radio Free Europe broadcasts into the Iron Curtain. The fact that soft power initiatives can sometimes have multiple and contradictory affects it also examined. For example, a Hollywood film in Iran may make young people like America more, but may make Iran's ruling mullahs hate it more.

All in all, this book is the definitive work on the subject of soft power. This is a must read for anyone interested in politics, current affairs or diplomacy.
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Format: Paperback
I like this book and certainly rate it but I am a harsh scorer, hence the 3 which might seem low to others.

I think the ideas contained in the book are very good ones and should certainly be heeded by western governments if they are to avoid finding the political environment of the mid twenty-first century much less well disposed towards them than the current one (and the current environment is not brilliant).

Mr Nye is clearly a clever man who has considered the issue of soft power (getting other countries to do what you want them to (or at least not hinder you doing things) because they are attracted to your culture and values) in depth and has come up with very interesting points to consider. He makes the point that governments can often give out messages that are contradictory and quickly lose the goodwill they have earnt with foreigners over a long period by ill-thought out actions. This point is well worth considering in light of the current problematic policies being adopted in the Middle East by western governments. The issue will become even more problematic given western governments' propensity to grow.

The two criticisms I have are (1) there is a large reliance placed in opinion polls and as we know statictics can be found that will support most arguments, and (2) some of the early part of the book is quite theroetical (but admittedly this improves later and the book becomes more practical and interesting).

Definitely worth reading, especially as it is only about 150 pages long.
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