Financial TimesFinancial Times

How soft power fell out of fashion

By Janan Ganesh

25 Apr 2023 · 3 min read

Editor's Note

The once-influential concept of soft power has lost its potency, claims The FT's Janan Ganesh. These days, countries are having to load up on lethal weapons as their geopolitical priorities change.

The omni-talented entertainer Barry Humphries died over the weekend. On Monday, his native Australia announced a new and enhanced defence posture. One way of engaging with the world as a middle power is fading. Another has just started.

In the middle of the last century, Humphries, Germaine Greer, Clive James and Robert Hughes brought their lively minds from Down Under to Up Over. Around the same time, Australia invested in film-makers and (with no small pay-off) sports coaches. Its wine penetrated foreign markets. Its coffee culture would become the world’s best, or at least fussiest. Throw in some favours from providence — sunshine, coastlines — and the projection of national charm was awesome.

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