The Four Paradigms of Public DiplomacyFebruary 15, 2012
I’ve argued before that public diplomacy should be thought of as an umbrella term covering a range of different activities rather than a single thing what pulls the different activities together is communication with foreign publics. Having spent the past few months digging into the history of public diplomacy programmes in different countries I now think that it’s possible to identify four distinct ways of thinking about external communication. These are differentiated by the purposes of PD and are associated with particular organizational forms. The relative priority of these paradigms differs across countries and across time.
- Expanded Diplomacy. PD is an adjunct (or part of) diplomacy. Hence it needs to be closely integrated with the routine operations of foreign ministries. Historically the organizational expression of this is the press office or news department. It will often express itself through an engagement with the media
- National Projection. Public diplomacy is a matter of creating a favourable impression of our country often this will be regarded as the concern of the trade department but historically any other external communications activity will tend to take on some aspect of projection concern. Nation branding is the latest and most elaborated version of this paradigm.
- Cultural Relations. In this version our external communications are part of an effort that will lead to a transformation of overall relations with other countries though the development of cultural relations. The concern is with medium and long term processes. The emphasis on the cultural is also reflected in an argument for the autonomy of this activity from the day to day influence of foreign policy. Within the cultural relations paradigm we can see a continuum between exporting our culture and a genuine mutuality.
- Political Warfare (ideological conflict?). PD is a matter of defeating an ideological opponent or spreading a set of political values. One aspect of this paradigm is that PD should be separated from the work of the foreign ministry because the MFA is too wedded to the niceties of diplomacy.
These paradigms are abstracted from arguments around public diplomacy activities and are intended to be ideal types that summarize typical views of PD activities. They are rooted in the purposes of external communications activities rather than means. Exchange programmes can be run on cultural relations or political warfare grounds or broadcasting can be operated as an instrument of any of these paradigms.
The value of a typology like this is in developing a language for comparative research. To what extent are these theories represented in national public diplomacy debates? To what extent do they map onto organizational structures? What is the relative strength of these positions within the debate? We can map these arguments onto national organizational fields
For example in the UK the different paradigms map onto different organizations – FCO as extended diplomacy (and at points political warfare) , cultural relations in the British Council and BBC, trade promotion, tourism etc as projection. This has resulted in quite a stable organizational field where the FCO is top dog but everyone else has a degree of autonomy. In the US the balance between the paradigms has been different, political warfare is much more prominent, and the lines of argument cut across organizational boundaries in a way that has tended to promote instability.
In future posts I’ll work through some of the implications of this typology.
UPDATED: I’ve now written up a paper based on these ideas you can find it here