Classical geopolitics is fundamentally concerned with the role that location and resources play in the exercise of political power over territory. The term "geopolitics" was first coined in the late 1890s by the Swedish writer Rudolf Kjellén to signify an interest in the intersection between politics and geography. For Kjellén, geopolitics was “the science which conceives of the state as a geographical organism or as a phenomenon in space.” Subsequently, it has been assumed to signal a rather hard-nosed or realist approach to international politics, which posits certain law-like statements about the importance of the “facts” of physical geography, such as the distribution of landmass, the extent of the oceans, and the importance of particular strategically located regions, in determining patterns of global political power. A series of core ideas and principles inform the body of work of the earliest classical geopolitical proponents. First, the earliest writers were committed nationalists and imperialists. Second, the intellectual influence of social Darwinism was widespread and was important in shaping understandings about the state and the nature of the global political arena. Third, the global map for these authors was fundamentally divided between the imperial great powers and the colonized world, now referred to as the Global South. Finally, these authors were convinced that they were offering a “god's eye view” of the world to fellow citizens and policy makers, uncorrupted by ideology or prejudice.
Virginie Mamadouh and Herman van der Wusten
The fields of geography and diplomacy are closely intertwined. The traditional view of diplomacy describes it as the conduct of statecraft in all the nonviolent manifestations of external relations. Statecraft encompasses the responses to security concerns, the regulation of transboundary flows, and the pursuance of a state’s material interests and the projection of positive perceptions concerning the state to the outside world. Diplomacy can also be more narrowly defined as an institution dealing with these matters in the preparatory and implementation stages of the foreign policy cycle with a distinctive, carefully recruited, and socialized personnel. In the nineteenth century, European diplomacy was overwhelmingly dominated by the major powers. Small powers were only occasionally involved, and some countries like China were practically forced into diplomatic relations with Western powers as European influence expanded. Diplomacy got a niche in the European state system. Of relevance in this context is the field of critical geopolitics, which investigates and deconstructs geopolitical reasoning—that is, the geographical assumptions and claims in the making of world politics. The engineering of geographical representations by diplomats is a new topic in international relations. Two concepts have been introduced to deal with attempts to win the “hearts and minds” of foreign audiences: public diplomacy and nation branding. Future prospects for diplomacy result from efforts to reshape the field’s identity—civilized, effective interaction across divides—in appropriate formats for a new period.
Philippe Le Billon
“Resource wars” refer to the linkages between armed conflict and access to natural resources.Geographically, these wars are frequently represented through world maps of “strategic resources,” combining the physical scarcity and non-substitutability of resources with their uneven spatial distribution and relative geopolitical location to pinpoint “hot-spots.” Yet perspectives on the links between war and resources are much broader than the continuation of resource policies through the use of military force. Similarly, the geographical dimensions of, and geographical perspectives on, these links are more diverse than maps of “strategic” materials. Classical geopolitical perspectives have most frequently linked the concept of resource war to interstate conflicts over the supply of strategic resources, giving way to a narrow and militaristic notion of “resource security.” To explain potential relations between resources and wars, political economy perspectives have articulated three main arguments about resources: an institutional weakening effect increasing vulnerability to conflict, a motivational effect increasing the risk of armed conflict, and an opportunity effect associated with resources financing belligerents. The other set of perspectives originates from political science and development economics studies, and is based on the assumption that the significance of resources in wars is largely rooted in questions of resource scarcity, abundance, or dependence.
Raymond J. Dezzani and Christopher Chase-Dunn
World cities are a product of the globalization of economic activity that has characterized post-World War II capitalism, and exhibit characteristics previously found in primate cities but with influence extending far beyond the range of the metropolitan state. They are the culmination of postwar urbanization mechanisms coupled with the rise of transnational corporations that have served to concentrate unprecedented population and economic power/potential. The potential for both human development advantage and disadvantage is historically unprecedented in these new and highly interconnected urban amalgams. In general, human settlement systems are usually understood to include the systemic (regularized) ways in which settlements (hamlets, villages, towns, cities) are linked with one another by trade and other kinds of human interaction. Geographers, historians, and economists have developed models of urban structure and patterning incorporating population location/movement and the location of economic activity to be able to rationally explain and predict urban growth and allocate resources so as to implement equitable distributions. The resulting models served to illustrate the importance of the interactions between specific geographic location, population concentrations, and economic activity. But given the development of world cities, there is the relationship between the size of settlements and political power in intergroup relations to consider. The spatial aspect of population density is, after all, one of the most fundamental variables for understanding the constraints and possibilities of human social organization.
Roxanne Lynn Doty
The connections between the local and the global raise a range of issues that have been addressed in social and political theory in the past but continue to provoke important discussion. Many of the constructs that have traditionally been foundational to the academic discipline of international relations, including territory and sovereignty, are inherently intertwined with how we think of the local and the global. The local–global connections revolve around three broad and overlapping themes: the critical scrutiny of older concepts and the emergence of new ones as well as alternative vocabularies; an appreciation of the necessity of an interdisciplinary perspective; and attention to the significance of the relationship between theory and practice. Many of the more recent scholarly work on the local–global continue to tackle the effects of global capitalism in locations constructed as local as well as the role of these locations in facilitating global capitalist relations. Critical geographers and cultural studies scholars have made important contributions to our understandings of the global–local nexus by focusing on the formation of social movements and localized practices of resistance as well as transversal struggles that call into question conventional spatial logics. Another important area of research that has made both conceptual and empirical contributions has produced the “global cities” literature. Students of international studies need to continue to focus on what have been referred to as “everyday” or “local” practices that have often been considered unimportant when it comes to the “big” issues of international studies.
Alexander B. Murphy
Political geography and institutionalized sovereignty have been mutually constituted for hundreds of years. Until the last few decades, scholars had not paid much attention to the relationship between sovereignty and geography. Sovereignty was considered a relatively straightforward territorial doctrine that arose from the Peace of Westphalia, conceptualized as a foundational principle of the modern state system. However, the breakup of the Cold War order in Europe and the growing reach and jurisdictional competence of the European Union have opened up questions about the stability of the world political map and about the nature and role of the modern state. Furthermore, changing theoretical orientations have encouraged another look at the geographical dimensions of institutionalized sovereignty. Political scientists and international relations theorists have taken the lead in the effort to rethink the historical and contemporary character of sovereignty as a political-legal institution, while geographers have assumed the primary role in exploring how the interplay between institutions and sovereignty reflects and shapes the political organization of space. The literature on the geographical dimensions of sovereignty is rather disparate, but four themes can be identified: the territorial foundations of sovereignty; the extraterritorial challenges to sovereignty unfolding in the contemporary world; the continuing functional and normative impacts of Westphalian sovereignty; and the advantages and disadvantages of sovereignty for individual groups and entities. A promising premise for advancing understanding of the geography-sovereignty-institution nexus is to focus on the dynamic interaction between long-standing institutionalized principles and evolving arrangements/practices.
Geography has been a formal academic discipline in the United States since the early twentieth century. During the first six or so decades of this period, geographic education was dominated by the legacies of environmental determinism and orientalism. These concepts were representative of a Eurocentric worldview that showed contempt for non-Western cultures and economies, treating “natives” of non-Western cultures as backward, ignorant, and lazy. Presentation of material about non-Western areas of the world in geography textbooks and publications has been characterized by assumptions of Western cultural superiority. The late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries saw geographic education undergo considerable transition, as geographers pay more and more attention to perspectives like dependency theory and world system theory. Renewed interest in geographic education coincided with the revival of geography as an intellectual pursuit and recognition of the importance of place in the world economy and in international relations, along with the explosive growth of information made possible by television, the internet, and other technologies. More importantly, the orientalist biases that have historically characterized geographic education in the United States and other Western countries have gradually disappeared. It has been argued that improved geographic education will help overcome geographic illiteracy and promote public awareness of international relations, but such awareness must be intertwined with the changing role of educational institutions in managing information, and to recognition of the changing relationships between education and information.
Carl Grundy-Warr and James D. Sidaway
The state can be viewed as a form of community. Forms of human community and their attendant territorialities have been characterized by extreme variation, both historically and geographically. A profound territorial link exists between the state and the nation, with the former claiming to be a sovereign expression of the nation. A common feature of states is that they all have territorial boundaries. Moreover, the state can be interpreted as a territorial–bureaucratic expression of nationalism, found in many public rituals such as coronations and remembrance days, military parades, national holidays, swearing in of governments, and state funerals. One of the most contentious issues among states, potential states, and nations revolves around sovereignty. Challenges to sovereignty and the historical and geographical complexity of nations may be seen in terms of political landscapes as “sovereigntyscapes.” Related to the question of sovereignty are the so-called “shadow powers and networks” that transcend territorial boundaries. In the field of political geography, in tandem with significant strands of International Relations and Political Science, state power is recognized as a key, albeit not the only form, of territorial politics. The state’s relationship with the ideas of nation and citizen give rise to a host of particularisms, similarities, and contradictions that require theoretically informed yet thoroughly grounded research in divergent contexts.
The history of development studies as a field of academic inquiry can be traced most directly back to the Cold War era when public funding for “development studies” went hand in hand with international development as a state project, particularly in the United States. Economists, sociologists, and planners began to take the development of the “Third World” as an object of analysis, partially in response to new funding opportunities and a discursive context legitimating it as a field of study. By the 1960s, geographers began to take (so-called) “Third World” modernization and development as an object of research. Geographers’ engagement with development as intervention, and eventually the exploration of uneven global development as part of the “ebb and flow of capitalism,” can be divided into three waves. The first wave, visible in the early 1960s, took the quantitative spatial models dominant at the time in geography, such as those concerning urbanization patterns, transportation linkages, regional development, and population movement, and began to apply them to “Third World” contexts. This second wave, linked to the turn toward Marxist theory by a new generation of geographers in the 1960s, explored the uneven geography of wealth and power produced by capitalism and launched a powerful critique of development intervention as imperialism. The third wave of debates emerged in the late 1980s–early 1990s and is associated with poststructural and postcolonial critiques gaining traction at the time in geography and related disciplines.
Moving away from the conventional geopolitical analyses of territory, states, and nations, geographical research is now focused on the ways in which political identities are constituted in and through space and place, as well as the power and the marginalization associated with identity making and their implications for social justice. Poststructuralist theory problematized the fundamental premise that the literal subject is resolutely individual, autonomous, transparent, and all knowing. Feminist scholars have also insisted that the self is socially embedded and intersubjective. Meanwhile, research on geographies of gender and sexuality has emphasized the importance of embodied research. There are four prominent and inherently political themes of analysis in geographical research: nation states and nationalism; global identities; citizenship and the public sphere; and war and security. Geographers have critically examined the production and reproduction of national identity. Geographers have also focused on the contemporary transnationalization of political identity, as the mobility of people across borders becomes more intensive and extensive because of globalization. Consequently, globalization and global mobility have raised important questions around citizenship. Rethinking war and the political, as well as security, has also become a pressing task of geographers. Meanwhile, there has been a growing attention to the political identities of academics themselves, which resonates with a concern about forms of knowledge production. This concern exists alongside a critique of the corporatization of the university. Questions are being raised about whether academics can use their status as scholars to push forward public debate and policy making.