Conservative Soft Power: Liberal soft power bias and the ‘hidden’ attraction of Russia

Vincent Charles Keating, Katarzyna Kaczmarska

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Abstract

The study of soft power in international relations suffers from a liberal democratic bias. Throughout the literature, liberal concepts and values are assumed to be universal in their appeal. This bias has led scholars to underestimate Russian soft power by instrumentalizing it, that is, to see it purely as the effect of government-sponsored programs, and to focus primarily on the cultural pillar of soft power. This paper argues, alternatively, that Russia’s conservative values and illiberal governance models generate admiration and followership, even outside of what Russia claims to be its post-Soviet sphere of influence. Crucially, this admiration and followership perform the traditional function of soft power: generating support for controversial Russian foreign policy decisions. Admitting that soft power can be based on conservative values is necessary not only to understand Russia’s foreign policy potential, but also the ability of non-Western states to successfully challenge the Western liberal order.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of International Relations and Development
Volume22
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-27
ISSN1408-6980
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13. Mar 2019

Keywords

  • Russia
  • soft power
  • liberalism
  • conservatism
  • russia

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