Hard, Soft, and Smart Power – Education as a Power Resource

by Aigerim Raimzhanova (Author)
Thesis 180 Pages
Series: Dia-Logos, Volume 22


In the current global context, there is a shift in power paradigm from the rigid realpolitik perspective towards the inclusion of multiple faces of power. This publication focuses on the power forms identified by Joseph Nye: hard, soft, and smart, and evaluates education as a resource of power. Resource ambiguity is one of the key shortcomings of soft power theory. Education is a smart power resource since it has both hard and soft power characteristics. The case study of Kazakhstan reveals that international educational programs allow education to become a power resource.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Chapter 1 Introduction
  • Chapter 2 Power
  • Chapter 3 Issues of Soft Power
  • Chapter 4 Education as a Resource of Smart Power
  • Chapter 5 Empirical Case Study
  • Chapter 6 Education as a Power Resource in Kazakhstan
  • Chapter 7 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Series index

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List of figures

Figure 1. Power (Nye, J. 2008)

Figure 2. Hard power resources

Figure 3. Soft power resources (Nye, J. 2008)

Figure 4. Soft power resources (McClory, J. 2011)

Figure 5. Soft power resources (McClory, J. 2015)

Figure 6. Soft power resources (Raimzhanova, A. 2015)

Figure 7. Soft power resources expanded (Raimzhanova, A. 2015)

Figure 8. Education in soft power theory

Figure 9. Education in hard power resource framework

Figure 10. Relationship between Education, Human Capital, and Economic Growth

Figure 11. Resource of Education

Figure 12. Smart power

Figure 13. Smart power resources

Figure 14. Smart power resources Alternative

Figure 15. Education in the hard-soft-smart power framework

Figure 16. Map of Kazakhstan

Figure 17. Kazakhstan’s power resources

Figure 18. Education as a power resource in Kazakhstan

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Chapter 1.

Power has represented a key topic of interest to academics throughout the ages and remains a central subject in various disciplines today. Despite a great deal of attention, however, there are notable debates over power’s definition and features that lead to the topic’s ambiguity and complexity.

Power derives from the Latin potere, which means, “to be able.” It is generally used to describe a property, ability, or capacity to affect things.1 The word lies at the center of a semantic field that includes authority, influence, coercion, force, violence, manipulation, strength, and so forth.2 At its most general, power means the capacity to bring about outcomes3 or the ability to affect others to achieve the outcomes one wants.4 Alternatively, power can be defined as “the production, in and through social relations, of effects that shape the capacities of actors to determine their circumstances.”5 Furthermore, power could be viewed not as the property of an individual, but instead, as a property of a group and exist only as long as the group is together.6 In an attempt to study power, scholars have responded to the breadth of the topic by narrowing their views on power and its methodological and normative schemas. However, Power is far too complex in its sources, effects, and production to be reduced to one dimension.7

According to Petersen, progress in the understanding of power depends on changing the focus of theory development from quests for consensus on the definitions to research agendas that are aimed at progressive refinements of distinctions between different types of power.8 Moreover, Baldwin argues that although power is an ancient research focus, there are many opportunities for further ← 11 | 12 → studies, including in the field of different forms of power.9 Many aspects of Power are still not well understood; for instance, the notion of power as hard and soft.

Joseph Nye, a prominent political scientist, split power into two forms: hard and soft. Hard or command power is linked to the oldest understanding of power, in which nation-states exist in a system of anarchy and, as a result of not having a higher authority, have to rely on power politics. Hard power could be defined as an ability to reach one’s goals through coercive actions or threats, the so-called ‘carrots’ and ‘sticks’ of international politics. Traditionally, “power in international relations has been defined and assessed in easily quantifiable ‘hard’ terms, often understood in the context of military and economic might.”10 Hard power is “the exercise of influence through coercion and relies on tactics like military intervention, coercive diplomacy, inducements of payment, and economic sanctions.”11

Meanwhile, soft power, according to Nye, “rests on the ability to shape the preferences of others” and is “associated with intangible assets such as attractive personality, culture, political values, institutions, and policies that are seen as legitimate or having moral authority.”12 Soft power strategies avoid the use of coercive instruments. Instead, they persuade “by using networks, developing and communicating compelling narratives, establishing international norms, building coalitions, and drawing on the key resources that endear one country to another.”13 In other words, “hard power is push; soft power is pull.”14

The relevance of soft power is increasing as the global geopolitics is currently in the process of a fundamental transformation. The dynamics of global power is rapidly changing, which causes “extensive economic and political changes affecting ← 12 | 13 → all nations.”15 For instance, economic and political power is slowly distributing from West to East. Rapid industrialization, demographic changes, modernization and the spread of modern technology have enhanced the capabilities of emerging states. As a group, the developing states are becoming active participants in global policy-making, symbolizing a shift in the global center of power from the developed West toward the emerging East or, alternatively, from North to South.16

Furthermore, the nation-states are no longer the only key global players today. As non-state actors start to play an influential role in world affairs, global power seems to shift away from states altogether toward multinational corporations.17 Nye attributes the diffusion of power from state to private actors to the factors of modernization, urbanization, and increased communication in developing countries.18 The era of broadening and deepening global flows will continue to create new opportunities for emerging governments and a wider range of companies to achieve growth and participate in the global policymaking.19

The shifting landscape of power is the result of two global trends: “the rise of networks as the driving force in global affairs and the digital revolution, meaning that world events increasingly play out online.”20 The challenges and opportunities will rarely be contained within national borders. To achieve preferred policy outcomes and multiply their power, states would now have to cooperate with other players.21 In sum, as a result of power diffusion among actors, technological advances, and empowered global public and networks, international politics are undergoing a fundamental shift.22 Nye argues: “In this more complex and ← 13 | 14 → multi-polar world, the limits of hard power–the use of force, threats, sanctions or payments–are more evident.”23 According to the author, the growing social mobilization re-emphasizes the use of intangible forms of power and makes the factors of technology, education, and economic growth as significant as geography, population, and resources.24

The new global paradigm makes the renegotiation of international relations and the reshaping of policies critical. Meanwhile, the imperative to study soft power stems not only from the growing relevance of soft power but also from the need to critically assess its conceptual foundation. In International Relations (IR) theory, Power has been historically viewed in the realm of the realist school. Realism has been the dominant theory of world politics since the beginning of the Academy of International Relations.25 The belongingness of power to the realist tradition, however, has generated a limit for the concept of power.26 Baldwin argues that the importance of military force–a key focus of the realist school–has been previously exaggerated, while “the role of nonmilitary forms of power has been underestimated.”27 As Bilgin and Elis state:

The centrality of power—in its various guises—to the theory and practice of world politics is impossible to overlook. What is often overlooked, however, are the less visible expressions of power that are difficult to examine in the ways in which one can observe and document the projection of military power. Merely focusing on the projection of military power, while useful on its own terms, has nevertheless impoverished our understanding of the productive role [of] other forms of power.28 ← 14 | 15 →

Hence, Stefano Guzzini, among others, has strongly argued for the expansion of the dimensions of power.29 Although the idea of soft power and its resources is not new,30 it is only now that soft power is developing conceptually. Scholars and practitioners start to increasingly recognize that the world is in need of a shift from old assumptions and rigid distinctions about ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ power.31 As Mattern argues:

Military prowess and economic accumulation–both commonly recognized as hard power–are the uncontested baseline for thinking about power among IR scholars, but dissatisfaction with this simplistic conceptualisation has spurred myriad inquiries into other facets and forms of power.32

However, a wider usage of the soft power concept does not symbolize wider understanding.33 There are many paths one can pursue in soft power research: Which forms of power are more relevant in today’s global framework and why? Is soft power more effective than hard power? What are the moral implications of soft power use? These issues have been probed at and discussed in a number of publications. To conduct innovative and topical scholarly research, the author of this monograph has decided to focus on one of the most urgent issues in soft power: the topic of resources. As stated by Nye: ← 15 | 16 →

According to Nye, the three resources that soft power of a nation-state is based on are its culture, political values, and foreign policies.35 Nye’s categorization of soft power resources has stimulated the appearance of other influential works, in particular, the research of Jonathan McClory. In evaluating soft power components, McClory expanded on Nye’s pillars and assessed the soft power of countries according to the following five categories: Government (political values of the country), Culture (a set of practices that created meaning for the society), Diplomacy (foreign policy), Education, and Business/Innovation.36 In 2015, McClory presented a new report on soft power, which included an updated categorization of soft power resources and now included a ‘Digital’ component as well.37


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (September)
Resource of Education Foreign Politics of Kazakhstan International education in Kazakhstan Education and Economic Growth Conceptual weaknesses of soft power
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018. 180 S., 36 s/w Abb.

Biographical notes

Aigerim Raimzhanova (Author)

Aigerim Raimzhanova studied International Relations at the University of Rochester (NY, USA) and Management at the Regents University (London, UK). She has obtained a Ph.D degree from the University of Bucharest and the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin, Germany.


Title: Hard, Soft, and Smart Power – Education as a Power Resource