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Relating Hard Power and Soft Power

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Relating Hard and Soft Power
Power is not black and white. Power is a shade of gray. What is power to one individual or state may not be considered power to another individual or state. Each international relations theory provides its own unique, largely ambiguous definition of power. Realism says that power is derived from military capabilities and to a lesser extent a state’s potential military abilities embodied in population size and economic resources available for conversion into military assets. (Shirk, “Realism” 2014) Liberalism and constructivism agree that while military and economic power are certainly important, a state’s economic power is not merely a mechanism to potentially strengthen military capacity but an influential factor that can be used to weaken an adversary. Likewise, a state’s international standing in well-established institutions like the World Trade Organization or the United Nations can greatly influence relations between states and should be considered a form of power. (Shirk, “Liberalism” 2014) Realism’s definition of power is more concerned with hard power, or a state’s ability to force another to behave in a manor it otherwise would not through military or economic means. Liberalism and constructivism’s definitions of power, though different, largely focus on soft power, or one state’s ability to convince another state that it wants what the first state wants too. (Shirk, “Power” 2014) Both kinds of power, hard and soft, do exist and are successfully implemented on the world stage. However, soft power has limits and is difficult not only to obtain, but to implement and maintain without a hard power base to lean on for support. For these reasons, hard power is slightly more relevant than soft power but power as a whole can only be optimized when both are achieved.
Soft power is certainly not without strengths and...

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