Politicians Projecting Moral Agendas

Politicians want to gain the approval of the populations they represent.  They can do this by projecting their own country’s moral concerns into the international arena.  The European Union (EU), for example, was putting pressure on Turkey to improve its human rights record – as described in its policy document, Turkey: Human rights.  Although that is a moral issue, the pressure was political and economic: holding out the possibility of EU membership in exchange for reform.

Politicians can also try to ensure that their country’s values are seen in a positive light by people in other countries.  For example, Joseph Nye commented in a lecture, Soft Power: the Means to Success in World Politics, that Al-Qaeda would find it harder to recruit people to fight against America if the latter’s values were seen as attractive:

“We will not prevail in this struggle against terrorism unless the majority wins, unless the moderates win.  And we will not prevail against extremists unless we are able to attract that majority, those moderates.  That is the role of soft power.”

Although Nye was proposing the use of what he called ‘soft power’ as a means of exerting political influence, as discussed later (, it can also be regarded as a way of exerting moral influence on people in other countries – to encourage them to make progress in human rights.


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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/4356.htm