Culture Communicates: US Diplomacy That Works

  • Cynthia P. Schneider
Part of the Studies in Diplomacy and International Relations book series (SID)


From the earliest days of the American republic, diplomats have recognized the value of cultural diplomacy. In a letter to James Madison penned from Paris, Thomas Jefferson described its goals in words that still apply today: ‘You see I am an enthusiast on the subject of the arts. But it is an enthusiasm of which I am not ashamed, as its object is to improve the taste of my countrymen, to increase their reputation, to reconcile to them the respect of the world and procure them its praise’.2 Cultural diplomacy, ‘the exchange of ideas, information, art and other aspects of culture among nations and their peoples to foster mutual understanding’,3 forms an important component of the broader endeavour of public diplomacy, which basically comprises all that a nation does to explain itself to the world. Since much of cultural diplomacy consists of nations sharing forms of their creative expression, it is inherently enjoyable, and can therefore be one of the most effective tools in any diplomatic toolbox. Cultural diplomacy is a prime example of ‘soft power’, or the ability to persuade through culture, values and ideas, as opposed to ‘hard power’, which conquers or coerces through military might.4


Foreign Policy Cultural Exchange Creative Expression Soft Power Cultural Programme 
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© Cynthia P. Schneider 2005

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  • Cynthia P. Schneider

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