Author(s): Nikola M. Kosović
Subject(s): Government/Political systems, International relations/trade, Methodology and research technology, Studies in violence and power, Sociology of Politics
Published by: Институт за политичке студије
Keywords: soft power;international relations; Joseph Nye; measuring; methodology; research; Russia; Serbia;

Summary/Abstract: This paper suggests a new methodological approach to measuring the amount of soft power a country has at its disposal. This approach investigates the origins, contemporary manifestations and perspectives of soft power in bilateral international relations. The article begins with a thorough discussion about the theoretical background behind the concept of soft power and currently existing methodological approaches to its measuring. The author states that the term “soft power”, which is becoming ever more popular in political science and international relations, was first mentioned in 1990 by Joseph S. Nye, who later defined it as the ability to influence the behavior of others to get the desired outcomes not by using force, coercion or payment, but through attractiveness. Nye also determined three main sources of a country’s soft power: its culture, political values and foreign policies, but, as argued in this paper, neither Nye nor any other author has provided any methodological instructions on how to quantitatively measure the amount of this resource a country has at its disposal, which is a major drawback of this concept. In order to provide evidence for this point, the author proceeds with an in-depth overview of existing literature, reflecting on the most well-known indexes and researches, and pointing out to their strengths and weaknesses, as well as a serious lack of practical use for policy makers. The next part of this article is dedicated to explaining and arguing for a new methodological approach to observing and quantifying soft power in international relations. The author’s main argument is that the hallmark of soft power is not uniformity of application, but its variation. In practice, this means that some elements of soft power that are useful for Russia in its relations with Belarus, or for USA in Mexico, might not be equally effective between Russia and Ukraine and USA and Canada. Therefore, the investigation and measurement of sources of one country’s soft power should be conducted on a case-by-case basis by observing specific elements of soft power and their concrete application in bilateral relations. In other words, to be able to give firmly grounded policy recommendations, one needs to know the answer to a key question – what matters for members of a particular society. Ideally, this can be achieved through conducting an opinion poll among the citizens of the country of interest. This opinion poll should address all three aspects of soft power, as defined by Nye. Since all of these aspects can be further divided into separate sub-elements, the questions should ideally address all of them. The dependent variable in this research would be the people’s opinion about a certain country (whether it is favorable or unfavorable), while the independent ones would concern different elements of soft power. Depending on the obtained data, methods that could be used to analyze them would be either an optimal regression model, or a chi-square test, which would assess the influence of different soft power elements on determining the opinion about other countries. The final part of the paper is dedicated to the possible application of this methodology in a case study of the Russian soft power capabilities in Serbia. The author provides arguments that Russia is the most popular country among Serbian citizens, although due to many facts this might seem a bit odd. Therefore, the argument goes, this case is an interesting one to research since this means that there are elements of the Russian soft power that matter to Serbs more than what could be expected to negatively influence the image of Russia in this country. The author then provides a clear overview of this research and instructions about what the structure and the contents of the questionnaire that could be used in this research should look like in order to answer the key research question of why Russia is so popular among the citizens of Serbia.

  • Issue Year: 2015
  • Issue No: 4
  • Page Range: 53-73
  • Page Count: 21
  • Language: Serbian