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Accepted Paper:

Enchanted by Powers: the Case of Russia  
Anton Gumenskiy (University of Warwick)

Paper short abstract:

The very concept of Soft Power leaves its followers the only possible strategy, which is a cargo cult. The long-term effect of the 'soft' activities is unknown, while in the short run mimicking 'good soft practices' is self-sufficient. And the false feeling of omnipotence is its direct consequence.

Paper long abstract:

While the concept of Soft Power sounds convincing and self-evident, the degradation of international political dialogue in general and the 'Russiagate' in particular can be viewed as its direct consequence, not a side effect.

Online networking, digital diplomacy, trolling, and 'black ops' on Facebook are all natural continuations and different shades of the same idea of winning peoples' hearts and minds with persuasion, rhetoric, and information manipulation if necessary.

An inherited inclination to performance, special effects, entertainment is another downside of the concept: fostering of public image results in deepening the gap between stage and backstage, building 'Potemkin villages', leads to the postmodernist reality-representation flip. The very idea of public image becomes a framework for political decision-making.

Finally an increased sensibility and vulnerability can be also concidered a result of Soft Power practices. Commoditization and export of social culture, traditions, everyday practices, food, and even language leaves nothing for private use, genuine and unprocessed.

On the other hand, 'what if we overestimate culture?' Despite the long-lasting brand-building efforts (since 2000s up to Sochi Olympiade 2014), the recent actions of the Russian government seem to indicate the prevalance of 'hard' reasons and interests over 'soft'.

The paper to be presented will attempt to scrutinize the concept of Soft Power in the light of seeming contradictions between soft and hard gestures of the Russian government on the global scale during the last decade.

Panel P134
What is soft about soft power? Critical engagements with an emerging form of statecraft
  Session 1 Friday 17 August, 2018, -