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Geopolitics is derived from greek word “ge” means earth and “politike” means poltics.
Hence geopolitics is the study of the effects of geography on international politics and
• The word ‘geopolitics’ was coined by the Swedish political scientist Rudolf Kjellen.
• Arguments about the political effects of geography particularly climate,
topography, arable land, and access to the sea, have appeared in Western political
thought since at least the ancient Greek era and were prominent in the writings of
philosophers as diverse as Aristotle (384–322 BC) and Montesquieu (1689–1745).
• The best-known body of geopolitical writings is the extensive literature of the late
19th and early 20th centuries, much of which focused on the impact on world
politics of the new technologies of the Industrial Revolution. Alfred Thayer
Mahan, Halford Mackinder, John Seeley, Karl Haushofer, Friedrich Ratzel, H.G.
Wells, Nicholas Spykman, Homer Lea, Frederick Teggart, Frederick Jackson Turner,
James Burnham,E.H. Carr, Paul Vidal de la Blache etc.
• 2nd world war is the base which divides the views
on geopolitcs into two parts-
1. before 2nd world war- claasical geopolitical
a) Friedrich Ratzel
b) Rudolf Kjellen
c) Halford Mackinder
d) Alfred Thayer Mahan
e) Nicholas Spykman
2. After 2nd world war- contemporary
A summary of key thinkers
and theories from the
classical period of geopolitics
Friedrich Ratzel (1844-
1904)• Freiedrich Ratzel was a German geographer and a
zoologist, also known as ‘father of modern geography’.
• He was influenced by following people-
a) Charles Darwin- survival of the fittest
b) Herbert Spencer- social darwinism
c) Sorokin (a sociologist)
d) Herder (a historian)
• He contributed to ‘Geopolitik’ by the expansion on
the biological conception of geography, without a static
conception of borders.
• Positing that states are organic and growing, with
borders representing only a temporary stop in
their movement, he held that the expanse of a
state's borders is a reflection of the health of the
nation—meaning that static countries are in
• Ratzel published several papers, among which
was the essay "Lebensraum" (1901)
• Ratzel wrote of aspirations for German naval
reach, agreeing that sea power was self-
sustaining, as the profit from trade would pay for
the merchant marine, unlike land power.
• The geopolitical theory of Ratzel has been
criticized as his views gave justification for the
expansion of German Empire.
• Being a zoologist he imposed political map over
ecological map of the world which was
• Generalizing a state as an organism having a life
cycle was also criticized.
• And he over emphasized on expansion of states.
Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-
• Alfred Thayer Mahan was an American naval officer who
emphasized the importance of sea power as a major factor in
• His ideas are pieced together from the numerous statements
scattered throughout his large number of writings, three of them
are most important-
a) The Influence of Sea Power upon History
b) The Influence of Sea Power upon The
French Revolution and Empire (1892)
c) The Life of Nelson (1897)
• He was of firm believe that the essential condition for world power
status for any state was an effective control of the seas.
• He said by mastering the seas, countries could
also gain huge benefits from trade. To him, sea
was a great highway, a wide common overbridge.
• Six fundamental elements of seapower-
1. Geographical Location
2. Physical Conformation
3. Extent of Territory
4. Size of Population
5. National Character
6. Political Leadership and its Policies
• He evaluated Russia being land power and Britain
being naval power.
• According to him Russian Empire as a land power could
be shut off by any hostile sea power whereas Britain,
because of its geographical location, is in advantage
despite its small homebase.
• He then on various grounds said that the only state
having similar advantages as those of Great Britain was
United States of America which could well develop as a
world power in future replacing Britain.
• He was also the first one to suggest that Panama Canal
can be built to join oceans on either sides of USA
(namely the Atlantic and Pacific ocean) to enhance
trade and strengthen security.
• Even today most of the international trade is
done through sea routes only. Therefore rights
of sea transport are very important for a
state’s economic development.
• China’s unlawfully negation of claims of vicinal
states on South China Sea reflects the
importance of sea power in present time.
• Mackinder gave this theory in 1904. This theory regards
political history as a continuous struggle between land and
sea powers with the ultimate victory going to the
• According to this theory, the continental power was
represented by the world island which consisted of Eurasia
and Africa (comprising seven- eighth of total world
population and two-third of the total land area of the
world). Mackinder called it the Heartland (total area being
11 million square kilometres). This Heartland was perceived
as the greatest natural fortress on earth surrounded on all
sides by geographical barriers.
• Thus only between the Carpathians and the
Black Sea is there a lowland route into the
• With its vast industrial and agricultural resources, the Heartland
could conquer Europe, the Middle-East, India and the Far-East. The
other landmasses would follow later.
• These landmasses included the following:
• Inner or Marginal Crescent:
• This included the rest of Europe, India, South-East Asia and East
• Outer or Insular Crescent:
• These included North and South America, Australia, Africa south
of Sahara, Great Britain and Japan.
• Secondary Heartland:
• This was represented by Sub-Saharan Africa connected to the
main Heartland through a main bridge (Saudi Arabia).
• The Heartland is inaccessible from sea as all the rivers
either drain inland (e.g. Volga, Oxus, Jaxartes) or into the
icy sea (e.g. Obi, Yenisei, Lena which drain into the Arctic
• He predicted:
“Whoever rules East Europe, will rule Heartland,
Whoever rules the Heartland, will rule the World Island.”
Whoever rules the World Island, will rule the world.”
• During the Second World War, Mackinder’s theory was put
to the test. The Heartland (or pivot area) could have
become the focus of power if either Russia had united with
Germany or Russia had been overthrown by China and
• The theory was formulated at the end of the railway
age. Mackinder saw it as a high point of
communication system capable of uniting the whole
Heartland into a cohesive unit. That never actually
happened. Although the age of aeroplanes had
begun, the theory failed to take into account its
• His map (Mercator projection of the world enclosed
within an ellipse) exaggerated the extent of the Arctic
• He completely ignored Russia which also emerged as
world power after 2nd world war.
• A perspective on geopolitics and international relations,
presented as a critical response to the Heartland theory
proposed by J. Halford MacKinder. The Rimland theory
was the brainchild of Nicholas Spykman, a political
theorist and professor of international relations at Yale
• Writing in the 1940s at the height of WorldWar II,
Spykman suggested that the Heartland theory put forth by
MacKinder several decades earlier was flawed, in that it
overemphasized the role of the Heartland in determining
the balance of power in global relations.
• The Rimland theory appeared in Spykman’s 1944 book
The Geography of the Peace, published posthumously the
year following his untimely death. He adopted the basic
spatial framework of the Heartland theory, but made
some changes in terminology.
• Spykman retains the concept of the Eurasian
landmass representing a “Heartland,” but calls
the region that MacKinder labeled the “inner” or
“marginal” crescent the “Rimland.”
• He rejects MacKinder’s characterization of North
and South America, Australia, Japan, and Great
Britain as lying in the “outer” or “insular”
crescent, and instead simply terms this region the
“off-shore islands and continents,” although he
agrees with MacKinder’s view that for these
countries sea power is of paramount importance,
and represents the main means of projecting
• In the Rimland theory, the Heartland does
not represent the pre-eminent seat of power
that it symbolizes in Heartland theory.
Rather, it is the Rimland that is the foremost
seat of power and is the key to dominating
• Paraphrasing MacKinder’s summary of the
Heartland theory, Spykman offered his own
“ Who controls the Rimland rules Eurasia;
Who rules Eurasia controls the destinies of the
• He called for the consolidation of the Rimland countries to
ensure their survival during World War II. With the defeat
of Germany and the emergence of the USSR, Spykman's
views were embraced during the formulation of the Cold
War American policy of containing communist influence.
• Therefore USA’s policy of containment to prevent socialism
and formation of NATO, CENTO and SEATO reflect the
importance of rimland.
• But as the states within the Rimland had varying degree of
independence, and a variety of castes, races, and culture, it
did not come under the control of any single power.
• It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
• In his concept of air power he did not include
the use of modern missiles with nuclear war
• The Rimland is not a region but a unit,
otherwise the epitome of geographical
• The Rimland-Theory is biased towards Asian