Power that is smart and friendly does not operate frontally – i.e., against the will of those who are subject to it. Instead, it guides their will to its own benefit. It says ‘yes’ more often than ‘no’; it operates seductively, not repressively. It seeks to call forth positive emotions and exploit them. It leads astray instead of erecting obstacles. Instead of standing opposed to the subject, smart and friendly power meets the subject halfway.
Smart power cosies up to the psyche rather than disciplining it through coercion or prohibitions. It does not impose silence. Rather, it is constantly calling on us to confide, share and participate: to communicate our opinions, needs, wishes and preferences – to tell all about our lives. Friendly power proves more powerful, as it were, than purely repressive power. It manages not to be seen at all. Today’s crisis of freedom stems from the fact that the operative technology of power does not negate or repress freedom so much as exploit it. Free choice (Wahl) is eliminated to make way for a free selection (Auswahl) from among the items on offer.
Smart power with a liberal, friendly appearance – power that stimulates and seduces – is more compelling than power that imposes, threatens and decrees. Its signal and seal is the Like button. Now, people subjugate themselves to domination by consuming and communicating – and they click Like all the while. Neoliberalism is the capitalism of ‘Like’. It is fundamentally different from nineteenth-century capitalism, which operated by means of disciplinary constraints and prohibitions.