In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Geopolitics

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works and Anthologies
  • Textbooks
  • Classical Geopolitics
  • Neoclassical Geopolitics and Geostrategy
  • Critical Geopolitics
  • Boundaries, Territory, and Sovereignty
  • Security, War, and Peace
  • US Security and the War on Terror
  • Geopolitical Traditions
  • Environmental Geopolitics, Natural Resources, and Geoeconomics
  • Popular Culture
  • Feminist and Postcolonial Approaches

Geography Geopolitics
Dr. Leonhardt van Efferink
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 April 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0017


Since the term geopolitics was coined in 1899 it has had many different meanings. They all evolve around its two parts, “geo” and “politics.” Dealing with the possible meanings requires a thorough understanding of what distinguishes them from one another. First, “geo” can denote various geographic aspects, such as space, soil, or territory. More specifically, it can denote geographic conditions, such as the presence of natural resources in a bounded area. Whether geography should be considered a static or a dynamic factor has also been subject to debate. Furthermore, “politics” generally concerns factors that are related to power, such as foreign policy, international relations, and military strategy. Here the discussion has been fueled by different views on the relative importance of states vis-à-vis nonstate actors. Causality and its intensity is another cause of disagreement, with some arguing that geography is decisive for political outcomes (geographic determinism). An alternative view is that geographic and political processes mutually influence each other. Finally, intellectual discord has originated in the descriptive, prescriptive, and predictive possibilities of geopolitical research. Are experts in the field capable of analyzing the interaction between geography and politics objectively? Is it desirable that these experts are involved in formulating policy advice? And is a geopolitical specialist able to produce reliable forecasts? These perspectives explain why one widely accepted definition of “geopolitics” does not exist. As a working definition for this contribution, the study of the ways space and power are linked would be appropriate. Please note that this bibliography concerns publications in English, French, German, and Dutch.

General Overviews

Geopolitics made a slow comeback starting in the 1960s, after its popularity among leading figures of the Third Reich had made it taboo. Hepple 1986 gives a good overview of the reemergence of geopolitical thought in the 1970s and 1980s. Mamadouh 1998 documents the different directions this discipline has since sought. In its discussion of various strands, Parker 1998 focuses on how classical geopolitical theories can be applied in future research. Kliot and Newman 2000 concentrates on critical approaches to geopolitics and discusses issues such as cross-border flows, territory, and sovereignty. Csurgai 2009 provides an introduction to geopolitical thought, geopolitical models, and geostrategy, in which one can sense a French influence. In an engaging way, Moreau Defarges 2009 gives a French perspective on geopolitical ideas from France and abroad. Criekemans 2006 offers a very broad overview of geopolitical thought that covers more than a century and many countries. Van der Wusten and Mamadouh 2015 tells the (hi)story of geopolitics, examines its relevance for the Netherlands, and explores possible futures of the concept. Coutau-Bégarie and Motte 2013 provides a rare and stimulating combination of edited contributions on geopolitical ideas that range from the Greek civilization (when the word geopolitics did not exist yet) to the 21st century. The website Exploring Geopolitics contains interviews with traditional, critical, and French geopolitical scholars and accessible articles about key themes, such as sovereignty, national identity, and cartography.

  • Coutau-Bégarie, Hervé, and Martin Motte. Approches de la Géopolitique: De l’Antiquité au XXIe Siècle. Paris: Economica, 2013.

    What makes this edited volume a valuable resource for geopolitical scholars is that it contains an enormous wealth of ideas from many centuries. The contributions discuss ideas of well-known geopolitical scholars such as Kjellén, Mackinder, and Brzezinski, but also of hardly known thinkers such as Giacomo Durando, Camille Vallaux, and Jordis von Lohausen. The stimulating nature of this work is further enhanced by its coverage of many centuries of geopolitical thought, starting with the role of geopolitics avant la lettre in the ancient Greek world.

  • Criekemans, David. Geopolitiek: “Geografisch geweten” van de buitenlandse politiek? Antwerp, Belgium: Garant, 2006.

    This is the most extensive discussion of geopolitical theories available, and it includes dozens of different definitions in an appendix. An English translation of this Dutch book would be valuable, as this broad overview of the geopolitical discipline deserves a global audience.

  • Csurgai, Gyula, ed. Geopolitics: Schools of Thought, Method of Analysis, Case Studies. Geneva, Switzerland: Éditions de Penthes, 2009.

    This overview contains useful introductions to geopolitical schools of thought, geopolitical analysis models, and geostrategy followed by related studies of India, Iran, Sudan, “color revolutions,” and Islam. The text’s combination of accessible discussions of theories and concepts and their applications to timely developments makes it a useful source for undergraduates and a nonacademic audience.

  • Exploring Geopolitics. Edited by Leonhardt van Efferink.

    Website that seeks to provide a platform to geopolitical scholars, positioned between the academic journals and mass media. The scholars’ contributions concerning their research and views are written in an accessible way and are not edited. The floor is given to both traditionally oriented and critically oriented scholars so as to offer a broad and general overview of geopolitics.

  • Hepple, Leslie W. “The Revival of Geopolitics.” Political Geography Quarterly 5.4 (1986): S21–S36.

    DOI: 10.1016/0260-9827(86)90055-8

    Hepple covers why and how geopolitics reentered the academic and popular debates in North America and Europe in the 1970s after an absence of more than twenty years. He argues that geographers should play an active role in contextualizing geopolitical problems. This article stimulated the emerging academic debate on geopolitics in Anglo-Saxon academia in the 1980s after the discipline had become taboo following the collapse of the Third Reich in 1945. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Kliot, Nurit, and David Newman, eds. Geopolitics at the End of the Twentieth Century: The Changing World Political Map. Cass Studies in Geopolitics. London: Cass, 2000.

    The contributions highlight the different ways increased cross-border flows have affected the study of geopolitics, particularly through the changing roles of states. The authors present important concepts, such as statehood, regionalization, and deterritorialization. This book made an important contribution to the debate on how to problematize key spatial concepts.

  • Mamadouh, Virginie D. “Geopolitics in the Nineties: One Flag, Many Meanings.” GeoJournal 46.4 (1998): 237–253.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1006950931650

    This article outlines many different geopolitical approaches and distinguishes among four main strands: neoclassical geopolitics, subversive geopolitics, nongeopolitics, and critical geopolitics. Moreover, the author examines the position of geostrategy and geoeconomics within geopolitical thought. The article is highly recommended for undergraduates and a nonacademic audience for its conciseness, accessible style, and breadth. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Moreau Defarges, Philippe. Introduction à la géopolitique. 3d ed. Points. Paris: Seuil, 2009.

    The opening chapter highlights the central role of history in French geopolitical thinking and provides a stimulating view of the possible relationships between human beings and space. The author also discusses theories on “land” and “sea” geopolitics, conflict studies, and geoeconomics. In all, the book offers an engaging French perspective on geopolitics for a broad audience.

  • Parker, Geoffrey. Geopolitics: Past, Present, and Future. London: Pinter, 1998.

    This book gives a history of geopolitical thinking, after which the author claims that new concepts are necessary to make geopolitical theories more applicable to contemporary issues in world politics. The work’s suggestions to modify existing ideas and focus more on concepts such as world order fueled particularly the classical-geopolitical debate.

  • van der Wusten, Herman, and Virginie Mamadouh. Geopolitiek: Elementaire deeltjes. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2015.

    This first short introduction to geopolitics in Dutch discusses the history of the concept and its various meanings. The book contains special chapters on Germany, the United States, and the Netherlands in the EU context. It offers an accessible perspective on geopolitics that includes both historical references and thoughts about the future, clarified by many relevant examples in the form of texts, images, and maps.

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