Hard Reality, Soft Power: Canadian Foreign Policy in the Era of Globalization
Copeland, Daryl, Behind the Headlines
The concepts of `soft power' and `niche diplomacy' are very much in vogue with Canada's foreign policy cognoscenti and are mooted with increasing frequency in the national media. Is there something new under the sun, and if so what is it all about?
Joseph Nye, an American political theorist, popularized the idea of `soft power' in his book Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power (New York: Basic Books 1990), which highlighted the global influence of American popular culture. He challenged the conclusions of Paul Kennedy and other pundits subscribing to the imperial overstretch/USA in inevitable decline school of thought. At the core of Nye's analysis is the notion of achieving desired outcomes through attraction rather than coercion, by convincing others to follow your example or to agree to norms and institutions that support or produce the desired objective. This approach relies heavily on the power of ideas and information, on the horizontal management of issues rather than on the vertical management of resources and people, and on the ability to define issues and shape an agenda in ways that influence preferences and behaviour.
Soft-power practitioners in Canada seek also to occupy cerebral, not territorial, space. They are developing an adapted version of Nye's doctrine, fashioning it to the contours of an entirely different context to serve quite different purposes. In this campaign the real battles are fought using PR ordinance. The highest authority is the court of public opinion, where image is everything. And soft power is being served up as a panacea for many of the post Cold War world's ailments.
Knowledge brokerage, media savvy, strategic alliances, partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and coalition-building with like-minded governments and elements of civil society are seen as fundamental. Commensurately less emphasis is placed on more conventional instruments …
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Publication information: Article title: Hard Reality, Soft Power: Canadian Foreign Policy in the Era of Globalization. Contributors: Copeland, Daryl - Author. Magazine title: Behind the Headlines. Volume: 55. Issue: 4 Publication date: Summer 1998. Page number: 2+. © 2007 Canadian International Council. COPYRIGHT 1998 Gale Group.
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