Öppet seminarium

Why Soft Power is Not So Soft

Datum: 25 april 2024
Tid: 08:30–10:00

Venue: Institutet för framtidsstudier, Holländargatan 13, level 4, i Stockholm

Welcome to a light brekfast before the seminar from 08.00.


Soft power played a critical role in the most significant socio-political transformation of the twentieth century- the breakup of the Soviet Union and the spread of democracy to Eastern Europe. Yet the power of soft power is often not fully recognized.

Equally importantly, the 21st century environment for international affairs and diplomacy - twenty-four/seven news and media, citizen journalism, social media, and the rise of non-state actors make the exercise of soft power challenging. You have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

Extremists and authoritarians get why culture matters; why don’t we? Extremists and authoritarians ban music, television, films, and books. They destroy historical monuments and artifacts, and they rewrite historical narratives to conform to their ideology. They recognize the power of culture to create identity, to unify disparate groups, to build resilience, and so they attack culture in order to exert total control. As Nobel Prize winning author Wole Soyinka said, “Culture humanizes while politics demonizes.” And yet, culture is often neglected or sidelined in the context of major diplomatic challenges. This talk will explain why that is a mistake, and will explore the potential of culture to play a larger role in addressing key diplomacy and international relations challenges.

We have the honor of welcoming Ambassador Cynthia P. Schneider PhD, who teaches, publishes, and speaks about the importance of culture in diplomacy and international affairs, while putting these ideas into practice everywhere from war zones to Hollywood writers’ rooms. At Georgetown University she teaches courses in Diplomacy and Culture and co-directs the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, a joint signature initiative between Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and College of Arts and Sciences, with the mission of  humanizing global politics through the power of performance. Based on her experiences as an Ambassador she now teaches, publishes, and speaks about the importance of culture in diplomacy and international affairs, while putting these ideas into practice everywhere from war zones to Hollywood writers' rooms.

Discussant: Carl Tham, former politician, and civil servant. Served as Ambassador in Berlin 2002–2006

Moderator: Folke Tersman, Deputy Director at the Institute for Futures Studies, and Chair Professor in Practical Philosophy

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