on February 4, 2011
Joseph Nye's new book on the Future of Power brings reasoned analysis to bear on anxious predictions of America's relative decline vis a vis a rising China. While not ruling out the danger of conflict, Nye sees no need for the U.S. and China to go to war in the 21st century if Chinese hubris and American fears can be held in check. This volume goes a long way toward achieving that worth while objective. Building on his earlier study of soft and hard power, Nye argues that China and the US have much to gain from working together on major global challenges ranging from financial stability to climate change. This cooperation would, in Nye's words, represent the exercise of "smart power."
on February 19, 2011
The book focuses on how nations can exert influence. The two simplistic methods are hard power (mostly military strength) and soft power (cultural appeal, foreign aid, persuasion, etc.). Nye argues that both are important and that the proper balance between the two is what he calls "smart power." Nye focuses on rising nations that may not always see eye-to-eye with America. His conclusions strike me as accurate and remarkably well said. He has an upbeat view of America's future in the 21st Century. Academic but still approachable for the rest of us, this is a great book to read if you want to better understand America's role in the world.
I have read a book a day for several decades, and consequently it has been my subjective experience that about one out of every 100 books is a gem, an absolutely wonderful gift to the reader. This book is that gem, and one simply has to read it with an open mind to gain an understanding of how the world works. Regardless of what side of the political fence you find yourself on, the left or the right, you will find The Future of Power to be INTENSE, PROVOCATIVE, and NECESSARY.
One can choose to maintain their preconceived notions about power, but after reading this book, it becomes clear that such people will be swept aside by the future that Nye describes so clearly. Your understanding of power will never be the same. We are at an inflection point in world history, and our traditional understanding of extrapolating the past into the future will not be a guide for what is coming next, but this book will be such a guide. If I had to use single words to describe what is in this book, I would say:
Nye comes to us with extraordinary credentials. The fact that he was Dean of the Harvard School of Government (JFK School) for several years, I do not hold against him. His work in government including high positions at the National Security Council, National Intelligence Council, and the Defense Department have allowed him both influence, and the ability to evolve on a real world basis.
ORGANIZATION OF THE BOOK
The book is divided into 7 chapters spread over 235 pages divided into three parts:
Part I Types of Power
Part II Power Shifts - Diffusions and Transitions
Part III Policy
Of the 7 chapters, I found four to be so original that they are completely unique, and Nye's understanding or framework as to how the world works is not to be missed. They are:
Chapter 2) Military Power
Chapter 3) Economic Power
Chapter 4) Soft Power
Chapter 6) Power Transition: The Question of America's Decline
WHAT NYE IS TELLING US?
Nye is telling us what the future holds, we merely have to grasp onto it, and absorb it. This book is in the same league and influence, as Carroll Quigley's Tragedy and Hope. Quigley, the Georgetown University master historian who influenced Bill Clinton and his thinking more than any other scholar in Clinton's career.
Nye believes that those who think America is in a serious state of decline are mistaken because the traditional tools used to measure such a statement are no longer applicable. Power is no longer measured in nuclear missiles, military forces, or pounds of steel produced by an industrial economy. Power as Nye defines it now has to do with soft power, smart power, influence, persuasion and trust. Smart Power is a combination of the hard power of coercion and partly with the soft power of persuasion.
Joseph Stalin the Soviet dictator once asked how many divisions does the Pope have? Fifty years later, Russia and Stalin are relegated to the ash heaps of history and the Pope survives. The Defense Department spends $650 billion per year on Hard Power while the State Department spends $36 billion per year on Soft Power. David Hume the 18th century philosopher once said that "No human is strong enough to dominate all others acting alone". Today we can say the same thing about countries. India two centuries ago with 300 million was dominated by 100,000 British soldiers. In the 1800's France conquered Algeria with 34,000 troops. In the 20th century 600,000 members of the French Foreign Legion could not hold Algeria together.
We must no longer measure power in resources, or units of production. We must begin to measure it in terms of preferred outcomes. Our country represents only 5% of the world's population but 25% of the world's production. We shall probably maintain our position versus the world for the rest of this century, but only if we learn to understand the new dimensions of Power and how to evolve with them. This book unlike any other will begin to show us how, if we want to.
IS NYE OPTIMISTIC ABOUT AMERICA?
There have been 9 world wars since 1500, and what Nye is looking for now is the reemergence of China as a world power which it once was from 500 AD to 1500 AD before declining in the face of Western power from 1500 AD to this century. What Nye so wisely points out is that an economy equal in total size to ours does not mean EQUALITY.
America does not have to lose power, hard or soft. In fact the rest of the world is years behind our hard power. By ourselves we represent 45% of the entire world's defense expenditures - too much by any standard.
It is time to dramatically increase our soft power expenditures, to continue to maintain our edge, and perhaps expand upon it. As China continues to grow, they will have to consume themselves with the more than 1 billion have-nots in their society. They have over a billion people with less than 85 million doing well. There is no health care to speak of, and all of this has to change and be factored into what will happen to their economy and nobody, certainly not American economists are getting it right.
This book demands to be read, and analyzed, and thought over. Nye is perhaps unique in his understanding of power. To read this book is to be transformed, and enlightened, and certainly to see things differently than you thought they were. I loved it and believe you will too, and thank you for reading this review.
on February 13, 2011
The US has, since WWII, been the most powerful and influential country in the world. Following the collapse of the Communist system in 1990 it is the sole super power. Nonetheless, there have been limits to the extension of American power. The most obvious example is the defeat in Vietnam. More recently, in response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the US has become engaged in new wars of occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq. And the prognosis of those state building projects remains uncertain today.
Joseph S. Nye Jr. has provided a new book, The Future of Power, to assess American power and consider the future of America's reach. In some ways this book is an example par excellence of realpolitik. He offers a reasoned approach to assessing the limits of power and provides a methodology, which he terms `smart power,' as a strategy for the successful extension of American influence in the world. He explains that, while the US remains the dominate military power by far, it cannot successfully impose its will on the world order through military might alone. This is, as far as it goes, a rational critique of US policy and its continued reliance upon projected military strength. Indeed the US cannot afford the expense of maintaining military dominance and policing the world. So the author suggests a mix of soft and hard power that are measured against a prioritized list of goals in order to achieve the maximum influence possible. This is the essence of smart power. His advice would certainly be useful, if it were taken to heart by the many old cold-warriors who lead government policy. So from this perspective I think that The Future of Power is a worthy book.
However, in the long run not even smart power will be adequate. The US is losing ground economically in the world economy. Consequently, it will not be capable of maintaining its decisive lead in military prowess. Hence, the reliance on soft power will become ever more important. Why not recognize the trend and stand down earlier on the foolish race to maintain military dominance? In any case shouldn't one question the basic premise of Mr. Nye's book? Why is it important that the US maintain the maximum influence possible within the global community? The author never considers calling this unspoken premise into question. Surely there is a moral dilemma here. Hence, I recommend a more radical perspective on the issue of American power, such as that presented by Andrew J. Bacevich in his excellent book, Washington Rules.
Author of The Bridge
on January 29, 2011
"The Future of Power" is really "the future of American global power". Joseph Nye expands upon his Foreign Affairs essay (see November/December 2010 issue) to make a case for the use of smart power in U.S. foreign relations. Smart power is the ability to combine hard and soft power into a winning strategy. Thus, Nye recommends using a balanced combination of sticks and carrots in American foreign policy. Military power alone cannot accomplish U.S. foreign policy objectives. However, through the adroit and balanced use of military power, economic power and cultural power the United States will prevail globally. Cyber power is also essential to American foreign policy. Together, these strands make up the "DNA" for successful U.S. diplomacy.
on August 7, 2012
In his new book The Future of Power, co-founder of neo-liberalism theory Joseph S. Nye outlines a synthesis of his more than two decades of scholarship on the future of world power politics. Nye explains how power works and how it is changing under the conditions of a burgeoning revolution in information technology, globalization, and the return of Asia in the twenty-first century. Based on an understanding of power and its changing landscape internationally, Nye endeavors to discredit the popular conception of a declining America despite the resurgence of China and India in the twenty-first century by suggesting that the United States should employ a smart power strategy that combines hard power and soft power to maintain its global leadership role.
Power is the ability to alter others' behavior to produce preferred outcomes. It is not good or bad per se. Nye believes that there are two major types of power in international relations: hard power and soft power. Hard power implies coercion while soft power allows us to obtain preferred outcomes through co-option. Hard power is push; soft power is pull. As we progress through the 21st century, Nye suggests that the utility of military force is declining; instead, soft power will play a larger role in international relations. Since attraction and persuasion are socially constructed, soft power is a dance that requires partners, which makes it difficult to wield and maintain. Sanctions combine both hard power and soft power. Because sanctions are the only relatively inexpensive policy option, they are likely to remain a major instrument of power in the 21st century despite their mixed record.
The two major trends of power shift in the 21st century are a power transition among states and a power diffusion away from all states to non-state actors. Nye predicts that the classical transition of power among great states may be less of a problem than the rise of non-state actors. In an information-based world of cyber-insecurity, power diffusion may be a greater threat than power transition. Conventional wisdom has always held that the state with the largest military prevails, but in an information age it may be the state (or non-states) with the most favorable presentation that wins.
In a century marked by global information and a diffusion of power to non-state actors, soft power will become an increasingly important part of smart power strategies. Nye warns that government efforts to project soft power will have to accept that power is less hierarchical in an information age and that social networks have become more important, thereby leaders need to think of themselves as being in a circle rather than atop a mountain.
Based on his analysis of how power works, Nye casts serious doubt that America is in precipitate decline and endeavors to dismiss this popular conception through a sober and rigorous analysis of the power resources the United States possesses and is able to possess through a smart power strategy. Becoming less dominant on the international stage is not a narrative of decline. The United States, he argues, needs a liberal realist strategy to cope with "the rise of the rest" among both states and non-state actors; that is, the United States needs to rediscover how to be a smart power.
"A smart power strategy requires that the old distinction between realists and liberals needs to give way to a new synthesis that we might cal liberal realism ... First, it would start with an understanding of the strength and limits of American power ... Second, a liberal realist strategy would stress the importance of developing an integrated grand strategy that combines hard power with soft power into smart power of the sort that won the Cold War ... Third, the objective of a liberal realist strategy would have the key pillars of providing security for the United States and its allies, maintaining a strong domestic and international economy, avoiding environmental disasters (such as pandemics and negative climate change), and encouraging liberal democracy and human rights at home and abroad where feasible at reasonable levels of cost" (231-2).
Furthermore, it is not enough to think in terms of power over others. We must also think in terms of power to accomplish goals that involves power with others. The problem of American power in the 21st century is not one of decline but of a failure to realize that even the largest country cannot achieve its goals of both national and international significance without the help of others.
Despite the clarity and depth of Nye's reasoning, he does not explain why it is important that the U.S. maintain the maximum influence possible internationally. Hard power, soft power, and smart power that are explained in length and depth are just tactics. The unspoken premise that the U.S. should make its best effort to remain its top dog status, which often requires mass spending on warfare, remains unexplained and unquestioned. War Resisters International has calculated that approximately 48 percent of U.S. tax revenue goes toward military-related expenditures. The National Priorities Project shows that U.S. military consumes 58 percent of federal discretionary spending. Cutting U.S. military spending and attributing the money to humanitarian needs at home and abroad may be more appealing than maintaining or expanding U.S. military leverage in the world. Every minute the U.S. spends approximately $2.1 million on the military, which can alternatively be used to establish 16 new schools with 12 classrooms each in Afghanistan. The deficit in Washington D.C. is $175 million this fiscal year, nearly half of which is in education and medical care. Cancelling one day's fund for bombs in Libya will be more than enough to cancel the $175 million deficit. By not explaining why it is important to maintain U.S. prominence internationally through mass spending, Nye makes his whole argument less persuasive than he intended. Otherwise, this book will make a good resource for teaching realism in international politics at the introductory and intermediate levels.
on July 22, 2015
Joseph Nye is a brilliant thinker. He understands the strength of "soft power" to combat terrorism, as no one else seems to grasp. His voice must be heard in order to avert disaster in the near future. Yet it would seem his is a "cry in the wilderness." God help us.
on May 24, 2011
The Future of Power reads like a scholarly paper. Prof. Nye has studied power for more than 20 years and it is evident in this repetitive story of power balances, struggles, diffusion, and transfer. The novel focuses on the sources of power and offers some insight on how people, governments, etc. leverage hard power (i.e. military, force, payment, threats, etc.) and soft power (i.e. persuasion and coercion) to produce the outcomes they want. The combination of hard and soft power is smart power. Essentially, getting people to do what you want, accept your agenda, and so on is the foundation of power. Prof. Nye explains how power has been used historically and forecasts what's to come in the future. It's an interesting concept worth exploring especially when trying to relate the concept of power to organizations and structure.
This is the first book I've read that I was sure that leaders of nations would be reading.
it provides fascinating look at the varieties of power-- smart, hard, soft, diffusing... and how new technologies and media are affecting the players.
It walks the reader through the varieties of power and how they are being used, how shifts in access to them created by technologies and cultural changes are affecting the major players
Then Nye devotes chapters to the major power players in the world. The biggest deal is, of course, China, and his take offers an interesting perspective, including reviewing the USA's history of declinism, the times when the American public believes that the US is in a stage of decline, like now.
This latter section also looks at the BRIC nations-- Brazil, India, Russia and China-- the up and coming power players of the world.
Nye also wrote the book SOFT POWER, and coined the term. It was my interest in soft power that caught my interest. Now, the big idea is smart power, which integrates the effective use of hard power and soft power. Nye explains how that is done effectively. It's interesting that even though the US is by far the most powerful possessor of hard power, that is more and more often, not enough to get what is desired. It takes soft power to make smart power happen. This book helps you to think how this works, in ways that are obvious and not so obvious.
I interviewed him on my radio show, check itunes for Rob Kall to download the podcast.
on December 1, 2011
Joseph Nye has written yet another wonderful book. It is rooted in many years of scholarship and in a careful reading of the existing literature. The book proposes new concepts (e.g. "smart power"), and summarizes a vast amount of information and previous analyses. Nye's arguments helps all of us understand the new dynamics of global power in the twenty-first century. In particular, his analysis of the dynamic between China and the U.S. is most illuminating. A must read for everyone interested in where the world is going.