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Geopolitical Theory
What is Geopolitics?
► Geopolitics
 The study of power relationships past, present,
and future
 The study of the relationship among politics and
geography, demography, and economics,
especially with respect to the foreign policy of a
 A branch of political geography that considers the
strategic value of land and sea area in the context
of national economic and military power and
What is Geopolitics?
► Geopolitics
 The state’s power to control space or territory and
shape the foreign policy of individual states and
international political relations
 Geopolitics is concerned with how geographical
factors, including territory, population, strategic
location, and natural resource endowments, as
modified by economics and technology, affect the
relations between states and the struggle for world
 Geopolitics is defined as a branch of geography
that promises to explain the relationships between
geographical realities and international affairs.
Alfred Thayer Mahan: 1890
► sea power necessary to facilitate trade and
peaceful commerce
► the country that possessed power would be one
that could control the seas
► development of a strong navy was an essential
ingredient to a powerful state as was the country's
► most power would be held by a country with
accessible relative location and connected with a
long coastline and good harbors
► power held north of the Suez and Panama Canals.
Ratzel: 1897
► "organic theory“
► the state is an organism attached to the
earth that competes with other states to
► state requires lebensraum - living space
► must devour other territories to achieve this
Sir Halford Mackinder: 1904
unequal spatial distribution of strategic opportunities in the world
advent of railroads released countries from dependence on
Navy to move Army
focus of warfare would be shifted from the sea to the hinterland
"pivot area“
 northern and interior parts of the Eurasian continent where
the rivers flow to the Arctic or to salt seas and lakes
railroads would make this area easy to defend and hard to
Heartland Theory: "He who controls the Heartland controls the
World Island (Eurasia and Africa); He who controls the World
Island, controls the world."
believed Germany would be a threat to controlling the resources
of Eastern Europe and the Heartland.
Hauschofer: abt 1914
► proponent of Mackinder's Heartland Theory
► identified three pan regions
► pan regions were north/south situated blocs
of power
Anglo America/Latin America
Europe (German dominated)/Africa and India
Japan/Southeast Asia
Hauschofer: abt 1914
Nicholas Spykman: abt 1942
economically, politically and militarily, the northern half of the
world would always be more important than the southern half,
and that the location of a state north or south of the Equator
would play a large part in determining the significance of the
► contrary to Mackinder's Heartland Theory
► both sea and land power were important
► the real potential of Eurasia was in the “inner crescent”
 Western Europe
 Middle East
 South Asia
 Southeast Asia and the Far East
Rimland was accessible to the sea and to interior regions
► "Who controls the Rimland rules Eurasia; who rules Eurasia
controls the destinies of the world."
A.P. Seversky: abt 1952
► air power made land battles obsolete
► whoever controls the skies would be the
world power
► U.S. and the U.S.S.R.
► an area of intersection was the “area of
► whoever controlled this area would be
Immanuel Wallerstein: 1970’s
A world system: is a social system, one that has boundaries,
structures, member groups, rules of legitimization, and coherence.
three geographic areas
 Core:
► advanced areas
► strong state structures and a national culture
► economic powers connected by trade and technology
► exploiters of the periphery
 Periphery:
► weak states
► dependent on core
► colonial states or states with a low degree of autonomy
 Semi Periphery:
► act as a buffer between the core and the periphery
► emerging somewhat but still dependent on the core
Immanuel Wallerstein: 1970’s