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Power and its forms: hard, soft, smart

Pallaver, Matteo (2011) Power and its forms: hard, soft, smart. MPhil thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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What is smart power? What kind of power is it? Is it really a new form of power? How many forms, features, and shapes does it take? How can we recognize and manage it? How do scholars describe it? This MPhil thesis aims to answer these and other questions regarding the dimension of power with a specific focus on smart power. This is a first attempt to study smart power in the broader context of power analysis and therefore I will follow two approaches. First of all, I will contextualize smart power, touching on the debate of power as an academic and political concept. Secondly, the idea is to investigate how power manifests itself in the realms of international and social relations. To this end, I will address three “ideal” forms of power, notably hard, soft and – finally - smart power. We already know that hard power is commonly associated in IR with realism: it is about power politics, force, and violence. Hard power is, to a certain extent, the oldest form of power; it is connected to the idea of an anarchic, untamed international system, where countries do not recognize any superior authority. Order is the result of competition for power and wars. The possession and acquisition of resources is the key to success. Soft power is something completely different. In order to understand soft power a methodological change is required. A state, an organization or a single person can exercise power with means other than violence and force. Persuasion, example, seduction, and myth: these are the resources of soft power. It is being able to convince or persuade others to follow your example, to want what you want, rather than coercing them. Soft power is about a world in which international institutions matter, in which war is not the only way to settle conflicts and in which the ones to succeed are the most powerful, in terms of natural, economic and financial resources and are not necessarily the best equipped. And finally, what is smart power? Where does it come from? We know that smart power is a new and to a certain extent popular concept, which was coined by Joseph Nye in the USA and is used to describe a new way of dealing with and managing power. Nye conceptualizes smart power as something lying somewhere between hard and soft power, a sort of “third way” in the complex jungle of power relations. But Nye also stresses that smart power is something “beyond” hard and soft, a sort of new approach that fits particularly well into the realm of international relations and foreign politics. This is why we will analyse Nye’s approach in depth, as well as the US debate about smart power and the concrete use of this concept by the US administration. Finally, we will investigate why smart power is becoming popular in the EU as well. Here again, policy-makers seem confident about using this new concept as a political programme that involves institutions and policy reforms. To sum up, my argument is that smart power is definitely a new form of power and this MPhil dissertation aims at introducing it into the academic debate, studying it from a theoretical, scientific point of view, investigating its origins, and the historical and political context in which it gained popularity and – finally – testing its possible declination in real scenarios of international politics.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil)
Additional Information: © 2011 Matteo Pallaver
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JC Political theory
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Economides, Spyros

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