Politicians Projecting Moral Agendas

Politicians can win approval at home and abroad by projecting moral agendas on the international stage – to persuade, attract or encourage. 

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, by projecting moral agendas, to ensure that their country’s values are seen in a positive light by people in other countries. For example, Joseph Nye encouraged America to pursue this strategy: he commented in a lecture, Soft Power: the Means to Success in World Politics, that Al-Qaeda would find it harder to find recruits if American 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.


Next Segment

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/edition04/4356.htm.