The limits of soft power

Murphy, Peter (2010) The limits of soft power. In: Black, Daniel, Epstein, Stephen, and Tokita, Alison, (eds.) Complicated Currents: media flows, soft power and East Asia. Monash University ePress, Clayton, Victoria, 15.1-15.14.

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Abstract

[Extract] Thesis I: Entertainment is no substitute for foreign policy, and the soft power of culture industries cannot replace the hard power of arms.

Thesis II: The power of the culture industries is no proxy for the power of art.

Thesis III: Only serious art that possesses a transcultural power can adequately address the great historical and political questions that confront nations at war or states embroiled in chronic conflict.

Distinguishing between art and the output of the culture industries in this way is unfashionable among contemporary intellectuals. So is any regard for the conventional force of arms. Intellectuals are not averse to violence - they habitually romanticize militant political movements with brutal agendas and militia armies - but regular organized military force leaves them cold. They look askance at the hard power of standing armies and navies. This attitude has a number of consequences, one of which is the idealization of the soft power of entertainment industries.

Such a viewpoint is a variant of Immanuel Kant's idea that nations that trade together do not go to war with each other (Kant 1970: 93-130). This is not true, and scaling back the thesis to focus on the trade in cultural commodities does not make it any truer.

Those who suggest that soft power can replace arms, and that political goals can be achieved by the avuncular influence of culture industries, direct their arguments at the United States in - particular; There is no need, proponents say, for the US to use force to remove bestial dictators or theocratic thugs from power. The same end - the institution of democracy - can be achieved by American entertainment industries: film, television, popular music, games, and so on. These industries have massive foreign markets, and they portray or insinuate attractive lifestyles. These are lifestyles that can only be reproduced under democratic conditions. Teenagers who want to play rap music are not going to be able to do so if tyrannical regimes like the Taliban are in power.

Item ID: 22553
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
ISBN: 978-0-9804648-9-4
Additional Information:

This book can be downloaded from Monash University ePress in ePub format (12.03.2013).

Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2013 00:24
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2001 Communication and Media Studies > 200101 Communication Studies @ 50%
22 PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES > 2203 Philosophy > 220319 Social Philosophy @ 50%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950299 Communication not elsewhere classified @ 50%
94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9402 Government and Politics > 940299 Government and Politics not elsewhere classified @ 50%
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