chapter  3
12 Pages

The Politics of Relational Public Diplomacy


The emergence of the relational approach to public diplomacy has been driven by the belief that it offers a better way to approach the practice of public diplomacy. Particularly in the wake of 9/11, “relationalism,” as it might be termed, has been seen as an approach that is both more effective and more ethical. The fi rst claim of effectiveness is rooted in the view that “informational” or “messaging” approaches have proved ineffective in the task of improving relations between Western countries and foreign publics. Implicit in this view is that relational activities can play a role in improving the broader political context within international relations. The second claim of ethical character stems from the idea that a relational approach requires a commitment to mutuality, symmetry, dialogue, or trust building that differentiates the approach from the pursuit of information dominance or some other version of propaganda. In particular, this second claim stems from the origination of the relational approach in normative theories of communications and technology, for instance symmetrical theories of public relations, theories of dialogue, or the claims of the superiority of opensource methods.