Competing Views of Geopolitics
As an explanatory construct used by overworked foreign policy establishments, geopolitics has historically taken pride of place in directing their responses to events. Indeed, the vocabulary of international relations is saturated with long-familiar geopolitical terms. While reports of its demise are exaggerated, in a supposedly post-modern world geopolitics can seem passé. Critics argue that in its classical form it merely provided a self-justifying language for empire, and that it ultimately can tell us little about how to confront the new challenges we face today.
Such critiques conveniently ignore that there are several schools of thought when it comes to geopolitics. To illustrate this point, our discussion begins with a look at the classical school founded by the likes of Friedrich Ratzel and Sir Halford Mackinder, which current enthusiasts such as Robert Kaplan and George Friedman argue still have great relevance, especially in relation to the rise of China. The second approach we consider is the increasingly popular 'critical' one associated with Gerard Toal and Simon Dalby, which highlights the importance of how we represent geographies in international politics. (We accompany this discussion with a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the "alternate geographies" available to us today.) Finally, in our third approach we look at geopolitical world-systems analysis, as proposed by Immanual Wallerstein and others.
29 Nov 2011 / Special Feature
30 Nov 2011 / Special Feature