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Soft power as perceived by foreign analysts: moving towards operationalizing the concept

Ivan A. Andreev National Research University Moscow Power Engineering Institute, Moscow, Russia,
mailto: v-andreev_07@mail.ru
ORCID ID=0000-0002-0765-3667
Soft power as perceived by foreign analysts: moving towards operationalizing the concept.
Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2020. Vol. 11. No. 3. P. 143-154

DOI: 10.19181/vis.2020.11.3.667

: 28.01.2020
This Article is downloaded: 191 times
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For citation:
Ivan A. Andreev. Soft power as perceived by foreign analysts: moving towards operationalizing the concept. Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2020. Vol. 11. No. 3. P. 143-154
DOI: https://doi.org/10.19181/vis.2020.11.3.667


This article is dedicated to the issue of operationalizing the concept of “soft power”, which was introduced into the discourses of social sciences and practical politics by American political analyst Joseph Nye. The main aspects of the issue are examined on the example of the widely popularized, and consequently bearing considerable political resonance, studies carried out by the British PR-agency Portland Communications, which is known for annually publishing “soft power” ratings of the world’s leading countries (the Top-30 Soft Power list), as well as analytical reports on the topic. The methodology proposed by said agency can basically be considered the first ever serious attempt at operationalizing the term “soft power”. This article comprehensively reveals the specifics of their methodology. The author describes how exactly it is constructed, while providing a detailed characterization of the indicators and sub-indicators it uses, and while showing how exactly it is used in actual research.

Based on the conducted analysis, both the strong and weak points of the operationalization developed by Portland Communications are determined. In particular, the article highlights the well-known randomness when it comes to choosing indexes, defining their significance and the degree of their contribution to the end result. At the same time, the author points out the ideological nature of the methodology used by western countries to put together their “soft power” ratings. A defining characteristic of these ratings is putting emphasis on such parameters that would give western countries, especially the USA and Great Britain, the opportunity to garner the most points. Meanwhile certain vital forms of exercising soft power were not adequately represented, namely those which are not currently possessed by the US or Western Europe (for example, issues associated with the political influence of religious ideas and values were completely neglected). As a result, the trends identified based on the methodology in question appear to be rather questionable in many cases.

The article also substantiates the need for developing new methods of describing and evaluating soft power, which would provide a more comprehensive and objective representation of the political experience of countries not belonging to the western world, including Russia.


political influence, political sympathies, soft power, operationalization, methodology, rating, indicators, culture, quality of management, digitalization


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