In this century, "soft power" is often said to have replaced "hard power": that is, the power of enormous influence over the lives of millions has replaced tanks and guns. For example, Sweden's power no longer lies with its military policies, which once commanded so much of northern Europe: Swedish power is now invested in Ikea, Volvo and Spotify.
Poland enjoyed some prestige from producing a Polish Pope, but its soft power today reposes in the fact that it is the world's fourth-largest exporter of video games, after China, Japan and Hong Kong. The Polish CD Projekt Red is the industry's leader.
Communism is no longer fashionable, so the power of China's Communist regime is seldom admired, but it reaches a lot of soft power through the two billion users who download personalised videos via the Chinese-owned TikTok.
Neutral little Switzerland's soft power resides in the vast amount of money and gold deposited in its vaults.
Music and sport exercise global soft power. More people probably know about the Irish famine and the infamous Charles Trevelyan via The Fields of Athenry than through any history book.
Sportsmen and women have always had soft power: from Muhammad Ali to Sir Lewis Hamilton, men of colour have championed their people through the reach of their sporting achievements.
"Influencers" like the Kardashians have created soft power for themselves - and for others in their wake. I've been astonished by how many young women attract hefty revenues through the simple procedure of recommending cosmetics via their websites. More power to their elbow.
But, surely, we must acknowledge that the mistress, the queen and the empress of contemporary soft power is Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex.
Like her or critique her, the global-reach soft power that she has achieved over the space of a few short years is amazing. The lady has built a soft-power empire.
Her half-sister Samantha's book, The Diary of Princess Pushy's Sister, published this week, may not present a flattering picture of Meghan, but it is unlikely to detract from her power. It may even add to Meghan's stock, under the Barnum principle that "any publicity is good publicity".
Think about it: in the summer of 2016, Meghan Markle, a leading actress in a middle-ranking TV series, meets Prince Harry, a lost soul never at ease with his station in life.
Less than two years later, they are married at Windsor with the full pomp and ceremony of the Church of England, Meghan's previous divorce notwithstanding (and a fast-track reception into the Anglican Church effected). Nice house bestowed on couple and marriage is followed by birth of a son.
And then, in late 2019, the Sussexes decamp to Canada and subsequently California, where they settle down to fashioning their new life. What a smart career move that turned out to be.
Last year, the couple clinched a deal with Netflix worth a reported $100m. I say "the couple", but few doubt that the business acumen is Meghan's, as well as the pitch, the concept and the imagination.
It was announced they would use the deal for "inspirational family programming" that "informs but also gives hope".
Deft touch: there's a global audience for that. Then, towards the end of 2020, came the Sussexes' deal with the aforementioned Spotify, for a reported $25m. They now have their own broadcast outlet, Archewell Audio - named after their toddler son, Archie, who has made a first appearance via Spotify podcasting.
There have been some grumblings that, at a time when the revenue of professional musicians has dwindled to the most meagre returns, the Sussex deal seems disproportionate.
On the other hand, Meghan and Harry have pledged to do all sorts of good deeds for charity and have hired "a fleet of staff" to help promote wellness, mental health care and women's causes. They're absolutely on the hot-button topics.
There are critical mutterings in Britain - among royals and among the populace, where the couple's popularity has fallen - but from Meghan's viewpoint, she is living a richly fulfilling life.
She has her man (Harry's already talking Californian like his neighbour Gwyneth Paltrow, telling us to imagine that we are all little raindrops), she has her son and she has created, from her own bold initiatives, a business empire worth millions of dollars.
But it's not just the money. Meghan's soft power can command almost any global celebrity to her side, from Oprah Winfrey to Elton John and Gloria Steinem, matriarch of American feminism.
Anything Meghan endorses will gain favour. It is reasonable to suppose that the doors of the Biden-Harris White House will be open to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Sure, people will say jealous things, but that's the price of success. When one or other of his grandparents departs this world - Philip will be 100 this year; Elizabeth, 95 - Harry will wish to return for the ceremonial adieux and there may be all kinds of mixed feelings.
But you have to hand it to Duchess Meghan: she has moved the chess pieces on the board of life brilliantly and deserves to be acknowledged as the very epitome of soft power.