Jordi Xifra


The phenomenon of nation-building has been a major topic of public relations research agenda in recent years. However, these researches have been conducted from a limited perspective, mainly for three reasons: 1) they have focused on the idea of law-nation (the nation-state), ignoring the idea of cultural nation, and excluding therefore other forms of nation-building, such as those in nations without state; 2) they have paid no attention to a crucial issues of new international order and, in particular, globalization; and 3) accordingly, they have given little importance to public diplomacy and other forms of building relationships with foreign public —such as those developed by territories other than those of nation-states— better known as public paradiplomacy.

This paper links with the works of Castells (2000, 2004), Nye (2002, 2004), and Arquilla and Ronfeldt (1999), on the information society, soft power, and noopolitik, respectively, to offer a new public relations approach to nation-building and public diplomacy in nations without state. Our study is based on the national reality of Catalonia and its nation-building process as a single example of stateless nation building, in which plays a leading role the public paradiplomacy efforts.

Indeed, diplomacy is no longer the privilege of nation states. Since 1945, international politics has become much more complex. Gradually, new non-state actors have entered the international scene. Some of these non-state actors are of a non-territorial nature; for instance non-governmental organizations, multinational corporations or sports organizations. Others, such as Catalonia or Quebec ‘micro-regions’, have a territorial nature. One can also observe that cities such as New York, London and Barcelona seem to feel the urge to enter the international or diplomatic scene themselves so as to better defend their own interests in a complex and ever more interdependent world.

In international relations, stateless nations lack the personality needed to be institutional actors as nation-states are. Through public paradiplomacy, nations without state build its relationships with foreign publics getting an international presence. In addition, the “information society” (Castells 2004) determines the projection and international insertion of nations without state, establishing changes in the traditional sources of power.

On the other hand, the Catalan case is a good illustration of the notion of soft power coined by Nye (2002, 2004). This concept may be summarized as the capacity to get others to aspire to what we aspire. Nye (2004) elaborates his concept in contrast to the traditional conception of power (hard power), the vision that pointed to military force, economic capacity and the potentialities derived from them as the most genuine expression of the power of a State. Versus this standpoint, which reduces power to patently material and quantifiable elements, most of them stemming from political initiative and subject to the latter’s direct control, Nye (2002, 2004) emphasizes the existence of another series of immaterial factors, which cannot always be controlled by the government and which, however, can contribute as much as or more than military and economic coercion to achieve the goals set by a nation. The popularity of the artistic, musical and cinematographic output of the a country, its scientific and educational prestige, its tourist appeal, its capacity to export fashion and trends, quality of life, its gastronomy and its sports prestige, among others factors, are elements whose capacity to mobilize initiatives is increasing. It is an indirect way of exerting power where a country can obtain the results it seeks so that other countries can follow suite, admiring its values, following its example, aspiring to its level of prosperity and opening (Nye, 2002).

Based on an analysis of the public paradiplomacy and soft power, appeared the notion of “noopolitik” (Arquilla and Ronfeldt, 1999) in opposition to “realpolitik” (politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions).

In a world characterized by global interdependence and shaped by information and communication, the ability to act on information flows and mass media messages becomes an essential tool to promote a particular politic agenda. It is important to emphasize that this is not simply to access to data, but to achieve the ability to operate strategically with those information channels, to manage the perceptions of interpreting messages, to process knowledge, to recognize the valuable ideas and channel they through tools with a high level of credibility and reputation that they are considered legitimate and attractive. Like soft power, noopolitik aims to attract, persuade, co-opt and influence perceptions of public opinion; looks to possess the skill to drive external interactions in terms of knowledge which requires a strategy of information focused on the “balance of knowledge” unlike on the traditional “balance of power”.

From this perspective the noopolitik offers an approach to manage relationships with foreign and national publics. Moreover, beyond the noosphere and communication via new technologies, noopolitik also offers a new model for the theory and practice of public relations: “noo public relations” versus “real public relations”.

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