Soft Power: Good news for the ‘war on poverty’?

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Unconventional warfare (United States Departme...
Getting what you want.

People often refer to a ‘war on poverty’. I thought it would be interesting to see what expert historian and diplomat Joseph Nye would have to say about this perspective. I used this TED Talk as a reference.

One of the big ideas Nye has been writing about is a concept of ‘soft power’. This is relevant to the purpose of the 10 City Bridge Run- “to raise awareness of an individual’s capacity to act to influence extreme poverty.”

Nye argues that the stage is crowded- the State is no longer at the centre of the action. Non-government actors now have great influence. Often, this argument is used referring to terrorism and asymmetrical warfare, or maybe more appropriately the power of the media. Why shouldn’t it also refer to citizen-led movements, that is the collective action of individuals collectively acting for the same purpose?

Power, Nye argues, is the ability to influence others in order to get what you want. ‘Soft Power‘ is an expression he has coined to describe getting other people to want what you want so that there is no need for coercion or payment.

Nye argues that we need a new narrative. It is now a situation of whose story wins is what matters. Working together and in cooperation is the key to exercising soft power.

Power need not describe a zero-sum game, but can lead to a positive gain for everyone. We have to move to an ‘assurance game’ over the ‘Prisoners’ Dilemma’. This is what a citizen-led movement should strive to achieve. In fact, for a peaceful outcome it is the only real sustainable alternative. It is a question of a Power Shift- we must work with other non-government actors and those who exercise hard power. It is a journey we can’t take on our own.

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