Soft power: the arts of diplomacy

Cultural diplomacy helps advance Australian influence and fund global arts engagement but it also places political pressure on artists.
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Art can build bridges between nations – but who pays for their construction? Image via

In the late 1980s, and in a series of subsequent publications, US political scientist Joseph Nye articulated the ability of nation-states to win allies and gain influence by non-violent means instead of through military force and economic might. What he called ‘soft power’ – the ability to co-opt people rather than coerce them – has today become the common practice of governments everywhere, as well as NGOs and other organisations.

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Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend in 2017. In 2019 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021.

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