ICCE OPEN LECTURE Influence and Attraction: A Debate on Soft Power – John Holden, Associate at think-thank Demos

ICCE OPEN  LECTURE

Wednesday, 27 November, 2pm-4pm, LG02 NAB

 

Influence and Attraction: A Debate on Soft Power

John Holden, Associate at think-thank Demos

John Holden presents the key findings of his report Influence and Attraction: Culture and the Race for Soft Power in the 21st Century 

In his own words:

“Cultural contact between nations used to involve high art and elite meetings: Harold Macmillan visiting the Bolshoi theatre in Moscow with Khrushchev in 1959 is a paradigmatic example. But in the 21st century both culture and communication have become democratised.  Cheap flights, 24 hour news, migration and the internet have combined to create a world of mass peer-to-peer communication; and the content of much of that communication is cultural. Culture – the means we use to express ourselves through art, film, music, dance, literature and so on – provides a bridge between people.

This has huge economic and social consequences that are discussed in the report. It also has political implications, because what happens in the cultural arena increasingly affects what politicians can do: cultural misunderstandings create political problems, while an ‘attractive’ culture gives nations a licence to operate, and a chance of being persuasive.

International relations is a rapidly developing field, with new players like cities and the private sector taking a role. It is also one where Western governments are decreasing spending – and hence ceding influence. By contrast, developing nations, and particularly the BRICS, see culture as an area where they need to be more active.

Hu Jintao greeted 2012 with these words: ‘The overall strength of Chinese culture and its international influence is not commensurate with China’s international status…The international culture of the West is strong while we are weak.”

Things are starting to change: K-pop is big in Peru, Brazil will host the next Olympics, and China has opened Confucius Institutes and Classrooms in 104 countries in the last seven years.

But the growth nations of the east and south will be making a big mistake if they think cultural relations are all about power and projection. The countries that ‘win’ this race for soft power will be those whose citizens are culturally, as well as intellectually and emotionally, intelligent. Nations need to spend as much time and effort learning about other cultures as they do on telling the world about their own cultures if they are to flourish in the next century.”

You can download the report here:

http://www.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/documents/influence-and-attraction-report.pdf

Interesting debate related with this report:

http://blog.britishcouncil.org/2013/06/19/soft-power-report/

Follow the UK’s Parliament committee’s discussions on Soft Power and the UK’s Influence:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/lords-select/soft-power-and-the-uks-influence/

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