Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Glocalization of Diplomacy

Persuading with soft power is easier said than done. Hard power is accomplished with a gun or a law but the root of soft power's influence is much less concrete. However, as the readings noted, it is just as important.

Nye notes that a country's soft power stems from its culture, values and policies. The main vehicle for transmitting this is normally public diplomacy. The most crucial resource for soft power and pubic diplomacy lies in the credibility backing it. This credibility can be undercut by illegitimate policies or culturally unacceptable points of view. If this happens, the soft power of a country is diminished and it becomes more difficult to persuade a country or government to agree with them.

However, the flex of soft power is also being used by groups such as Al Jazeera. Powers & Gilboa discuss the current perception in Arab states of Al Jazeera's credibility and its overwhelming popularity. This has brought it influence and power over the Arab and international political agenda. Powers & Gilboa call Al Jazeera a new form of public diplomacy that is "blurring of traditional distinctions between public and traditional diplomacy and between cultural diplomacy, marketing and news management."

What I found most intriguing about this discussion is that Powers & Gilboa tie Al Jazeera's success to a form of glocalization. They say it is a blend of the local Arab perspective with the global western media method and technologies in a "sign of symbolic equilibrium between the Occident and the Other." We have studied this blending of global and local with products that the global corporations are trying to sell but it was new to hear it discussed in the field of public diplomacy.

Perhaps this is the way diplomacy is moving in general. It is no longer a dictation, as James Glassman called it but a conversation. The new diplomacy conversation must absorb and involve local perspectives in order to achieve a global dialog and understanding.

1 comment:

  1. I also picked up on the theme in our readings of what could be termed as the "glocalization of public diplomacy." It struck me in the Powers and Gilboa piece when they spoke of how successful Al Jazeera would be if it were to become a political party. I'm not sure what all "Western" or "American" people think about the plausibility of a pan-Arab identity, but I have always gotten the impression from Western media that the Middle East was severely internally stratified. To think that there is a non-state actor who has faced down all the various forces of criticism and condemnation, whether it was from governments in the Middle East or the West, and appealed to the diverse audiences of the Arab world, what Al Jazeera has accomplished through its new model as a news media organization in the Middle East is really quite remarkable.