Will there ever be another soft superpower?

samfloy~4 July 2020 /Random

I hope the second half of the year has started well for you. In case you missed it, I’m switching this newsletter to be monthly, not weekly. I’m still experimenting the format a bit so let me know what you think of this one!

Something I’ve been thinking about recently is whether America is still somewhere people aspire to go to?

Much has been written about how the current president has resulted in the US retreating as the de facto global leader, but will others fill the void?

The West is best

In listening/ reading up on things such as the Space Race and the oppression of Soviet communism there seemed to be this visceral pull to bright lights of America, or at least the free market system.

This clip of a woman trying to escape across the Berlin Wall shows the literal tussle between the two ideologies.

People would risk their lives to get to escape one part of the world, and be in the land of freedom, and McDonalds. This soft power seems to have continued through the 1990s and 2000s as more and more people sought the ideals embodied by America.

Is it all that great?

Compared to food shortages, a society of the American Dream would no doubt seem great.

As the years have passed and inequality has widened the cracks in the system have become more visible to see. 

Historically, it was only white America on show (Friends famously has only 3 black characters across its 10 seasons) and so a lot of the downsides of the American/ Western way weren’t there to see.

Now that more diverse social groups have a louder voice, the ideology is perhaps not looking so aspirational..?

Where next?

It’s difficult for America to argue its total ideological superiority based on its handling of the coronavirus and racial protests.

Other countries relish in mocking its response. There are no doubt areas where America is still a legitimate world leader (and universally admired for it), but it feels like these other aspects are chipping away at the sense of “West is best”.

The question then becomes, where in the world will fill the void?

My sense is that certain areas of the world will gain ground in building soft power in fashion, culture, innovation etc., no doubt driven by younger people who are less attached to historical precedence.

An early candidate would be (South) Korea who won the first non-English Best Picture at the Oscarshas international K-Pop fandom and (who knew) some of the best cosmetics in the world.

🤔 What do you think?

Now we’ll move on to some recommendations of things I’ve been listening, reading and watching

🎙️ Podcasts

📖 Reading

📼 Watching

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