2014-09-03 Soft Power panel at CRESC Annual Conference, Manchester

Ben O'Loughlin is part of a panel kicking off this year's CRESC Annual Conference in Manchester on 3rd September 2015. The panel, Soft Power and its Critiques, also features Marie Gillespie and Robin Brown, two experts on international communication and public diplomacy.

The aim of this panel is to offer a range of critical perspectives on contemporary conceptions of soft power as well as questioning how soft power strategies are applied in practice:

  • How are users 'engaged' by soft power initiatives?
  • To what extent is soft power a global concept?
  • How do governments attempt to harness and use soft power?
  • How has British soft power evolved from an analogue to a digital world?

The panel addresses the following critical questions:

What’s new about soft power? How does it differ from older forms of 'cultural imperialism'?

Why are European powers disinvesting in media/public diplomacy and soft power initiatives at a time when rising powers are investing? Are the kinds of values that have featured prominently in western soft power strategies (tolerance, pluralism, cultural diversity, impartiality) losing some of their leverage?

Is soft power just another stage in the advance of Public Relations as the art form for politics par excellence? What does ‘power’ look like beyond the nation state? How are soft power strategies affected by the rise of transnational and supranational communities beyond the nation on one hand, and of multiple diasporas within nation states on the other hand?

If we wish to attend, please register here.

O'Loughlin is former Specialist Adviser to the House of Lords Select Committee on Soft Power, which published its final report earlier this year, while Gillespie has just published a new report examining how the BBC World Service and British Council are using digital media to fulfil their cultural diplomacy functions. Robin Brown is completing a new comparative history of public diplomacy.