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The Future of Power

The Future of Power

3.7 9
by Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

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Power evolves. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, unsurpassed in military strength and ownership of world resources, the United States was indisputably the most powerful nation in the world. But the global information age is rendering these traditional markers of power obsolete. To remain at the pinnacle of world power, the United States must adopt a


Power evolves. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, unsurpassed in military strength and ownership of world resources, the United States was indisputably the most powerful nation in the world. But the global information age is rendering these traditional markers of power obsolete. To remain at the pinnacle of world power, the United States must adopt a strategy that considers the impact of the internet on global power resources. The Future of Power examines what it means to be powerful in the twenty-first century and illuminates the road ahead.

Editorial Reviews

Ian Morris
…interesting…judicious…compelling. Nye is a master of his field at the height of his powers.
—The Washington Post
Kirkus Reviews

Illuminating analysis of the mechanisms of power shaping global politics.

Nye Jr.'s latest book (International Relations/Harvard Univ.; The Powers to Lead, 2008, etc.) steers the traditional debate over power politics into a new direction, proving that power does not depend solely on domination and manipulation but on cooperation. As non-national institutions continue to develop, the world's most powerful nations must act as stewards of peace, not the usurpers of dominion. There are three major forms of power: hard, soft and smart. Hard power uses force to achieve desired goals but is only truly successful in specific contexts in which its use is considered necessary. The legitimacy of hard power often depends on the legitimacy of a nation's culture and ideas, which are theintangibleresources used to develop soft power. As the author writes, "[d]uring the Cold War, military deterrence helped to prevent Soviet aggression in Europe, while the soft power of culture and ideas ate away at belief in communism behind the Iron Curtain." Soft power may be an appealing alternative to the military solutions common to hard-power politics, but is not always legitimate. Propaganda, for instance, is a method of soft power. Nye suggests a new, more comprehensive approach called "smart power," which is a combination of the two. If the United States is going to remain the strongest power in the world throughout the 21st century—amid the growing challenges of terrorism and nuclear proliferation; political Islam and how it develops; the rise of a hostile hegemony like China; an economic depression; and vast ecological or climate change—it will need to develop a cooperative, smart-power strategy. The author's sober, rigorous analysis anchors a debate that seems to be squirming from the grip of most media.

A great reminder that fear and hate are not the only tools used to sell books these days—a substantial work that should be read by anyone with an interest in how politics works.

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What People are Saying About This

Walter Isaacson
“Power once came from controlling the sea lanes. In the future, Joe Nye explains, it will come from the ability to navigate the information lanes of cyberspace and control the narrative that influences people. Sweeping in its themes but specific in its examples, this book is exciting to read and fascinating to contemplate.”
—Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of The Aspen Institute
Madeleine Albright
“Joseph Nye is America’s foremost expert on the substance, diversity, uses, and abuses of power. He writes with insights that a president or secretary of state would find valuable, and makes foreign policy less foreign for every reader. If your goal is to understand world affairs in the twenty-first century, there could be no better guide than The Future of Power.
—Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State

Meet the Author

Joseph S. Nye, Jr. is University Distinguished Professor and former Dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He has served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, chair of the National Intelligence Council, and a deputy under secretary of state. The author of many books, he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the British Academy, and the American Academy of Diplomacy.

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The Future of Power 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
WilmaGranada More than 1 year ago
In his book The Future of Power, Joseph Nye analyzes the progression of power and the possible manners in which it may be used in the future. He particularly focuses on how it can be used by China and the United States and contends that the United States must reassess its current status as a “smart power” in order to keep up with the progression of power in the world. Nye supports his thesis by first establishing that power involves more than military forces and economic stability (hard power) and that soft power is also required for producing desired results. Second, he states that a nation must understand how power has transitioned and has shifted as a result of the wide availability of information through the Internet. Nye asserts that China and the United States should not view power as means of domination. Instead, he argues that cooperation would produce more political stability for both countries. According to Nye, combining the hard and soft powers of China and the United States along with an understanding of the transition of power would strenghten the two nations. Before these nations can unite, however, Nye stresses that the United States must first establish its own goals and resources (hard power), and then it must determine how those resources could be used to accomplish the goals. He refers to this combination as "smart power." Nye successfully conveys his ideas in a clear, concise manner. He includes several examples from world history to support his ideas. The only aspect that posed as a flaw is that his extensive use of examples and analytical references throughout the book have the tendency to interrupt the flow of the book. Nevertheless, Nye's book provides a great resource for those looking to broaden their view of power in the world in the twenty-first century and beyond.
LucyBarkley More than 1 year ago
“Made in China.” While many Americans complain about China’s commercial dominance, few have proposed a working blueprint to dictate successful relations between China and the United States. Could China, a totalitarian government, and the United States, a democratic country, have a synergetic relationship? This book, Joseph Nye’s The Future of Power, analyzes the history and future of the ongoing power struggle between the United States and various other nations, most notably China. Nye argues that, in order to peacefully and successfully participate with the recently rapid growth of China, it is crucial for the United States to acquire a symbiotically beneficial relationship. To accomplish this fantastic feat, Nye argues that the United States must take advantage of the world’s major forms of power: cyberpower, diffusion, hard power, soft power, military power, and economic power. He defines the perfect harmony of these powers as an equilibrium called “smart power.” Nye does an excellent job of portraying his opinion that America will soon fall servant to China unless we use smart power to reach out and successfully merge Chinese commercial dominance and American democratic values. This, he claims, will form the world superpower: Chimerica. Despite Nye’s compelling argument, I found his revolutionary ideas to be drowned by extensively lengthy historical examples. Such massive usage of past occurrences frequently made me lose interest in his main points, although my attention was soon refocused upon finding another groundbreaking concept. The Future of Power is an outstanding novel that forces you to challenge the boundaries of common assumptions and recognize the urgency of Chinese-American relations. All those with an interest in learning more about Chimerican possibilities and international relations will enjoy this phenomenal book!
Claude_Hilksmith More than 1 year ago
From cover to cover, this book is filled with great information. Nye asserts that political power has fallen in the past years and states that we should therefore reassess our position in terms of power and propose a balance between powers in order to continue a growing trend in power. In the beginning, Nye covers different aspects of power within the world and claims that power it-it-of itself cannot be nailed down to a single definition. Continuing through the discussion, Nye notes specific events in United States and world histories that has effected world powers of all different sorts. By the end of the book, Nye states his claim, using many examples from throughout his book to back it up. However, I believe that Nye utilized far more citations than was necessary and as a result of this, his overall claim began to lose itself as I read through his work. I think that the book, as a whole, was very informative and allowed me to understand some of the worlds present political conditions. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for commentary on present conditions in the world and their proposed explanations.
Everlily_Green More than 1 year ago
Dr. Joseph Nye Jr. takes a look at the abstract concept of power, and tries to put it in perspective for the odd reader who is not a professor of international relations at Harvard University. He begins the book by saying that although power cannot be concretely defined, one of the better ways to describe it is, basically, as the ability to affect others to produce the outcomes that one wants. He then says that, put simply, there are two kinds of power, hard and soft. Hard power is the use of force to achieve ones ends, a prominent example being military power, while soft power is the more subtle use of non-violent persuasion and attraction to sway another to your way of thinking. Nye says that the signs of power and the determining factors in who is the most dominant in the world are always changing, and gives examples, such as the monetary and land ownership of Spain gave them an edge in the 16th century, and how Britain’s innovation and naval prowess was the source of their power in the 1800’s. Nye’s main thesis states that as we enter the information era of the 21st century, power is likely to be defined in a new manner, by the individual, and the story of each nation, and if America does not recognize this and harness that power effectively, they are likely to slip down the world’s ladder of supremacy. Nye also states that America cannot accomplish its goals alone, if it is to succeed it must have partners. So basically, America must use “smart power,” which combines soft and hard power, while using effective strategies to coerce or attract others depending on the situation. Also, American politicians need to realize that military dominance is not the defining aspect of power anymore, and adjust to keep their influence in the world in the future. This book is very well written, and it has many very good examples. It makes its point very quickly, and returns to it at the end of the book. It was very complicated in some places, but the summation of his main points at the end of the book was very helpful. Although the examples relate to the topic, since there were so many of them, the book seemed to stretch on, and the point was lost as he spoke about how terrorism is aided by Facebook. Therefore, the books only downfall in my eyes was that it had so many examples to support its point, that the point was forgotten in the middle of it. Other than that, I would recommend this book for its excellent thought provoking arguments.
Praetor More than 1 year ago
Joseph Nye weaves historical lessons into this analysis of America's power and influence in the 21st century. The rise of nations such as Brazil, Russia, India and China as major players in a global economy brings some legitimacy to Nye's strategy of deploying "smart power" in order to achieve desirable outcomes. There is more than a hint of Nye's political leanings through his select use of examples but certainly he raises interesting points worthy of debate. Even if you don't agree with his conclusions and methodology The Future of Power will certainly encourage thoughtful debate to important topics in international relations.
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