In “From hegemony to soft power: Implications of conceptual change”, Zahran and Ramos turn a critical eye to the writings of Joseph Nye and his concept of Soft Power. Among many things the authors argue that soft power could be equated to Gramsci’s concept of hegemony in many ways, and that soft power is inextricably linked or dependent upon hard power. Their idea that hard and soft power cannot be mutually exclusive resonated with me and while Zahran and Ramos provide a few examples I wanted to see if I could test this argument as well.
In Joseph Nye’s article “Public Diplomacy and Soft Power” he provides many examples of soft power. Nye says that a country’s soft power rests on three resources, political values, foreign policies and culture (Nye, 96). Hard power resources as defined by Zahran and Ramos are population, territory, natural resources, size of the economy, armed forces and technological development (Zahran and Ramos, 17). From Zahran and Ramos’ definition at least two of Nye’s soft power resources can be seen as hard power dependent. First, foreign policies can and often are based on hard power resources. It is not possible to make policies that will affect a nation internally and externally without looking at the resources it has at its disposal. For example, the United State’s stance on the peaceful transition of Egypt from the hand President Mubarak to a more democratic state could be seen as an example of supposed soft power backed by a hard power agenda. The main reason for our stance could be seen as a way to keep up a good reputation among the people in Egypt, however there is an underlying reason of keeping an ally in the region since the U.S. is currently engaged in military action in the region. This strategic protection of armed forces in the area by keeping an ally during the military engagement is a way in which soft power [which in this case are statements from President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton] is being used to reinforce hard power.
When it comes to culture, it can be said that it is dependent upon hard power for several reasons. It takes human capital via the population as well as monetary resources to cultivate this capital in the forms of schools to educate and cultivate, museums, buildings/architecture, and a way to communicate culture and social lifestyles to the international public through broadcast and other communication tools, which requires a certain amount of technological development. As for political values, because these are basically ideologies and a basis for a government I am not sure how hard power can come into play.
In terms of communication any public broadcasting network of a nation is backed by the hard power of the size of the economy (to be able to afford it) and technological capabilities of a country and Nye includes public broadcasting as a source of soft power as well (such as the BBC and VoA). Al-Jazeera is also seen as soft power, even though they are independent from Qatar, they are financed completely by the Emir, whose money and material resources are a source of hard power for Qatar.
My last example is that of the exchange programs, Nye mentions the exchange of not only students, but also military personnel. The exchanging of military personnel is basically a trading of hard power itself. While it builds camaraderie between allies, it also shows the other country that you have resources for a military engagement as well.
From these examples the only thing that is clear is that the line between hard and soft power is not. There is a definite blurring and overlapping of what a resource could or should be called, which is probably why the term smart power was created, because there must be a balancing of each of these resources in order to ensure the prosperity (or legitimacy) of a nation.
Joseph Nye “Public Diplomacy and Soft Power” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 2008 616: 94-109.
Geraldo Zahran and Leonardo Ramos “From Hegemony to soft power: implications of a conceptual change” in Inderjeet Parmar and Michael Cox (eds.) Soft Power and US Foreign Policy: Theoretical, Historical, and contemporary perspectives (2010)