15 Pages


Towards a critical geopolitics
ByGearóid Ó Tuathail, 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).