Editor’s Note: Joseph Nye is an American political scientist and former Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He currently holds the position of University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard University where he has been a member of the faculty since 1964. He has served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Chair of the National Intelligence Council, and Deputy Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology. He is an author of some great books including Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics; Understanding International Conflict; and The Power Game: A Washington Novel. In 2008 he published The Powers to Leadand his latest book published in 2011 is The Future of Power. He also spoke at TED on Global power shifts.
eTalk’s Niaz Uddin has interviewed Joseph Nye recently to gain insights about his ideas, research and works in the field of global politics which is given below.
Niaz: Dear Joseph, thank you so much for joining us. We are honored and thrilled to have you at eTalks.
Joseph: Thank you Niaz for having me.
Niaz: At the beginning of our interview, can you please tell us about ‘21st Century’s Global Leadership’?
Joseph: As the National Intelligence Council report on the world in 2030 concluded, the US is likely to remain the leading power in world politics, but it will be primus inter pares and have to pay attention to others.
Niaz: Who are the current aspiring global leaders to you?
Joseph: The most important is China, but Europe remains important when it is able to act as an entity, and India and Brazil are increasing their roles.
Niaz: As you know globalization, information technology, social media, technological innovation and digital media have been revolutionizing our life significantly. Now, in what kind of international world do we live?
Joseph: I use the term ‘Global Information Age’ to describe the current world.
Niaz: As the rise of globalization and as the spread of international community, how our society is changing? Is the way to achieve socio-political success also changing?
Joseph: I believe that global interdependence and the current communications revolution will continue to increase, so success will require adapting to these forces.
Niaz: Keeping in account this configuration, how do you see the near future?
Joseph: It will vary in different areas. I expect the US to remain strong, and China to grow at a slightly slower rate than in the past decade. I worry about how long it will take Europe and Japan to recover higher rates of economic growth. The future of the Middle East remains most uncertain.
Niaz: In 2004, you have published your book ‘Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics’. What does soft power mean?
Joseph: Power is the ability to affect others to get the outcomes you want, and that can be done by coercion, payment or attraction. Soft power is the ability to get the outcomes you want through attraction rather than coercion or payment.
Niaz: How is soft power the means to success in world politics?
Joseph: Soft power alone is rarely sufficient for success, but it is often necessary for long-term success.
Niaz: Some people have started to believe that Google is going to control the whole world. By this time, we have seen Google to use its monopoly power. Google’s search algorithms “decide” what is relevant and valuable. Isn’t it tempting for democratic and free-market states to seek control of these technologies in order to exert the kind of “soft power” you describe?
Joseph: Google is a powerful company, but it faces competition from other companies, and anti trust scrutiny from the European Union and the United States.
Niaz: In your book ‘The Power to Lead’ you argued that leaders need both soft power and hard power. Can you please tell us a bit about hard power? And how leaders can combine soft power and hard power?
Joseph: The ability to combine hard power (coercion and payment) with soft power in a manner in which they reinforce each other is what I call a smart power strategy.
Niaz: As you know there’s a dilemma between individual power and power of society, because if one person has power to attract and control whole society, what others can do?
Joseph: It is important to have constitutional limits to prevent one person from controlling the whole society. The American founding fathers accomplished this by creating checks and balances so that power could not concentrate in the chief executive. It makes for inefficient government, but it preserves liberties.
Niaz: We see from time to time, people with power dominate and control the whole society. As a result, mass people, businesses, democracy, capitalism suffer profoundly and the society starts malfunctioning. Can you please briefly tell us about how to use power to make our society a better place?
Joseph: In addition to the constitutional checks and balances, it is important to have a strong civil society, including a free press able and willing to criticize the government.
Niaz: And what are the responsibilities and roles political leaders should play to make sure that no one is abusing power?
Joseph: Self-restraint by leaders is also part of the solution.
Niaz: Can you please briefly tell us about your latest book, which was published in 2011, ‘The Future of Power’?
Joseph: The Future of Power has chapters on the meaning of power, military power, economic power, soft power and cyber power.
Niaz: Having said that, which countries are going to play major roles in the future power game?
Joseph: In addition to the US, China and other countries mentioned above, non state actors will play a larger role in future power games.
Niaz: What are the challenges for other countries? And how can they come forward and join in this power game.
Joseph: Keeping a strong civil society that is open to the outside world is crucial to success in the long term.
Niaz: Dear Joseph thanks again for your invaluable time. We are enlightened with your ideas, knowledge and experience. We wish you good luck for all of your endeavors. Take very good care of yourself.
Joseph: You’re welcome Niaz.
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