The basic concept of power is the ability to influence others to get them to do what you want. There are three major ways to do that: one is to threaten them with sticks; the second is to pay them with carrots; the third is to attract them or co-opt them, so that they want what you want. If you can get others to be attracted to want what you want, it costs you much less in carrots and sticks.

Joseph Nye, a distinguished Harvard professor, coined the term soft power in the 1980s. It is likely that he will be an ambassador to Japan in Obama’s administration.

When Nye was serving as assistant secretary of defense, he formed the Nye Initiative, a security strategy which advocated firmly holding U.S. troop levels in East Asia at 100,000. Later, he researched policies toward Japan in nonpartisan dialogue with people including former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a Republican versed in Japan. The result was the Armitage Report handling policy toward Japan, produced in 2000 and 2007.

The 2000 report pointed out the necessity of lessening the burden of U.S. troops in Okinawa. The 2007 report urged the Japanese and U.S. governments to prepare a security environment centering on secure trilateral relations between Japan, the United States and China, and between Japan, the United States and India.

Source: Mainichi

Among many other activities, he teaches in Harvard Kennedy School of Government. If you are interested in politics, the syllabus for his class Power in the 21st Century has an interesting list of readings 🙂

Further Reading:

The strength of Japan’s ‘soft power’ (Japan Times)
Why military power is no longer enough (Guardian)


6 thoughts on “Power in the 21st Century

  1. Get people to want what you want. Hmm, in practice I think that means buy off the leadership of the said country and then have the leadership coerce the population into following them (with more or less large doses of hard power)! Eg US policy in the Middle East.

  2. Before you can get people to do what you want, you have to know what makes them tick first. Then you can tailor your stick, carrot or cooperation base on that. I wonder why phallic objects are used as metaphoric symbols? Of course, because the person who wants the change has to be the aggressor.

    1. Yes, knowing the person or the country is important.

      Perhaps, you are right, but I wonder if carrot was chosen just because it is something that donkeys like to eat. Regardless, operant conditioning can do wonders 🙂

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