Rethinking Geopolitics

Rethinking Geopolitics

Rethinking Geopolitics

Rethinking Geopolitics


Cold War geopolitics may be dead but struggles over space and power are more important than ever in a world of globalizing economies and instantaneous information.

The contributors to this collection use insights from contemporary cultural theory to address questions of political identity and popular culture, state violence and genocide, militarism, gender and resistance, cyberwar and mass media. By exploring how popular cultural assumptions about geography and politics constitute the debate about contemporary violence and political economy, Rethinking Geopolitics argues that the concept of geopolitics needs to be reconceptualized as the twenty-first century approaches.


Towards a critical geopolitics

Gearóid Ó Tuathail and Simon Dalby

Is geopolitics dead? At first glance the end of the Cold War, the deepening impacts of ‘globalization’ and the de-territorializing consequences of new informational technologies seem to have driven a stake into the heart of geopolitics. As the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, so also crumbled a pervasive and persuasive order of geopolitical understanding about meaning and identity across global political space. Particularistic and parochial yet nevertheless hegemonic, Cold War geopolitics was always too simplistic a cartography to capture the heterogeneity and irreducible complexity of world politics in the second half of the twentieth century. Yet the very ideological directness of Cold War reasoning was its strength. It drained international affairs of its indeterminancies and lived off its ability to reduce the organic movements of history to a perpetual darkness of ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ It provided strategic elites with a discourse that they could instrumentalize to further their bureaucratic careers within the military-industrial-academic complex created by the Cold War. It provided political leaders with scenes for demonstrating hardheaded statesmanship, comforting and easy applause lines, and a workable model of ‘gamesmanship’ in international affairs. Last, but not least, it provided the public with a recognizable and gratifying fantasy story of heroes and villains fighting for the fate of the world in obscure and exotic locales across the globe. Cold War geopolitics, in short, was a powerful and pervasive political ideology that lasted for over forty years. It was also premised upon an extraordinary double irony. It simultaneously denied both geographical difference and its own self-constituting politics (Ó Tuathail 1996).

While regional variations of the Cold War script live on in certain locations - in US-Cuban relations, for example, and on the Korean peninsula - the days of Cold War geopolitics as the spellbinding ‘big picture’ of world politics, the global drama that eclipsed all others, have ended. Strategic analysts have been searching ever since for a new global drama to replace it, launching ‘the end of history,’ ‘the clash of civilizations’ and ‘the coming anarchy’ among others as new blockbuster

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