Sul "Soft Power": Alcune Osservazioni

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On Soft Power: Some Observations

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Few categories of the social sciences have been so successful as “soft power” to become a household word among politicians, political commentators, and practitioners of (what today is called) public diplomacy in such a short time. Coined by Joseph Nye in the late 1980s, “soft power” seeks to conceptualize a dimension of power that does not rest on carrots and sticks (that is, on the ability to coerce or induce through rewards), but on attraction, and it does so in order to explain the ability of actors in the international system, mainly states, to guide and lead others. This essay provides a brief outline of Nye’s theoretical propositions before discussing an inherent vagueness, which (we argue) tends to lead to conceptual blurriness when “soft power” is put to analyze phenomena in the real world, including inter- American relations. There are very good reasons for “soft power” to have found ready acceptance well beyond the academic community, we suggest, but in the end this approach does not provide the analytical tools it seems to promise.