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Friday, 19 March 2010

Obama as a Soft Power President?

President Barack Obama's foreign policy is sometimes touted as driven by "Soft Power" - the power of attraction in world affairs, as opposed to coercion. The book described below, just published, dissects the multiple meanings of "soft power", including interrogating the underlying assumptions of the concept. The author of the concept of soft power, Harvard's Professor Joseph Nye, provides two new chapters that further develop and refine the idea, one of which is a frank and engaging response to his (many) critics in this volume. My own view, inevitably biased though it is, is that the book provides a thorough critical analysis that will help anyone interested in US power get a better 'feel' for the character of the world's lone superpower in an age of crisis. Comments, of course, on the quality of the arguments pursued are very welcome.

Soft Power and US Foreign Policy
Theoretical, Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Edited by Inderjeet Parmar, Michael Cox

Series: Routledge Studies in US Foreign Policy

* ISBN: 978-0-415-49204-1
* Binding: Paperback (also available in Hardback)
* Published by: Routledge

About the Book

The rise of widespread negative attitudes towards US foreign policy, especially due to the war of aggression against Iraq and the subsequent military occupation of the country – has brought new attention to the meaning and instruments of soft power. In this edited collection, an outstanding line up of contributors provides the most extensive discussion of soft power to date. Soft power is the use of attraction and persuasion rather than the use of coercion or force in foreign policy. It arises from the attractiveness of a country's culture, political ideals and policies, whereas hard power develops out of a country's military or economic might.

Soft Power has become part of popular political discourse since it was coined by Harvard’s Joseph Nye, and this volume features a brand new chapter by Nye outlining his views on soft, hard and smart power and offers a critique of the Bush administration’s inadequacies. He then goes on to examine the challenges for the incoming US president. The other contributions to the volume respond to Nye's views from a range of theoretical, historical and policy perspectives giving new insights in to both soft power and the concept of power itself.

This is the most comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of this key concept in foreign affairs and is essential reading for scholars of US foreign policy, public diplomacy, international relations and foreign policy analysis.

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