The Future of Power

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The Future of Power
  • Joseph Nye is internationally renowned in the field of international relations, with Nye having established himself as a leading thinker through his pioneering liberal institutional approach. In his Book, Joseph Nye’s explains theories on ‘soft’ and ‘smart’ power. In The Future of Power, he attempts to address the evolving notion of power in a new world of non-state actors and emerging economies. 
  • Nye has established himself as one of the foremost thinkers on international relations, he writes about applications of power in its three incarnations: ‘hard power’ – whereas the influence obtained through the use of military and/or economic coercion; ‘soft power’ – the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce; and ‘smart power’ – a combination of hard power and soft power strategies. This book brings together his thinking about the future of these varieties of power. Though not explicitly focused on a single country or era, the book is implicitly an examination of America’s future power and whether it can sustain itself as global leader over the course of the twenty-first century.
  • This book is split into seven detailed chapters, covering power in global affairs, military power, economic power, soft power, diffusion and cyber-power, the question of U.S. decline, and smart power. The chapter on the new power implications of cyber-power bears testimony that Nye is very much aware of how technological change will reshape twenty-first century international affairs, but he is also realistic about its limitations. As he shows, the characteristics of cyberspace reduces some of the power differential among international actors, which encourages the distribution of twenty-first century power because the largest powers cannot dominate this field as they dominate the sea and air.
  •  Furthermore, Nye explains that in the era of Kennedy and Khrushchev (U.S & USSR), power was expressed in terms of nuclear missiles, industrial capacity, numbers of men under arms, and tanks lined up ready to cross the plains of Eastern Europe. By 2010, none of these factors confer power in the same way.
  • The author is known internationally as a long-time analyst of power and a hands-on practitioner in government. Many of his ideas have been at the heart of recent debates over the role America should play in the world: his concept of “soft power” has been adopted by leaders from Britain to China; “smart power” has been adopted as the poster-child for the Obama Administration’s foreign policy. This book is the summation of his work, as relevant to general readers as to foreign policy specialists. It is a vivid narrative that delivers behind the elusive faces of power to discover its enduring nature in the cyber age.

Selected Quotes from The Future of Power: –

  • “Hard military power will remain crucial, but if its use is perceived as unjust, such as at Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo, then hard power undercuts the soft power needed to win the minds of mainstream Muslims and creates more new terrorists than are destroyed. For example, a leading terrorism expert concludes that anti-Americanism was exacerbated by the war in Iraq and the U.S. failure to tailor strategies for key countries. International jihadist groups increased their membership and carried out twice as many attacks in the three years after 2001 as before it. Similarly, the former head of Britain’s MI5 intelligence service told the commission investigating the origins of the Iraq War that the war had increased, rather than decreased, terrorists’ success at recruitment.”
  • “When Russia had disputes with neighbors such as Ukraine over gas prices, it did not hesitate to cut off gas supplies as a form of economic power. Later, when a more sympathetic government came to power in Ukraine, Russia used the lure of heavily discounted gas prices to obtain the extension of its lease of a naval base in Ukraine, thus complicating the prospect that Ukraine might one-day join NATO.”
  • With regards to power discrepancies, by looking at the Internet, which is overturning traditional power relations faster than people can write books about it. Take Egypt. Online activism played a key role in mobilizing anti-government protesters. Power doesn’t just grow out of the barrel of a gun anymore — it also grows out of a Facebook wall post and a Twitter feed. In such an environment, Nye writes, leaders “need to think of themselves as being in a circle rather than atop a mountain.” Forget about power over others; the 21st century will be all about power with others, about organizing coalitions and solving collective action problems. “The world is neither unipolar, multipolar, nor chaotic,” he explains, “it is all three at the same time.”

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