chapter  8
9 Pages


This book has examined the role and relevance of social power in international politics. Social power, a concept not frequently used in IR, has been defined as the ability to set standards, create norms and values that are deemed legitimate, desirable, and, best of all: normal. More commonly used notions such as soft power, but also smart, sticky, and sweet power, can all be accommodated under the generous umbrella definition of social power as the ability to define the situation. In order to set standards and define a situation in international politics, hard power may be used, and has at times proved expedient. Military power has obviously been exercised for millennia to “define a situation” in international affairs, with mixed results. Even in today’s postmodern Europe, one could argue that Kosovo has used terrorism and guerrilla warfare to gain sovereignty, with marked success, as its independence since February 2008 testifies. Military power remains relevant, but requires the legal and/or moral basis of legitimacy to sustain its triumphs.1 Since social power ultimately depends upon legitimacy and credibility, military force alone is of marginal use. Today’s Iraq is a clear illustration of the results of military power without legitimacy. And even Kosovo now has to wait until the international community recognizes its independence, illustrating that neither legitimacy nor credibility can be owned, but are conferred by others.2