Redefining the Gap 6, Critical Geopolitics

Note: This is a selection from Redefining the Gap, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06

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In the early 1990s, the political tilt of Global South discussions led to the emergence of critical geopolitics (Dodds 1994:275). While some have criticized the theory as appearing too soon for a valid “contexualization” of geography (C. Barnett 1995:417) others view critical geopolitics as necessary for explaining the contemporary world (Tuathail and Luke 1994:381).


Critical geopolitics continues the north-south discussion. This may take the form of almost conventional north-south articles, such as between the United States and Cuba (Slater 1994:233) and the spread of dependency theory in Latin America (Slater 1993:420). Critical geopolitics also focuses on environmentalism and people “on the ground” (Brosius 1999: 282). Indeed, it is near to the ground “where problems and issues are far more personalized and less easily generalized” that critical geopolitics provides the best context (Simon 1996:51).

This domain moves beyond traditional state-centered geopolitics (Tuathail 1998:229), in spite of its global level of analysis. Critical geopolitics holds that power is “non-sovereigntist,” “relational,” and “found at work across all scales of social life” (Sparke 465). This is as true for public policies (Moon & Brown 69) as it is for money (Sidaway and Pryke 2000:189), and as true for the public sector as for the private. Such emphasis on the social world echoes Mahan, and his belief on the importance of technology and the economy on the geopolitical world.

Interestingly, critical geopolitics argues that geopolitics itself is a critical field. That is, geopolitics “dominant mode of narration was declarative (‘this is how the world is’) and imperative (‘this is what we must do’)” (Tuathail 2000:166). Recognition of everything, including computer technology (Froehling 1997:293), as a tool of neither liberation or oppression but struggle emphasizes this ends-centered outlook of critical geopolitics. Geopolitics, in other words, is “political from the very outset” (Tuathail 1998:28).


Redefining the Gap, a tdaxp series:
Redefining the Gap 1. Prologue
Redefining the Gap 2. Summary
Redefining the Gap 3. Introduction to Geopolitics
Redefining the Gap 4. First Geopolitical Theories
Redefining the Gap 5. The North and the South
Redefining the Gap 6. Critical Geopolitics
Redefining the Gap 7. The Pentagon’s New Map
Redefining the Gap 8. The Research Design
Redefining the Gap 9. Methods and Operationalizations
Redefining the Gap 10. Limitations and Conclusion
Redefining the Gap 11. Results
Redefining the Gap 12. Bibliography
Redefining the Gap 13. Appendix: Computer Code
Redefining the Gap 14. Appendix: National Codes

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