- Political geography studies the spatial dimension of human conflict and cooperation on
Scale of study: Traditionally at the state level. Meaning Political Geography studies the
actions of governments and institutions rather than those of actual people
-group themselves into nations
-how those nations can form the foundation of states
-how states claim space as their territory
-how states compete for territory and negotiate boundaries between each other
Nation: Applicable to all cultural groups
Cultural trait can be:
- a common mother tongue (e.g. Welsh or Basque)
- a common ethnic ancestry (e.g. Ojibway)
- a common religion (e.g. Christianity)
State: A set of institutions
It has the following features:
- It covers a distinct area (‘territory’)
- The limits of the territory are defined by borders to neighbouring states
- The territory is ruled by one government that exercise power over the territory and
those that live within it
A clearly-defined large group of people who self-identify as a group and occupy a
spatially-defined territory with necessary infrastructure, social and political institutions
Note: there are few ‘true’ nation-states. Example of ‘true’ nation-states are Japan,
Iceland, Slovenia, and Portugal
Nations that do not currently have a state of their own
Examples include: the Basque living in Northern Spain and Southern France want to
form their own state
Multi-NationalStates: Where a state’s population is formed by two or more distinct nations
Examples include: Belgium – shared between French-speaking Walloons in the south,
Dutch-speaking Flemings in the north, and a German-speaking minority in the east
Exploration: Most empires began as a result of exploratory activity
Colonialism: Economic, social, and political activity in explored areas that became
colonies were determined by and for the exploring power.
In recent years the number of states in the world has increased, from 70 in 1938 to more
that 190 in 2009.
- Most of these states have achieved independence from a colonial power
- Many of them reflect national groupings, but some occupy areas around which
Europeans drew boundaries for their own reasons
Net losses to the national economies of the colonial powers, benefiting the stock
exchange and a few individuals rather than state treasuries. Offered a way to reduce
State creation and expansion:
- Seven laws concerning the spatial growth of states
- Generalizations based on observations of a supposed ideal world
- Notion of the state as a living organism
- Chain of events beginning with political idea and concluding with creation of political
- Between idea and area are: decision, movement, field
- Process of state creation involves up to eight stages
- Emphasizes evolution and focuses primarily on human actions
Geopolitics is about the ways in which states, and institutions apply geographical
knowledge and principles to enhance their power vis-a-vis their competitors
Theory of world power based on the assumption that the land-based state controlling
the Eurasian heartland held the key to world domination.
a. Who rules Eastern Europe commands the heartland
b. Who rules the heartland commands the World Island c. Who rules the World Island commands the World.
Study of states as organisms that choose to expand in territory in order to fulfill their
destinies as nation-states.
i.e. ‘survival of the fittest’ (Darwinist idea)
Theory of world power based on the assumption that the state controlling the area
surrounding Eurasian heartland held the key to world domination.
Centrifugal: Tear a state apart
- When it exceeds centripetal forces, a state is unstable e.g.: internal divisions in
language or religion; weak institutions, separatist movements, etc.
Centripetal: Bind a state together
- When it exceeds centrifugal forces, a state is stable e.g.: extensive transportation and
communication infra.; religion, history, language, strong ethnic identity, central
- Mark the limits of a state’s sovereignty
- 'Lines' drawn where states meet or where states’ territorial waters end
- Artificial in the sense that what is meaningful in one context may be meaningless in
Boundaries can be physical or cultural in character
- Physical or Natural Boundaries:
A river, A mountain range
- Cultural or Artificial Boundaries:
Religious boundaries, Language boundaries
- Geometric boundary:
Straight lines or arcs that have been drawn on a map and then transferred to the real
1. Antecedent boundaries:
- Established before significant settlement began
2. Subsequent boundaries
- Defined after an area has been settled and the basic form of the human landscape has
3. Relics boundaries
A boundary that doesn't exist anymore but still has an effect on the present-day area Example: Berlin wall or the boundary between east and west Germany.
1. Positional disputes. States disagreement over: the interpretation of existing
documents that define a boundary
2. Territorial disputes. Conflicts between states or regions over the ownership of a given
3. Resource disputes. Conflicts over the use of resources created or complicated by a
4. Functional disputes. Conflicts over the national policies applied at a border.
Essentially limited to establishing and maintaining trade blocs (NAFTA, ASEAN) -
Several other groups now established - Most influential is United Nations
Democracy: rule by the people
Monarchy: rule by a single person
Oligarchy: rule by a few, usually those in possession of wealth
Dictatorship: oppressive and arbitrary form of rule established and maintained by force
Anarchism: rejects the concept of state and associated division of society into ‘rulers’
- They aim to remove any and all features of capitalism.
- They have the power, in principle, to make substantial changes to society.
- Neither of these characteristics has been met with popular approval.
- Socialism has a strong, anti-colonial, nationalistic component.
Unitary: The most centralized form of government; local governments are used by the
central state to organize the political hinterland.
Federal: The least centralized. One purpose is to prevent one level of government from
dictating to another.
Compound Unitary: Midway between the federal and unitary types, these systems
devolve substantial powers to subnational governments, but less power than in the
ExercisingStatePower Capitalist countries: state power is exercised through various institutions and
State apparatus includes: 1. Political and legal systems 2. Military or police forces to
enforce the state’s power 3. Mechanisms such as a central bank to regulate economic
Critical issue: Need for international cooperation in solving global environmental
In analysis of elections, geography is an important factor: in the boundaries of voting
districts, voting behaviour, government activity, and larger world issues
- Free versus compromised elections
- Recent elections in 154 countries identified 39 as compromised, mostly in Africa and
Creating Electoral Bias:
Gerrymandering: any spatial reorganization designed to favour a particular party
Malapportionment: a form of gerrymandering involving the creation of electoral districts of
varying population sizes so that one party will benefit
- The increasing interconnectedness of people and places through converging
processes of economic, political, and cultural change
- The process of reducing barriers between countries and encouraging closer economic,
social, and political interaction
- Leads to increasing integration and interconnectivity among those spaces
- Emergence of global communication system that link all regions on the planet
- Transnational corporate strategies that have created global corporations
- New forms of production of goods and services
- Emergence of new centers of production
- Emergence of new forms of technology Cultural – global information, global education and media, global lifestyle, entertainment,
fashion and design
Political – global political institutions, and power blocs, democracy as the dominant
system of governance
Environmental –global ecosystem, global pollution, pandemics, global conservation
movements and politics
Global scales of activities - Greater speed - Global integration (interconnectedness) -
Single globalized market (‘Global village’) - Vast consumer products - Larger
participants (people & countries) - A new global division of labour
- Declining relevance and authority of nation-states
- Economies are becoming “denationalized.”
- Brought about largely through the economic logic of a global market
"Today’s global economy is genuinely borderless. Information, capital, and innovation
flow all over the world at top speed, enabled by technology "
- The “golden age” of globalization occurred at the end of the 19th century.
- Disagree whether old cleavages are becoming increasingly irrelevant.
- The third world is not being drawn into a global economy
1. Nation States
2. Central Banks
3. International organizations
4. International governmental organizations
5. Multinational corporations
- These ‘actors’ form a network at different organizational and geographical scales.
DevelopmentalFootprint - Local cultures tend to “domesticate”, “indigenize”, “tame”, imported consumer culture
by giving it a local flavour
- Many cultures promote a consumer nationalism that encourages local over “foreign”
- Corporations choose distinct localities to succeed
- Communities compete by touting local geographic benefits or differences in their
Compression-- Time-space distanciation describes the process whereby remote (long
distance) interaction has become an increasingly significant feature of human life
Networks-- A set of interconnected nodes, without a center.
Example of a network: - “commodity chains” a complex network of people, labour, and
production processes starting with the extraction of raw materials from the earth itself
and ending with your purchase of the final production
Placelessness-- Places have meaning to one group, although at the same time
meaningless to other groups. (“deterritorialization”)
- Rationalization - takes a task and breaks it down into smaller tasks. “McDonaldization”
Glocalization-- A product or service that is developed and distributed globally. At the
same time fashioned to accommodate the user or consumer in a local market.
- Many business-oriented benefits
- Competition allows flow of capital to poorest areas
- Increases wages
- Consequences of change are uncertain
- More beneficial to developed worlds
- Selective free trade
- Contributing to ever-widening gap between rich and poor
- Strong, efficient governments
- Strengthened and reformed international institutions
- Globalized networks of environmental, labor and human rights groups
- economic activities that are concern directly with natural resources of any kind
Eg: - Agriculture - Fishing
- economic activities that process, transform, fabricate or assemble the raw materials
derived from primary activities
Eg: - manufacturing - processing
- activities where people offer their knowledge and time to improve productivity
Eg: - retailing - financial services
- economic activities that deal with the handling and processing of knowledge and
information as well as distribution
Eg: - information - research
Executive decision makers - involves high level decision making in large organizations
Agriculture- The science and practice of farming, including the cultivation of soil and the
rearing of livestock.
Key fact: The most widespread and space consuming activity globally
Why are specific agricultural activities located where they are?
Physical, Cultural, Political
Agriculture originated in the domestication of plants and then animals. Domestic plants
and animals differ from their non-domesticated counterparts. Began roughly 12,000
years ago in the Jordan Valley. Some researchers suggest that domestication was
something that humans resorted to only when they encountered difficulties with food
supply. Climate change or population pressure (or a combination) might have prompted
a search for new supplies.
- A second agricultural revolution associated with the onset of the Industrial Revolution
in the eighteenth century.
- The development of nitrogen fertilizers in the early twentieth century. - The 'green revolution' that began in the mid-twentieth century.