International Forum for Democratic Studies September 2018 Newsletter: Combating Sharp Power with Soft Power

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September 2018

Combating Sharp Power with Soft Power

On August 15, International Forum for Democratic Studies Director Shanthi Kalathil participated in a discussion with political scientist Dr. Joseph S. Nye Jr., who coined the term “soft power,” on why “Democracies Should Fight Sharp Power with Soft Power.” The discussion, organized by the Pacific Council on International Policy and moderated by the International Forum’s Jessica Ludwig, focused on how democracies should respond to authoritarian sharp power.

Globalization has enabled authoritarian governments to exert increasing influence within the democracies. This engagement has involved efforts at censorship, or the use of manipulation to sap the integrity of independent institutions. This “sharp power” has the effect of limiting free expression and distorting the political environment. As part of any response, democracies should use their natural competitive advantage and engage civil society to combat sharp power, rather than attempting to engage in equally intrusive campaigns. Kalathil argues that democracies must “rethink how [they] can most effectively project their voices and define their values.”

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