HKS Authors

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Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, Emeritus


In this paper, I respond to the editors request that I look back on the concept of soft power that I first published in 1990. I describe my approach to power; explain the origins of the soft power concept in relation to the academic debates in international relations, and respond to several criticisms of the concept. I then discuss coercion and voluntarism illustrated by the concept of sharp power, and conclude by describing the evolution of the concept in relation to policy interests of several countries.


Nye, Joseph S. "Soft power: the evolution of a concept." Journal of Political Power 14.1 (February 2021): 196-208.