Las Torres de Lucca. International Journal of Political Philosophy, Vol 6, No 10 (2017)

Power, Soft or Deep? An Attempt at Constructive Criticism

Peter Baumann, Gisela Cramer


This paper discusses and criticizes Joseph Nye’s account of soft power. First, we set the stage and make some general remarks about the notion of social power. In the main part of this paper we offer a detailed critical discussion of Nye’s conception of soft power. We conclude that it is too unclear and confused to be of much analytical use. However, despite this failure, Nye is aiming at explaining an important but also neglected form of social power: the power to influence the will and not just the behavior of other agents. In the last part of this paper we briefly discuss Steven Lukes’ alternative view of a “third dimension” of power and end with a sketch of a more promising way to account for this neglected form of power.