The soft power-soft disempowerment nexus: the case of Qatar
journal contributionposted on 09.07.2018, 13:32 by Paul M. Brannagan, Richard GiulianottiRichard Giulianotti
In 1990, Joseph Nye coined the term ‘soft power’ to refer to the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion. Since its inception, the concept has featured as a consistent analytic tool for explaining the motives underpinning states’ international affairs. There are, however, four areas in which soft power is open to critical scrutiny. First, research has centred on large and/or developed nations, notably in North America, Europe, and South and East Asia. Second, scholars have called for greater clarity of the concept, noting that it lacks clear explanation of how instances of attraction equate to various power outcomes. Third, others suggest Nye produces an Americanized-centric understanding of soft power, equating to a narrow-focused account of what constitutes ‘attraction’. Finally, research has failed to examine how states’ soft power attempts can backfire, leading to what we call ‘soft disempowerment’. Drawing on the case of Qatar – with a particular focus on the state’s acquisition of the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals - we seek to offer responses to these criticisms, by refining the concept of soft power to take account of variegated power outcomes, to do so in relation to a small-state, non-American context, and to explore the intersections of soft power and soft disempowerment. In doing so, we introduce the ‘soft power-soft disempowerment nexus’ which, we go on to argue, affords an analytical framework for examining how soft power works and how it may be hampered through negative international scrutiny.
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