Nation Building in the political world

Political Geography is the study of the political
organization of the world.
“We prefer self government with danger to servitude
with tranquility.” Kwame Nkrumah, first president of
Ghana, 1960
To understand political geography we must revisit economic
Wallerstein’s World Systems Theory has three basic components.
Wallerstein’s theory stated that the world moved toward
capitalism around 1450 and encompassed the globe by 1900.
This means that world economies produced goods for the
world market in order to make a profit.
In order to make a profit, countries (economies) sought out
the cheapest labor, raw materials, and markets.
Everything today operates in a “world economy” and has since
1900. This is a result of colonialism – setting up an
interdependent global economy.
Dem Rep
Area of the world with the most conflict in
the past 25 years.
Sierra Leone
World Systems and Political
Are economic and political power the
Name two countries today that are
economically powerful, yet wield little
political power?
In today’s world, how many
countries have the power to
bring the world economy to a
Is this political or
economic power?
In a political system, “states” promote unification by choosing
government structure that promotes “nation building” and quells
division within.
Common structure of government
include “federal” and “unitary.”
Until 1945, most European
countries were unitary. The
power was based in the capital.
The culture of the capital was
defined as the nations capital.
The administrative framework of a
unitary government is to ensure
that the government controls all
aspects of the state.
Until 1945, most European
countries were unitary. The
power was based in the
The culture of the capital
was defined as the
nations capital
The administrative
framework of a unitary
government is to ensure
that the government
controls all aspects of the
come to the
capital to receive
directions on how
to implement the
decisions back
In a Federal System, the “state’s” territory is organized into
regions, substates, provinces, etc…
In a de-centralized
federal system regions
have a great deal of
control over policies
and funds.
Would you consider the USA
today a weak or strong federal
Does a federal system insure success?
The most
experiment in
federalism is
attempted in:
Nation Building in the political world.
The term initially referred to the new
African countries who gained their
independence from European
colonialism in the 1960’s.
The intent was to help create
viable countries, often with
many different ethnicities,
into a “state” that was more
important than the individual
There have been many nations that have become strong, viable
countries since independence. Can you identify these?
Not to scale
Devolution: The movement of power from a central
government to regional governments (or the complete
breakup of a country).
The government of
Spain recognizes the
supremacy of regional
Genius question. What
type of government
does Spain have?
Ethno-cultural devolution movements.
The biggest
and best
example of
devolution in
the past
century would
The breakup of the Soviet Union is a perfect example of
devolution. The USSR broke into 15 countries, in most cases
based on ethnicity.
Other examples of modern devolution.
When the UK joined the European
Union in 1973, Scottish leaders felt
they would be playing a diminished
role in the UK.
A referendum was held to determine
if Scotland would remain a part of the
Scottish leaders banked on the fact that
the North Sea oil revenue would go to
Scotland, not the UK.
The referendum was soundly defeated
throughout the UK, even in Scotland.
Who does this sound similar to today?
In 1997 another vote “devolved” the UK and
gave more power to the regional parliaments
in Scotland and Wales.
Devolution is driven by economics and ethnicity.
There is always an undercurrent
in Catalonia and the Basque
region to leave Spain.
The Basques don’t share a cultural
connection with most of the
Spanish state. Separatists have
gone through periods of terrorism
in Spain in order to force a
Catalonians feel they carry too
much of the economic load in
They have 6% of the territory, 17% of the
population, but produce 40% of all
industrial exports in the country.
Italy also suffers from
the pressure of
devolution. There is a
large and growing
divide between the
industrial north and
the agrarian south.
Name a country we studied earlier with two distinct
groups in the country?
1. the north (Flanders)
speaks Flemish, the
south (Wallonia)
speaks French
2. The north is far
advanced compared to
the south
3. As of today, the
federal government is
barely functioning –
and the country is
doing fine.
What devolution in the USA?
No, not that one!
The other one.
The relationship between geography, power,
politics, and internal relations.
The German School of Geopolitics: Based on the
writings of Fredrich Ratzel who declared that
states were “organic.”
The life of a state resembles a living organism. It
extends from birth, maturity, decline, and death.
In order for a state to prolong its existence it requires
“nourishment”, or, territory. If the state is confined, it will
atrophy. (economics?)
Ratzel’s students used this theory to justify German expansionist
policies in the 1930’s.
Alfred Mahan developed his theory of sea power based on the
success of the British Empire controlling the world’s seas for
hundreds of year.
If a country
controls access to
the sea lanes, in
peace or war, they
dictate the ebb and
flow of traffic.
The British colonies
and its navy had a
The colonies
provided the British
Navy with ports to
refit and restock
while they also
provided the military
might to maintain
the colonies.
Mahan felt the USA could
not become a major
player in the commerce or
military institutions
around the world due to a
lack of ports around the
world for bases.
Geopolitical theory is also based on the “British and American”
After Raztel’s publication, Sir
Halfrod Mackinder published
his theory in the Royal
Geographical Society’s journal.
Mackinder was concerned with
“power” relationships. He
wrote at a time when “the Sun
Never Set on the British
His contention was that power
was wielded on land, not on
the sea.
He who rules Eastern Europe
commands the heartland.
He who rules the heartland
commands the world island.
He who rules the world island
commands the world.
Mackinder's Heartland theory states that “he who
controls the Heartland controls the world.”
Spykman developed the Rimland Theory. The focus
of the Rimland is to contain the Heartland.
Nicholas Spykman theorized that the “heartland” was
surrounded by the Rimland and the Rimland must contain the
heartland in order not to upset the balance of power in the
When this was
written in the 1930’s,
Japan was
conquering much of
East Asia and
Germany was
threatening to upset
the balance of power
the British had
It was in the interest
of this
“containment” idea
that the American
government (who
had their own sphere
of influence that
could be affected)
must work to contain
the disruptive forces.
This “containment” policy was later
transferred to relate to the Soviet Union
during the Cold War.
This containment policy still has its lingering effects. Many
former Soviet “satellite” states in Eastern Europe have been
invited to join NATO and/or the European Union.
Russia has not been invited.
Geroid O’tauthail studied
American political
reasoning and concluded
that Americans see the
world in an “Us vs Them”
American cultural logic:
“Us” is pro-democracy,
independent, self reliant,
self sufficient, and free.
“Them” encompasses
those who are against
those things.
“In regards to the terrorists,
“you are either with us or
against us.”
Devolution and the Cold War.
In the 1980’s
Reagan pursued
winning the Cold
War by escalating
military spending.
In a famous
speech he called
the Soviet Union
“the evil empire”
and refused to
negotiate on
Soviet terms.
The US military buildup was the final straw that brought
down a tottering Soviet Union. The Cold War was over.
9/11 was
November 9,
1989, the fall
of the Berlin
The communist
governments of
Eastern Europe
fell like
concluding with
the fall of the
Soviet Union.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the world became bipolar. The balance of power had shifted to only one
political superpower.
A “New World Order” was spoken of
where national interests continue to
Much of the ill will of the world towards the USA is the
use of “hard power” and unilateral decisions.
There are no
real answers to
the power
question in the
world, only a
matter of
There is growing
consensus that
new “power
groups” will
emerge to fill the
void left by the
Soviet Union.
One potential adversary is China.
What should keep
the USA and China
from being
embroiled in
military conflict?
There could also be
a number of
regional states that
band together to
form strong
Today, there is a new “them” for many Americans.
They don’t control borders or have an army or
They are radical
Muslims and they
hate America and
what it represents.
Historically, the world is a more dangerous place when
there isn’t a “balance” of power. American hegemony is
not viewed in a positive sense in today’s political world.
But, when there
is conflict in the
world, what
number is