By: Jafe Arnold
“Geopolitics”, coined in 1902 by Rudolf Kjellén and informed by Friedrich Ratzel’s 1897 “political geography”, is an esoteric term. Most generically, geopolitics is presented as the science of the relationship between geography and politics in international relations; and for this seemingly materialistic binding of the complexity and passions of human politics to physical earth and resources, geopolitics is often berated as “cynical”, “deterministic”, “reductionist”, or “materialist.” Of course, this misrepresentation is immediately based on an overlooking or misreading of the 19th and early 20th century founders of geopolitics, but the problem runs much deeper: it lies in a loss of the meaning and implications of space as encapsulated in geo- and politics.
The word geopolitics is nominatively composed of Greek gê (“earth”) and politika (“of, concerning the polis”). The definitions of polis and politika are the subject of immense controversy and are generically translated as “city-state” and “of, by, and for the city-state and/or its citizens”, although it is clear that in both cases we are dealing with the common denominator of a space with superstructural content – a socio-political space. If we trace the etymology of earth back to Proto-Indo-European, we have dheghom and h₁er-, whereby we arrive at a sense of earth as the space of humans, what they inhabit, what they dig in, what they are made out of – indeed, from this sense arises the notion of man as a microcosm of the earth as seen in numerous Indo-European linguistic and cosmological derivations. Here must be added Ancient Greek khôra, which might be from the Proto-Indo-European gher (“to yearn for” as well as “to enclose”) and/or ghoros (ritual surrounding, e.g., with dance, music, etc.), and which nominally refers to “land” or “country”, particularly that surrounding the polis, but whose interpretations generally concern qualitative space. In Plato’s designation, khôra is the dimension of the “country” that shapes Being, the transitional realm between between forms and their realization.  In other words, we are dealing not merely with “earth-places” or, in the most scientific sense, “geography”, but space in a dimension that encompasses humans, their polities and politics, and is indivisible from their intimate sense of being part and parcel of the cosmos. At its etymological-cum-conceptual core, geopolitics thus deals with space as something qualitative, as something tied to subjectivity and humans; it deals with man and space as inseparable, not disconnected and not disenchanted.
In his Foundations of Geopolitics, Alexander Dugin summates: “Geopolitics speaks of ‘spatial man’ defined by space, formed by it, and conditioned by its specific quality…This conditioning vividly manifests itself in man’s large-scale social manifestations in states, ethnoi, cultures, civilizations, etc…” The quality and magnitude of these manifestations of space “are only seen at a certain distance from the individual”, as “civilizations” themselves are “one of the largest concepts that the historical consciousness of mankind is capable of generating…which possess extensive spatial, temporal, and cultural boundaries…[and] possess a considerable volume, i.e., they should last a long time, control significant geographical areas, and produce a special, expressive cultural and religious (and sometimes ideological) style” . We have quoted Dugin’s presentation of geopolitics in his 1997 textbook not only because it has shaped the discourse and heavily influenced major actors of geopolitics in the 21st century, but because its value also lies in Dugin’s cogent argument that the worldview of modernity and the worldview of geopolitics are ultimately opposed. Here should resonate Dugin’s side-by-side theses that “the path is from geopolitics to sacred geography” and that, simultaneously, geopolitics has become the essentially defining barometer of contemporary processes, particularly multipolarity. The resulting deduction is that the geopolitics of the current period are taking us towards the archaic. Continue reading