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Geopolitics & Hegemony

By: Mitch Dunn

Geopolitics refers broadly to the relationship between politics and territory whether on local or international scale. Geopolitics comprises the practice of analyzing, proscribing, forecasting, and the using of political power over a given territory.

Those geographical variables generally refer to:
- geographic location of the country or countries in question - size of the countries involved - climate of the region the countries are in - topography of the region

- demography - natural resources and technological development.

What does all of this actually mean? Geopolitics is the way that we interpret and analyze nations.

What, then, is Hegemony?

If Geopolitics describes the state of the nation, Hegemony is a form used to describe the way in which nations interact.

Hegemony is an indirect form of imperial dominance in which the hegemon (leader state) rules geopolitically sub-ordinate states by the implied means of power.

In praxis, imperial dominance is established by means of cultural imperialism, whereby the hegemon dictates the internal politics and the societal character of the sub-ordinate states.

Geopolitics and Hegemony:

Geopolitics and Hegemony are forms that scholars use to describe the way that nation-states interact within the world. There are multiple ways of understanding how nation-states interact with each other that come from multiple schools of thought.

Realism is a tradition of international theory centered upon four propositions.

1.States operate under the conditions of Anarchy.
There is no actor above states capable of regulating their interactions; states must arrive at relations with other states on their own, rather than it being dictated to them by some higher controlling entity.
The world system is leaderless: there is no universal sovereign or worldwide government. There is thus no hierarchically superior, coercive power that can resolve disputes, enforce law, or order the system like there is in domestic politics.

2. Egoism:
Individuals and groups tend to pursue selfinterest. Groups strive to attain as many resources as possible.

3. Groupism:
Politics takes place within and between groups.

4. Power politics:
Relations between groups are determined by their levels of power derived primarily from their material (military and economic) capabilities. The overriding national interest of each state is its survival, and there is a general distrust of long-term cooperation or alliance. International politics are always power politics

In summary, realists believe that mankind is not inherently benevolent but rather self-centered and competitive. Common Proponents of Realism:

Kenneth Waltz
John Mearsheimer

Liberalisms roots lie in the broader liberal thought originating in the Enlightenment.

The central issues that Liberalism seeks to address are the problems of achieving lasting peace and cooperation in international relations, and the various methods that could contribute to their achievement.

Democratic Peace Theory:
No two democracies have gone to war with each other.

Proponents argue that:

Democratic leaders must answer to the voters for war, and therefore have an incentive to seek alternatives; Democratic leaders have practice settling matters by discussion, not by arms, and do the same in foreign policy; Democracies view non-democracies as threatening, and go to war with them over issues which would have been settled peacefully between democracies;

Democracies tend to be wealthier than other countries, and the wealthy tend to avoid war, having more to lose.

Economic Interdependence:
Nations do not go to war with their trading partners

Two nations with interdependent economies have an incentive to not go to war with each other.

Two nations with interdependent economies have an incentive to de-escalate conflict in the event that it has begun.

Golden Arches Theory

No two McDonalds have gone to war with each other Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree

Examples of Liberalism in IR today: - United Nations - NATO - World Trade Organization - International Monetary Fund

In summary, whereas Realists believe the world to be highly competitive, Liberalists suggests that there are higher, universally true, principles that nations can work together to achieve. Hence, out of Liberalism comes the notion that the West is Best, that democracy must be spread, and that the world must be developed by western, civilized, powers.

Lets play Who can pick todays generic, overused, and mostly misunderstood, PoMo word of the day?

Constructivism is the claim that significant aspects of international relations are historically and socially contingent, rather than inevitable consequences of human nature or other essential characteristics of world politics.

The most widely recognized initiator of constructivist international relations is Alexander Wendts article, "Anarchy is What States Make of It: the Social Construction of Power Politics" (1992) Wendt laid the theoretical groundwork for challenging what he considered to be a flaw shared by both neorealists and neoliberal institutionalists, namely, a commitment to a crude form of materialism. Wendt argued that even such a core realist concept as "power politics" is socially constructedthat is, not given by nature and hence, capable of being transformed by human practice.

The Constructivist Criticism: Wendt argued that neorealism presupposes the views that the international system operates under anarchy and that nation-states act in their own self-interests. Rather than seeing such Structures as given, Wendt argues that such beliefs are socially contingent. That is, neorealist views are not fact, rather, such views are constructed through social practice. Example: North Korea is only deemed an irrational actor because we have preconceived notions of what it means to be a rational actor.

Now that we have some background information about the theoretical understandings of the international political sphere
We can talk about the relatively more tangible aspects of Hegemony (aka the Kzad 95 card).

Hegemony In Praxis
Hegemony can be broken into two parts:

1) Hard Power
2) Soft Power

Hard Power


Hard Power:
Hard power is a term used to describe influence obtained through the use of military and/or economic coercion to influence the behavior or interests of other political bodies. This form of political power is often aggressive, and is most effective when imposed by one political body upon another of lesser military and/or economic power.

Hard Power:
Hard power describes a nation's ability to coerce or induce another nation to perform a course of action. This can be done through military power which consists of coercive diplomacy, war, and alliance using threats and force with the aim of coercion, deterrence, and protection. Alternatively economic power which relies on aid, bribes and economic sanctions can be used in order to induce and coerce.

Hard Power:
Walter Russell Mead: Sharp Power: Military Force Sticky Power: Economic Force

Hard Power:
An Example of Hard Power in praxis:
Goals of the Ambitious Hegemon (United States): - To contain monolithic Communism - Establish South Vietnam as an independent nation Hard Power Deployed: - 500,000 deployed soldiers - Operation Rolling Thunder - Chemical Defoliants (Agent Orange) - Search and Destroy Missions w/ Military Results: - 1.1 million North Vietnamese military deaths - 600 thousand North Vietnamese military wounded - 2 million North Vietnamese civilian deaths - 200,000 South Vietnamese deaths - 58,000 U.S. deaths

Hard Power:
Other examples:
Operation Iraqi Freedom (War in Iraq) Operation Enduring Freedom (War in Afghanistan) Operation Unified Protector (Libyan Civil War) Sanctions imposed on Iran over proliferation

Soft Power:
Coined by Joseph Nye in 1990
Rather than the use of coercive threats and economic payment Soft Power is the ability to attract and co-opt another nation to want what you want.

Soft Power:
In the words of Joe himself,
"a country may obtain the outcomes it wants in world politics because other countries admiring its values, emulating its example, aspiring to its level of prosperity and openness want to follow it. In this sense, it is also important to set the agenda and attract others in world politics, and not only to force them to change by threatening military force or economic sanctions. This soft power getting others to want the outcomes that you want coopts people rather than coerces them."

Soft Power:
So what is Soft Power exactly?
The primary currencies of soft power are an actor's values, culture, policies and institutionsand the extent to which these "primary currencies", as Nye calls them, are able to attract or repel other actors to "want what you want."

Soft Power:
Examples of U.S. Soft Power: Democracy
Capitalism McDonalds

History Textbooks
Religious Views/Tolerance The Empire State Building

Hollywood Justin Beiber

Apple NYSE

Barak Obama
Lol cats Jersey Shore UO Debate Program

Smart Power
Defined by the Center for Strategic and International Studies:
Smart power refers to the combination of hard and soft power strategies. Joseph Nye offers the example of fighting Terrorism:

Smart Power
Soft Power alone is insufficient to win the hearts and minds of the Taliban. Additionally, Hard Power alone is also insufficient to deter terrorists because it is perceived as the United States aggressively lashing out against innocent civilians. Therefore, in order to win their hearts and minds, we must simultaneously set a good example for the Taliban while also bombing their homes.

Smart Power
Thanks, Joseph Nye

We would be helpless without you!

Now, since the world is supposedly in competition, whos winning?


The ways in which power is distributed within the international system.

There are generally three types of systems:

- Unipolarity - Bipolarity - Multipolarity

Polarity: a distribution of power in which there is one state with most of the cultural, economic, and military influence. Proponents of unipolarity propose that unipolarity is the most stable of systems because one power can regulate and manage the rest of the international sphere, which maintains a peaceful international order.

Bipolarity is a distribution of power in which two states have the majority of economic, military, and cultural influence internationally or regionally.
Proponents of bipolarity is necessary to check overly regulatory regimes that result in unipolarity.

Multipolarity is a distribution of power in which more than two nation-states have nearly equal amounts of military, cultural, and economic influence. Proponents of multipolarity argue that multipolarity deters large scale conflict because the world is regionalized.

Counterbalancing occurs when one or more states attempts to limit the power of another through a variety of means such as sanctions, treaties, or potentially conflict.

Offshore Balancing: Also known as proxy wars, this of this as outsourcing balancing to other countries.
Examples: South Korea/North Korea Israel/Iran Afghanistan During Cold War

Bandwagoning occurs when states band together behind the super power in order to oppose the perceived enemy.

Critical Perspectives:

Hegemony Bad:
The belief in benign hegemony, or what is known as American Exceptionalism, perpetuates a constant state of invasive wars. - Iraq/Afghanistan - Latin America - Vietnam

Threat Construction:
The notion of what does and does not constitute a threat is based upon preconceived notions of stability. We only understand North Korea as an irrational actor because we have already cemented our beliefs about rationality, and, grounded them in beliefs from our own perspective.

Example: Pan K, Iran Proliferation

Threat Construction:
Self Fulfilling Prophecy: The reliance on, and necessitation of, the construction of threats is precisely what brings the threats into existence Example: Arms Races

Empire is a three book series written by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri in the mid-1990s and published in 2000. Hardt and Negri and post-marxist philosophers.

Hardt is an American Literary Critic. Negri is and Italian Marxist Sociologists who organized kidnappings and murders of major Italian political figures.

the book theorizes an ongoing transition from a "modern" phenomenon of imperialism, centered around individual nation-states, to an emergent postmodern construct created among ruling powers which the authors call Empire with different forms of warfare.
...according to Hardt and Negri's Empire, the rise of Empire is the end of national conflict, the "enemy" now, whoever he is, can no longer be ideological or national. The enemy now must be understood as a kind of criminal, as someone who represents a threat not to a political system or a nation but to the law. This is the enemy as a terrorist....In the "new order that envelops the entire space of... civilization", where conflict between nations has been made irrelevant, the "enemy" is simultaneously "banalized" (reduced to an object of routine police repression) and absolutized (as the Enemy, an absolute threat to the ethical order.

Empire elaborates a variety of ideas surrounding constitutions, global war, and class. Hence, the Empire is constituted by a monarchy (the United States and the G8, and international organizations such as NATO, the International Monetary Fund or the World Trade Organization), an oligarchy (the multinational corporations and other nation-states) and a democracy (the various nongovernment organizations and the United Nations). Part of the book's analysis deals with "imagin[ing] resistance", but "the point of Empire is that it, too, is "total" and that resistance to it can only take the form of negation - "the will to be against. The Empire is total, but economic inequality persists, and as all identities are wiped out and replaced with a universal one, the identity of the poor persists.