Originally posted on Phil Vernon's blog:
I was giving evidence to a UK House of Lords select committee on aid as an instrument of soft power yesterday, so spent a bit of time researching what “soft power” actually means. It turns out it’s not just a fancy word for “influence” – though you probably knew that already – but rather Joseph Nye’s rather precise definition of how to achieve one’s objectives through attraction and co-option, alongside or instead of other means such as coercion and purchase. For Nye, foreign aid is purchase power, and as such not strictly a soft power tool. Was he right?
It’s rather hard to examine power in the abstract, as it can only really be measured in relation to a specific policy goal or objective. The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) is mandated to reduce poverty overseas – a difficult but relatively narrow purpose. But if you look at the…
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