How Soft Power Works

19 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2009

See all articles by Alexander Vuving

Alexander Vuving

Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies

Date Written: September 1, 2009


Central questions of paper are: How does soft power works, and what makes soft power. I argue that the concept of soft power is often misunderstood; and that is not only because of its analytic fuzziness and the popular view of power as resources. To narrow the gap, I draw a distinction between power currencies and power resources and identify three generic soft power currencies that I call "beauty", or the resonance of shared norms and purposes; "brilliance", or the shine of capabilities and successes; and "benignity", or the kindness of behavior and attitude. The concept of power currency will enable one to draw a distinction between different ways of shaping preferences. I also assemble a list of common policy tools to project soft power.

Keywords: Soft Power, Smart Power

Suggested Citation

Vuving, Alexander, How Soft Power Works (September 1, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Alexander Vuving (Contact Author)

Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies ( email )

Honolulu, HI
United States

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