Transition of Geopolitics: Modern to Postmodern era

September 17, 2022 06:48 PM

In early times many philosophers pointed towards the end of geopolitics and gave different names to different eras. But geopolitics played a very significant role in the modern era and proved to be important for the future too.

Many philosophers and geographers talked about the importance of geopolitics. Whereas, in the postmodern era, it showed how knowledge and technological advancement took place and how geopolitics played its part in this era.

Modern geopolitics and turn in perspective:

It is also known as the 20th century’s concept. The very term of geopolitics was coined by Kjellen in the 1800s. Later in the 1930s when it was used by German philosophers, it gained a lot of attention. Karl Haushofer, through geopolitics, helped Nazi Germany. Due to its significant result, it gained popularity in the west and east too. These areas started to consider the geographical factors in the conduct of their international relations. Many in the US emerged as ardent supporters of geopolitics to be institutionalised in order for the US to become a superpower. Later philosophers like Mackinder gave an insight into geopolitics and how it will impact international politics.

Harold Mackinder- The Geographical Pivot of History:

From his this piece the first thing highlighted was how the Cartesian perspective cultivated by imperialists was changing territoriality.

According to Mackinder the concept of global was both geographical and epistemological, it was a total view, not just a worldwide view. Mackinder even named his gazed spinning globe “natural seats of power”. He then wrote about the geographical regions and laws beneath the surface of world affairs. He also talked about land as well as a sea power. Gave his thesis on Eurasia known as the “heartland”. It can be seen from cold war that USSR was already dominating Eurasia, which needed to be contained by the US in order to become a world power.

Evidently, there was a huge role of geopolitics in the cold war, there was a struggle to acquire geographical blocs. This geopolitics helped the US to become a single state with a lot of power after WW II.

So, the importance of geopolitics here increased as there was a struggle for acquiring more and more land with resources in order to gain more power. The states thus, through geopolitics got deeper and decided about maritime expansion in the west or Eurasia or shuttle belts in the third world.

Geopolitics shows how the British empire declined, the expansionism of Germans and the US’s emergence as hegemon after world war II.

Transition period and views on Geopolitics:

It was observed, that there was a clear transition from one time period to another. The old world order was vanishing and new was emerging. Some scholars had this view that this transition period from 2nd wave civilisation to 3rd wave civilisation of capitalism, would bring about new norms or values. Some believed that this was the triumph of liberalism but the fact was, there were other religions in the world too, which think differently.

• Paul Virilio: Some people highlight the incident of the collapse of the USSR as the end of the old world. But Paul Virilio talked about the importance of “chronopolitics” over geopolitics. He said that the territory has lost its importance. Time and space overcame that position.

• Edward Luttwak: He, on the other hand, was of the view that the impact of military power has reduced after the cold war in international affairs. He was more focused on geoeconomics rather than geopolitics.

• Whereas, Keniche Ohmae envisioned that the near-future world would be a borderless capitalist and put an end to the nation-state. But Luttwak was of opinion that due to power and enmity there always would be fighting in the international arena, within their boundaries. And geoeconomics would bring more state conflict rather than harmony.

• Environmentalists were of the view that geopolitics would be transitioned into eco politics. US vice president Al Gore talked about increasing threats to the environment and advocated for a “strategic environment initiative” instead of defence.

• Richard Falk: He was of opinion that the world was moving away from geopolitics and was going towards “geogovernance”. Where there would be more integration in economy, culture and politics. Which would develop workable governance at the global level.

In a nutshell, all these people and their views about geopolitics point toward the idea that after the Cold War there was no significance of geopolitics left. According to their views world was more than geopolitics, as there were many other alarming problems which need more concentration than geopolitics. As geopolitics according to them already played its role in transitioning from the old order to the new capitalist, liberal world.

Postmodern Geopolitics:

The postmodern era is known as a blend of knowledge and historical period.

• Lyotard, states that the postmodern era is the reconstruction of knowledge in more advanced, computerised societies. There is a rise in MNCs, technological advancement is there and globalisation comes in. Knowledge is thus for the best input and output equation.

• Postmodern era highlights that this era has always expanded beyond the vision of geopolitics. For example, it talks about the dissolution of Pax Americana after WW II, the US’s defeat in Vietnam and the fall of the Bretten woods system. The world order shifted towards more globalisation, communication, production and finance. There is a flow of decentralisation beyond the borders of sovereign states

• There is innovation in the concept of global space, there are intelligent satellites, GPS, geostationary weather monitors, robotic drones, intelligent officers, bureaucracies and political leaders. Whether its electronic images of hurricanes or rem one sensing of earth’s vegetation or a cruise missile getting information of a bomb’s eye; this all is not in the hands of a cartographer. But instead, geographical knowledge has taken the same of technology, cyberneticized, more informative. The cyber eye has taken place of the imperial eye.

• There is real-time coverage due to global telecommunication e.g CNN. Now the subject of geography is more virtual geography. In the past maps used to be re-mapped, and there was a practice of redrafting global space. But now globalisation has removed uncertainty.

• According to Zygmunt Bauman postmodern period is living without totality. However with the advancement in the postmodern period and views of philosophers towards the end of totality or supreme power points at the end of traditional geopolitics.

Researching Postmodern Geopolitics:

In postmodernity global space is enflamed within certain technological and informational orders of power. There are strong global media empires and strategic alliances; e.g AT&T- DirectTv, CNBC-Microsoft promise to envelop the globe within their corporate telecommunications, live coverage and spectacular coverage. They have tremendous power on how to understand geography in international politics. It is through technology that they categorised spaces after cold war

• Rogue states: war-machine zone

• Failed states: Para-governmental zone

• Emerging markets: Global financial machine zone

Satellite Image: The postmodern geopolitics of satellite image company is now privatised which was state controlled before, for its intelligence operations. In the past states had territorial agreements with clients under Orbital Science or satellite, but now with the images of terrain people can’t have access and no such agreements can be made. Israel has blocked the imaging of Saudi Arabia, by an agreement to alter, with Orbital Science. Whereas the US uses GPS for its geographical vision purposes.

Media and Machines: Media and machines helped US attacks in Iraq in 1996. Moreover, it further used cruise missiles with satellites for location and target attack. Moreover, it used air space for drone attacks. In short, the geopolitics of vision is around technology, territory and television.

Re-mapping of global strategic landscape: With the emergence of totalitarian states, Islamic fundamentalists, communists, criminals, and terrorists US came up with NATO to extend its zone strategically. This shows the influence of geopolitics. Now there is the installation of CCTV cameras for further protection and actions. Due to migration, fibre optic lines, teleports etc geographies are fluid.

Environmental Security: It has made geography post-territorial by Al Gore. In order to join hands for ozone protection, against pollution, smog emission, toxic spills etc.

Lastly the deterritorialisation of national sovereignty and territorial integrity by TNC’s flowmation of economic, financial and cultural has already provoked support, on one hand, resistance on the other, within US political culture.

Postmodernity is saturated with geographical politics of various kinds. There is no more struggle toward global space and old theories are now obsolete. The geography of power with knowledge continues and the struggle for resistance as well.


To sum up, the modern period shows how without technological advancement territorial geopolitics played a very big role in various states and philosophies that helped to acquire power. But in the transition period, it started to vanish due to multiple ideologies, mostly because of the world is one unit under capitalism, which was not true. In postmodernity, it showed geopolitics is necessary but, it is now a blend of knowledge and technology which has shaped the very concept of geopolitics.


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