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Power in International Relations

Power is the ability on the part of a person to produce a change to another person by doing or not doing something otherwise would not to do. Based on that definition the elements of power can be extracted which are: there must be at least two persons who disagree with each other; one person has ability to change the idea or decision of other person by doing or not doing something; such ability is either political, military, informational or economic power; and after the use of such ability it produce a change on the part of other person which would otherwise would not do.

Power in international relations is defined in several different ways. Political scientists, historians, and practitioners of international relations (diplomats) have used the following concepts of political power as a goal of states or leaders; as a measure of influence or control over outcomes, events, actors and issues; as reflecting victory in conflict and the attainment of security; and as control over resources and capabilities. It is described as the degree of resources, capabilities, and influence in international affairs.

It is often divided up into the concepts of hard power and soft power. Hard power relates primarily to coercive power, such as the use of force. It relies on the willingness of at least some people to “go along” with it. More importantly, hard power’s effectiveness is largely determined by the numbers of people who “go along” with it. Or, in other words, it can only be effective where there is a reasonable assumption that a large number of people will draw desired conclusions about it — which they will go along.

Soft power is commonly covering economics, diplomacy and cultural influence. This power rests on the ability to mold the interest of others. In the business world, smart executives know that leadership is not just a matter of issuing commands, but also involves leading by example and attracting others to do what you want. Both powers are related because they have the same goal which is the ability to achieve one’s purpose by affecting the behavior of others.

But in one of degree a distinction between hard and soft power is, the former is the ability to change what others do by coercion or inducement while the latter is the ability to shape what others want on the attractiveness of one’s culture and values or the ability to manipulate the agenda of political choices in a manner that makes others fail to express. In reality soft power has always been proven a key element of leadership. It is proven to be one of the means in being successful in world politics.

The power to attract—to get others to want what you want, to frame the issues, to set the agenda—has its roots in thousands of years of human experience. Skillful leaders have always understood that attractiveness stems from credibility and legitimacy. Power has never flowed solely from the barrel of a gun; even the most brutal dictators have relied on attraction as well as fear. Realist believes that power is above all else. It maintains that the relationships between states are determined by their comparative level of power derived primarily from their military and economic capabilities.

While to the liberalists use of military power should be limited. It argues that the states should intervene in other sovereign states in order to pursue liberal objectives. Such intervention includes military intervention and humanitarian aid. In some senses realist prefer to use hard power while liberalist use soft power to fulfill their goal. Both realist and liberalist is concerned how power is exercised while the critical approach is concerned about how power is experienced.

Critical approach is considered as a multi-perspectives approach, including the disciplines of philosophy, psychology, sociology, political science, linguistics, and cultural studies. Economic power in global market is the most persuasive understanding of power today. Because what is now commonly accepted is that any country that has abilities to globally influence or even directly control prices to certain countries is considered as powerful. The informational, military and political powers are only secondary to economic power.

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