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Smart power and US leadership: a critique of Joseph Nye

Cammack, Paul (2008) Smart power and US leadership: a critique of Joseph Nye. ISSN 1793-5794

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This paper subjects Joseph Nye’s advocacy of soft power (recently repackaged as ‘smart’ power) to critical scrutiny, and reflects on the implications for US global leadership. It shows that Nye’s position is far from multilateralist, still insisting as it does on hard power supremacy and the need for America to lead. It then argues that the case made is weak, both in theory (because of a misuse of collective action theory) and in practice (because of the evidence he himself provides that America is unable to provide constructive, co-operative leadership). It concludes that the best contribution that America could make to global stability would be to relinquish the claim to leadership, not only in cases where it is at odds with the international community, or widely seen as itself the source of instability, but particularly in cases where shared perspectives regarding common goals and approaches do exist.

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