Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Joseph Nye, The Power Guy

Joseph Nye. Image via.

"Power is one's ability to affect the behavior of others to get what one wants. There are three basic ways to do this: coercion, payment, and attraction. Hard power is the use of coercion and payment. Soft power is the ability to obtain preferred outcomes through attraction. If a state can set the agenda for others or shape their preferences, it can save a lot on carrots and sticks. But rarely can it totally replace either. Thus the need for smart strategies that combine the tools of both hard and soft power." --Joseph Nye, Foreign Affairs, Jul/Aug 2009
A survey conducted amongst international relations experts placed Joseph S. Nye Jr. amongst the top of the list of those who had most shaped U.S. foreign policy in the last 20 years. It was Nye, a leading theorist of power, Dean Emeritus of the Kennedy School of Government and Harvard University Distinguished Professor of International Relations who coined the term “soft power” in the late 1980s. He later also went on to develop the idea of “smart power”.

In an article in The Atlantic, Nye wrote: “In an information age, success is not merely the result of whose army wins, but also of whose story wins. Hard military power is not enough. We need the soft power of attraction as well. Their successful combination is smart power.” Similarly, in an op-ed article in Foreign Affairs, Nye referred to the many official instruments of soft power such as public diplomacy, broadcasting, exchange programs, development assistance, disaster relief, military-to-military contacts and wrote that they were scattered across the U.S. government with “no overarching policy that even tries to integrate them with hard power into a comprehensive national security strategy.”

In addition to holding academic positions, Nye’s experience combines several positions serving for the government. He has held numerous senior positions in the U.S. State Department, the Pentagon, and the National Security Council including serving as Assistant Secretary of Defense from 1994 to 1995. As an Assistant Secretary of Defense, Nye played an instrumental role in developing Pentagon’s East Asian Strategy Report issued in February 1995, officially called United States Security Strategy for the East Asia-Pacific Region. It was in the context of implementation of the strategy that Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto of Japan and President Bill Clinton reaffirmed in 1996 that the “U.S.-Japan security treaty was no longer related to the cold war but was now a reassurance for stability in the region” (An Alliance Larger Than One Issue, op-ed, The New York Times, January 10, 2010). In 2010, Mr. Nye was conferred an honorary doctorate from Keio University, the oldest institute of higher education in Japan "in appreciation of his significant contributions to the advancement of Japan-U.S. relations, and his outstanding achievements in academics and education."

Putting power in context and shedding light on the complexity of the environment in which power operates today, Nye notes in Foreign Affairs:

The United States can influence, but not control, other parts of the world. World politics today is like a three-dimensional chess game. At the top level, military power among states is unipolar; but at the middle level, of interstate economic relations, the world is multipolar and has been so for more than a decade. At the bottom level, of transnational relations (involving such issues as climate change, illegal drugs, pandemics, and terrorism), power is chaotically distributed and diffuses to nonstate actors.
In his latest book, The Future of Power, Nye addresses fundamental questions including “what will it mean to wield power in the cyber world of the twenty-first century?” and “[w]hat resources will produce power?,” questions that have become ever more pertinent today in the context of evolving foreign policy challenges in an information age. ….In a note for the book, Nye says:
Most current projections of a shift in the global balance of power are based primarily on one factor- projections of growth in the gross national product of different countries. They ignore the other dimensions of power that are discussed in this book
Today Joseph Nye takes the stage at Japan Society to discuss world power dynamics emerging from changing relationship, innovation and global challenges and what this means for U.S.-Japan relations and the world at large. Joseph Nye on the Future of Power is moderated by Fred Katayama, Anchor, Thomson Reuters, and a member of Japan Society's Board of Directors.

Registration: 6:00 pm, lecture and Q&A; 6:30 pm, reception: 7:30-8:15 pm. General admission is $15. Half of Japan Society’s admission sales through June 30 go to the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund.  To register or for more information, please  visit

The event is part of the Japan Society’s Corporate Program’s Yoko Makino Policy Series.

--Anu Tulachan

1 comment:

Laura said...

So excited for this event tonight!