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Home > Books & Journals > Book Review Last Updated: 18:12 04/09/2007
Book Review #59: April 16, 2004

Soft Power: The means to success in world politics

Reviewed by Mikihiro Maeda (Research Associate, GLOCOM )

Title: Soft Power: The means to success in world politics
Author: Joseph S. Nye, Jr.,
Publisher: Public Affairs in New York, United States
Date/Time: 2004
Pages: English text 191 pages (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1-58648-225-4


"Cool Japan" is a buzzword nowadays. Douglas McGray, Washington-based journalist used the phrase "Japan's Gross National Cool" instead of Gross National Products in the magazine "Foreign Policy" in May/June issue of 2002. "Japan is reinventing superpower—again. Instead of collapsing beneath its widely reported political and economic misfortunes, Japan's global cultural influence has quietly grown. From pop music to consumer electronics, architecture to fashion, and animation to cuisine, Japan looks more like a cultural superpower today than it did in the 1980s, when it was an economic one." James Brooke of New York Times wrote the article "Japan goes on a charm offensive" in his news paper in October 3, 2003. And Washington Post's North East Bureau Chief, Anthony Faiola wrote the article "Japan's Empire of Cool – Country's Culture Becomes Its Biggest Export" in his paper on December 27, 2003 and many articles cover the Japan's culture as a power of Japan.

In this context, such power has already been indicated by Joseph S. Nye Jr .now he is the Dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, was the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council and an Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Clinton Administration. He himself wrote in this book that "I first developed the concept of 'Soft Power' in Bound to Lead, a book I published in 1990 that disputed the then-prevalent view that America was in decline." He pointed out that the United States was the strongest nation not only in military and economic power, but also in a third dimension that he called Soft Power. He continues like this that the sharp drop in the attractiveness of the United states around the world by the decision of Gorge W. Bush to attack Iraq in 2003 made it difficult to recruit support for the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq and he also produced doubts about the legitimacy of their actions, and widespread anxieties about how the Unites States would use its preponderant power. And he thinks that winning the peace is harder than winning a war, and soft power is essential to winning the peace.

The world well-known celebrated Political Science Scholar, Samuel P. Huntington wrote about this author's distinction between "hard power" and "Soft Power" in his distinguished book "Clash of Civilizations and The Remaking World Order" in 1993 quoting from "Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of World Power" (Political Science Quarterly 105, Summer 1990) written by Joseph Nye as follows. "A distinction exists, Joseph Nye has argued, between 'hard power,' which is the power to command resting on economic and military strength, and 'soft power,' which is the ability of a state to get 'other countries to want what it wants' through the appeal of its culture and ideology. As Nye recognizes, a broad diffusion of hard power is occurring in the world and the major nations 'are less able to use their traditional power resources to achieve their purposes than in the past.' Nye goes on to say that if a state's 'culture and ideology are attractive, others will be more willing to follow' its leadership, and hence soft power is 'just as important as hard command power.'"

He also pays special attention to Japan's soft power in this book as follows. "The real resurgence of Asia began with the economic success of Japan" or "Japan has more potential soft power resources than any other Asian country. It is the first non-Western country that was able to fully modernize to the point of equality with the West in income and technology while showing that it is possible to maintain a unique culture. Today Japan ranks first in the world in number of patents, first in development assistance, first for life expectancy etc."

The importance of this book is such that he explains the reason why soft power is becoming more important than in the past and codifies his previous works. And also he himself is saying that he has honed definitions, expanded examples, used new polling data and historical research, and explored implications and limits of soft power in ways he had not done in either of his earlier works.

Chapter One: The Changing Nature of Power
Chapter Two: Sources of American Soft power
Chapter Three: Others' Soft Power
Chapter Four: Wielding Soft Power
Chapter Five: Soft Power and American Foreign Policy

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