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date: 21 June 2018

Summary and Keywords

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.

Keywords: classical geopolitics, geography, international politics, Rudolf Kjellén, political power, territory

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