Analytical Framework for Understanding “Soft Power”

In my new article in Asian Perspective Capturing Power Shift in East Asia: Toward an Analytical Framework for Understanding “Soft Power” in Asian Perspective proposes an analytical framework for analyzing soft power that problematizes the rigid soft power/hard power binary. The framework proposes a way to understand soft power and the hard-soft spectrum of behavior that allows for the inclusion of economic power while still drawing a line between hard and soft power, where not all economic power is soft, but nor is it all hard. Open Access: https://doi.org/10.1353/apr.2020.0016 

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Mainstream International Relations (IR) theory has problems fully accounting for the regional dynamics of East Asia. This article explores whether the pursuit of soft power—a concept that has been given a prominent position in research on East Asian IR—can provide one piece of the puzzle for understanding East Asia’s regional dynamics. This article proposes an analytical framework for analyzing soft power that problematizes the rigid soft power/hard power binary. The framework proposes a way to understand soft power and the hard-soft spectrum of behavior that allows for the inclusion of economic power while still drawing a line between hard and soft power, where not all economic power is soft, but nor is it all hard. It is argued that to keep the concept of soft power relevant in the East Asian context economic power needs to be included. The line is drawn between economic coercion and economic inducement, arguing that when induced there is still a certain level of freedom as one can choose whether the payments or bribes offered are good enough for it to be worthwhile to change one’s preference and behavior. Coercion, in contrast, utilizes a different dynamic where the point is to force someone to do something they are unwilling to do.

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