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The Future of Power

The world of the 21st century is extremely different from that of the 20th century. The former was based in the physical realm, largely structured, and dominated by state actors with high barriers to entry. Global politics in their current state are in many ways the exact opposite: the rise of the Internet has enfranchised non-state actors and encouraged multiplicity, creating a world characterized by volatility and asymmetry. Joseph Nye’s “The Future of Power” defines and characterizes various forms of power, placing particular influence upon the role of soft power and its increasing importance in a globalizing world. By contrasting how power was held and employed in the 20th century with how it is held and employed now, Nye implores that scholars’ definition and understanding of power must be changed in order to adapt and change as the world does. He places emphasis on the increasing role of soft power, the diminishing monopoly of power held by state actors, and the diffusion of power from places like the United States to places like China. Although the intent of the article is largely to quell fears that conflate the rise of China and other Asian nations with the decline of the U.S., Nye proves that such claims are unfounded through a thorough examination of power in many forms, citing the information revolution and spread of the cyber realm as sources not only of power transfer but also of power diffusion. Key words: -Hard power: The “stick” and the “carrot”—coercion, brute force, payments, etc. -Soft power: Attraction and persuasion -Power transition: Movement of power from state actors to other state actors (e.g. from the United States to China) -Power diffusion: Movement of power from state actors to non-state actors -State Actor: The government of a country -Non-state actor: Individuals, corporations, NGOs, etc.—any entity that is not a national government -Information Revolution: Spread of access to information via the rise of the Internet and fall of computing and telecommunications costs
Joseph Nye
Bulletin of the American Academy
Input By: 
Clare Doyle
Industry Focus: 
Internet & Cyberspace
United States of America