Since "power" is such an important concept in political science, political scientists have categorized power into three categories: hard power, soft power, and "smart" power. Hard power is the most traditional conceptualization of power and involves force or coercion. Soft power, popularized by scholar and U.S. government official Joseph Nye, is power through persuasion or attraction. Lastly, "smart power" involves the strategic use of soft and/or hard power, depending on the situation.
This article offers critiques of the concept of soft power in contemporary international relations. Hallam questions whether the debate over hard and soft power is outdated, particularly considering the Obama administration's emerging emphasis on "smart power" and the challenges of national security in an unstable international system. As you read, consider the importance of power in political science and think about how power can be exercised. What do you think is the most effective: hard, soft, or smart power?