Classical Geopolitics

  • Created by: sikemi__
  • Created on: 31-05-21 13:01

What is geopolitics?

  • The role of space in international relations - relationship between space and power
  • Term coined by Kjellen in 1899 (classical geopolitics is the original style/form of geopolitics, often referred to as imperial geopolitics)
  • Emerged out of a fusion of environmental science, evolutionary biology and geographical analysis
  • Space = a tangible, measurable extent which can be apprehended through senses
  • Power = ability of a person/entity/country to influence the actions of another
  • Early thinkers on the topic emerged in mid 19th century, exploring geographical basis of state power
    • Time when pursuit of geographical enquiry and debate was institutionalised within geographical societies rather than higher education e.g. RGS
    • At the time, Geography was in a time of practical pursuit and exploration rather than intellectual enquiry - it was aiding imperial expansion, very exclusionary
  • Over this time there were attempts to put Geography in a more scientific light - Ratzel was a key figure in this - also Kjellen who 'strove for a sceince of spatial and political processes' (Marklund, 2014)
    • Key publication - Politishe Geographie - published in 1897 was influenced by Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species'
    • Ratzel wanted to draw links between emerging relationships between nation states and how they operate
    • Argued that the state should be understood as an organism. Therefore, Darwin's theory of natural selection applied and stated that states will struggle with each other over territory and certain states will have greater adaptive potential, explaining conflict (as inevitable)
    • Lebensraum - living space that states organically acquire
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Environmental determinism

  • Churchill Semple - Influences of Geographic Environment (1911) - developed work of Ratzel
  • Discussed how the environment shaped human populations (opposite of current thoughts surrounding the Anthropocene which looks at the way that humans influence the environment rather than the other way around)
  • Did recognise that there were limitations to determinism in book but only covered it in the introduction
  • Semple also discusses the 'scientific geographer' (1911)
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Geopolitics as a strategic enterprise

  • Seeing geopol as a practice that can read global space and project where violence/conflict will take place in the future
  • Key figure - Mackinder - claimed that we had moved beyond a Columbian epoque and Geography is no longer about exploration and discovering undiscovered parts of the world, but is now in a period of analysis (scientific)
    • Best knwon for Heartland thesis (1904) which mapped the world in spheres named outer/insular crescent, inner/marginal crescent and pivot area (most significant territory that determined future of all human history)
    • Believe that those who had control of the pivot would be a preeminent power (organic, doesn't emerge out of politics, not an agenda, just natural)
    • 'Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland, who rules the Heartland commands the world island, who rules the world island commands the world' (Mackinder, 1919)
    • Spoke about threat of Eastern Europe - 1919 was a time of fear surrounding Germany and USSR alliances
  • Bowman was another politically orientated academic (Chief Territorial Advisor for Woodrow Wilson) who use geopolitical ideas to advance American interests
    • Investigated link between commerce and rise of power - believed that America needed economic lebensraum (territory) rather than larger areas of land in order to prosper
    • Negotiated in Versailles Peace Accords which involved redrawing maps of Europe and argued for a strong Yugoslav state as a buffer between West and USSR (influenced by Mackinder's fear of Eastern Europe)
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Contemporary critics

  • Petr Kropotkin - published Mutual Aid in 1914 which connected plight of peasantry in Siberia to imperial oppression, not just the environment
    • Not rejecting environmental determinalis, but read Darwin's thesis in a different way, emphasising cooperation rather than competition
  • Other critics...
    • Mackinder 'underestimated the importance of the US' and 'uncritically accepted the British conception of the balance of power' (Dugan, 1962)
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Geopolitics and Nazi expansionism

  • Key figure - Haushofer - former Germany army officer who became a political geographer and advanced Ratzel's work
    • Founded 'Zeitschrift fur Geopolitik' in 1925 which arguably influenced Hitler's actions (although links aren't clear)
  • Geography vs Geopolitics - Bowman, 1942
    • Written during WW2 and wanted to reclaim the science of work he had been undertaking
    • Drops language of geopolitics which is said to be violent, simplistic and playing to particular state interests, and picks up language of geography which he believes is associated with scientific discovery using scientific expertise, skills and techniques
    • Wanted to distance work from that of people such as Haushofer - following WW2, geographers were reticent to use the language of geopolitics
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