Hollywood as a weapon of imperialist soft-power. Political role of film industry
Joseph S. Nye’s concept of soft power may be perceived as an addition to imperialist hard power politics of United States. Even if we thoroughly study the main concepts of neoliberalism in international relations of which its author, along with Robert Keohane, is one of the founders and influential representatives, we easily find that even the idea of classical liberalism has strong ties with the notion of hegemony. If we look back as far as even to Immanuel Kant’s concept of ewige Frieden, we learn that liberal thinkers have always thought about creating a New World Order or a universal government – as they argued – being the only means to avoid wars and conflicts. The implications would be truly revolutionary for the whole existing order of international relations, as well as for the single, particular states. But the questions arose, which could not be answered by Kant and his followers, about the entity which would be interpreting the natural law, the highest tribunal in the so-called New World Order, with one common power centre. Those basic questions have not been answered by the modern followers of liberalism. In the XXth Century the idea has evolved, as the concept of „democratic peace” had been pot forward .
In the 90-ies its proponents have claimed that there are no wars waged between countries sharing similar values and constructing similar political and social systems. Thus war as such will be extinguished from human history, as soon as all countries of the world will adhere to the principles of liberal democracy. Therefore, it could be said that only single ideology grasping the whole world, regardless if different cultures, religions and civilizations could guarantee that there will be no more contradictions leading to military conflicts and clashes . But then again the question rises, similar to that which might be asked to Kant centuries ago: who will define the notion of democracy, and whose arbitrary decisions will include or exclude a country from a camp of ideologically united states of liberalism? American liberals seemed to be quite too optimistic when they propheted the end of history . The coming years made the neoliberal camp being more straightforward than its self-proclaimed idealist predecessors, who claimed that international institutions and / or organizations could become highest tribunals to judge the level of every country correctness in observing universal principles. John G. Ruggie in his article devoted to concept of multilateralism, so much promoted by the liberals, admited that every international regime or set of standards is a means to control actors of international relations by a single superpower . And Keohane openly confirmed – existing multilateral regime has been actually dictated by United States, after the demise of other superpowers, and has been designed so that it could not only correspond but even become a tool of realizing American national interests . The neoliberals, and Nye among them, are thus fairly more sincere than the liberals before. They admit that US hegemony is the main goal to be achieved, and in this their concepts are quite like those of realists / neorealists praising power politics . After this short introduction, given the right intellectual context, we may briefly analize the idea of soft power, then trying to illustrate it with several examples.
One of the most important parts of it is popular culture and film industry particularly. The global use of seductive instruments is targeted at mass counsciousness, and devoted to create superficial values which would strenghten the image of imperialist forces as those who are the only ones which could provide world with human rights and democracy, being meanwhile a world sheriff fighting the „bad guys”. Impact of Hollywood as a means of soft power throughout the world cannot be, obviously, simply measured and weighted. Nevertheless, the growing number of young people worldwide who are deprived of their own cultural, religious and civilizational background is rapidly growing. The author of this short review points out at various spheres of metapolitical impact the Hollywood soft power uses globally, focusing particularly on:
1) the image of imperialist United States as the saviour of the „free world”;
2) the image of independent countries not bowing to the American dictate as rogue-states and its citizens as criminals (a message containing racist and xenophobic tendencies);
3) the promotion of neoliberal capitalism as the only way for humankind to develop. Hollywood as a soft power weapon is applied worldwide, to the societies which are obedient – to strenghten their obedience; to the societies which are still independent – to modify their value systems.
Hollywood style engineering is thus important to understand and estimate dangers springing from hegemonic imperialism; its understanding may help to find the ways of prevention and preservation of one’s nation unique cultural and moral values.
„I have never argued that the so-called hard-power instruments of a superpower -- the military, the intelligence services or economic sanctions -- can be replaced” – told Joseph Nye in one of his interviews . Therefore we may say that soft power technology is an additional weapon to hard power warfare. Moreover, it is interconnected and interrelated with hard power instruments, which might be desciribed the following way:
In other words: soft power means create background for military intervention , and – on the other hand – hard power means support producing weapon of soft power financially. Thus the two kinds of power may be regarded as interdependent.
Rapid growth of Hollywood movies has been also osed for preparing cultural background for neoliberal policies and economical penetration of a given country after the Cold War, during the transformation period in Central and Eastern Europe. The American film industry has brought several cultural and social shifts in that region countries, including:
* weakining of traditional and collectivist values;
* disseminating an ideal of individual hero;
* imprinting negative emotions towards the former Eastern Bloc and positive ones towards the US.
Undoubtedly, it would be also worthy to discuss certain ideas of opposing the soft power expansion. Among the most sufficient means we may list:
1) using the cultural tools / technology to propagate own cultural values;
2) formulating different criteria of art springing from local traditions;
3) administrative restrictions as a means to protect own ’cultural market’ and regulate the access. In authors opinion, none of these countermeasures could be effective alone.
1 B.M. Russett, Grasping the Democratic Peace. Principles for a Post-Cold War World, Princeton 1993.
2 J.M. Owen, How Liberalism Produces Democratic Peace, “International Security”, vol. 19, nr 2 (Fall 1994), p. 87-125.
3 The title of the famous article of F. Fukuyama, The End of History?, “The National Interest”, nr 16 (Summer 1986).
4 J.G. Ruggie, Multilateralism. The Anatomy and Institution, “International Organization”, vol. 46, no. 3, 1992.
5 R.O. Keohane, After Hegemony. Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy, Princeton 1984.
6 J.J. Mearsheimer, A Realist Reply, „International Security”, vol. 20, nr 1 (1995), p. 83.
7 ’It’s Pointless to Talk to al-Qaida’, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/harvard-professor-joseph-nye-on-hard-and-soft-power-it-is-pointless-to-talk-to-al-qaida-a-643189.html, retrieved 3.1.2013.
8 Being directly or indirectly used by Pentagon. See: J.-M. Valantin, Hollywood, le Pentagone et Washington: les trois acteurs d’une stratégie globale, Autrement 2003.