A New Theory for the Foreign Policy Frontier: Collaborative Power
The power of many can accomplish more than any one can do alone — and that distinction is different than the traditional classification of hard and soft power
This past fall, I gave the inaugural Joseph S. Nye lecture at Princeton. Nye is perhaps the world's pre-eminent theorist of power; he coined the term "soft power" for the power of attraction versus "hard power," the power of coercion. (Full disclosure: he's also a mentor and an old friend.) I used the lecture to contrast what I then called bottom-up power to what I argued was Nye's concept of top-down power. But, on reflection, I think "collaborative power" is a better and more accurate term for the phenomenon I am trying to capture.
Nye distinguishes between "resource power" — resources that can produce outcomes, such as money, territory, etc — and "relational power," which he defines as "the capacity to do things and in social situations to affect others to get the outcomes we want." Borrowing from various different power theorists and adapting their concepts of power to international relations, Nye then identifies three distinct "faces" of relational power. First is "commanding change": getting people or groups to do things they don't want to do. Second is "controlling agendas": the bureaucrat's favorite ploy of framing "agendas for action that make others' preferences seem irrelevant or out of bounds." And third is "shaping preferences": using "ideas, beliefs, and culture to shape basic beliefs, perceptions and preferences." This is hardly the place to engage Gramsci, Foucault, Giddens, and the many others who have examined the deep social and political structures of power. So, for present purposes, think of how soft power — the attractive draw of Hollywood movies, American rock music, and the Declaration of Independence — have shaped preferences around the world.