Imperialism and the Nation State in Friedrich Ratzel's Political Geography

ArticleinProgress in Human Geography 11(4):473-495 · September 1987with 340 Reads
Abstract
Analyses Ratzel's political geography within the context of the imperialism of the late 19th century. -from Author
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    This article focuses on the pivotal role the notion of Lebensraum played within the Nazi spatial mindscape. Tracing the complex and contradictory genealogies of Lebensraum, we note how geographers’ engagement with Geopolitik has only made modest reference to the role Lebensraum played in shaping the biopolitical and genocidal machinery implemented by Hitlerism and its followers. Moreover, most of this literature highlights a clear discontinuity between the Lebensraum concept formulated by German academic geographers and the Nazis respectively. Rather than emphasizing the divide between German Geopolitik and Nazi biopolitics, we claim that the Third Reich incorporated Lebensraum by merging its duplicitous meaning, as living/vital space and as life-world. Equality important were both Nazi ‘functionalist’ understandings of Lebensraum as well as its ontological merging of Lebens and Raum in which the racialised German nation is conceived as a spatial organism whose expansion is the essential expression of life. As such, we approach the Nazi Lebensraum grand imagery as a truly geo-bio-political dispositif, in which life and space matched with no gap, no residues. The attempted realisation of this perfect coincidence, we argue, contributed in a crucial way to produce spaces of eviction and displacement and, ultimately, genocide, and annihilation.
  • Article
    This article focuses on the pivotal role the notion of Lebensraum played within the Nazi spatial mindscape. Tracing the complex and contradictory genealogies of Lebensraum, we note how geographers’ engagement with Geopolitik has only made modest reference to the role Lebensraum played in shaping the biopolitical and genocidal machinery implemented by Hitlerism and its followers. Moreover, most of this literature highlights a clear discontinuity between the Lebensraum concept formulated by German academic geographers and the Nazis respectively. Rather than emphasizing the divide between German Geopolitik and Nazi biopolitics, we claim that the Third Reich incorporated Lebensraum by merging its duplicitous meaning, as living/vital space and as life-world. Equality important were both Nazi ‘functionalist’ understandings of Lebensraum as well as its ontological merging of Lebens and Raum in which the racialised German nation is conceived as a spatial organism whose expansion is the essential expression of life. As such, we approach the Nazi Lebensraum grand imagery as a truly geo-bio-political dispositif, in which life and space matched with no gap, no residues. The attempted realisation of this perfect coincidence, we argue, contributed in a crucial way to produce spaces of eviction and displacement and, ultimately, genocide, and annihilation.
  • Article
    Hitler's autobahn was more than just the pet project of an infrastructure-friendly dictator. It was supposed to revolutionize the transportation sector in Germany, connect the metropoles with the countryside, and encourage motorization. The propaganda machinery of the Third Reich turned the autobahn into a hyped-up icon of the dictatorship. One of the claims was that the roads would reconcile nature and technology. Rather than destroying the environment, they would embellish the landscape. Many historians have taken this claim at face value and concluded that the Nazi regime harbored an inbred love of nature. In this book, the author argues that such conclusions are misleading. Based on rich archival research, the book provides the first scholarly account of the landscape of the autobahn.
  • Article
    Geographical scale is a central concept enabling us to make sense of the world we inhabit. Amongst other things, it allows us to declare one event or process a national one and another a global or regional one. However, geographical scales and how we think about them are profoundly contested, and the spatial resolution at which social processes take place - local, regional or global - together with how we talk about them has significant implications for understanding our world. Scale provides a structured investigation of the debates concerning the concept of scale and how various geographical scales have been thought about within critical social theory. Specifically, the author examines how the scales of the body, the urban, the regional, the national, and the global have been conceptualized within Geography and the social sciences more broadly. The first part of the book provides a comprehensive overview of how different theoretical perspectives have regarded scale, especially debates over whether scales are real things or merely mental contrivances and/ or logical devices with which to think, as well as the consequences of thinking of them in areal versus in networked terms. The subsequent five chapters of the book then each takes a particular scale: the body; the urban; the regional; the national; the global and explores how it has been conceptualized and represented discursively for political and other purposes. A brief conclusion draws the book together by posing a number of questions about scale which emerge from the foregoing discussion. The first single-author volume ever written on the subject of geographical scale, this book provides a unique overview in pushing understandings of scale in new and original directions. The accessible text is complimented by didactic boxes, and Scale serves as a valuable pedagogical reference for undergraduate and postgraduate audiences wishing to become familiar with such theoretical issues.
  • Article
    With Bounding Power, Daniel Deudney makes a masterly contribution to the renaissance of classical political theory in contemporary thought about world politics. . . . Long in gestation,Bounding Poweris a vigorously argued and sophisticated book, which contains a number of important strands of discussion that combine to make the case for what Deudney labels 'republican security theory.' . . . Deudney has certainly opened new vistas of classical political theory to international relations scholars.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    In this article, Mark Bassin explores Lev Gumilev's theory of ethnicity. Developing his ideas in the context of post-Stalinist debates about the relationship of society to the natural world, Gumilev maintained that the etnos was a wholly natural, quasi-biological entity. Although this naturalism involved an important genetic dimension, Gumilev denied that ethnicity was determined by race and emphasized instead its ecological quality as an organic part of biogeocenoses or natural-landscape ecosystems. Although he remained marginalized in his day by the Soviet ethnographic establishment, his essentialist perspective is powerfully appealing for post-Soviet audiences, who find his "ecology of ethnicity" singularly useful for the purposes of ethnopolitical discourse.
  • Chapter
    Full-text available
  • Article
    This is the first academic book on Dutch colonial aspirations and initiatives during WWII. Between the summers of 1941 and 1944, some 5,500 Dutch men and women left their occupied homeland to find employment in the so-called German Occupied Eastern Territories: Belarus, the Baltic countries and parts of Ukraine. This was the area designated for colonization by Germanic people. It was also the stage of the "Holocaust by Bullets," a centrally coordinated policy of exploitation and oppression and a ruthless anti-partisan war. This book seeks to answer why the Dutch decided to go there, how their recruitment, transfer and stay were organized, and how they reacted to this scene of genocidal violence. It is a close-up study of racial monomania, of empire-building on the old continent and of collaboration in Nazi-occupied Europe.
  • Article
    There are several analytical strands through which historians and demographers understand the evolution of twentieth-century population politics and expertise. One is the history of the declining birthrate, nationalism, pro-natalism, and modern degeneration anxieties, including histories of eugenics. A second strand is the story of global overpopulation, its mobilization as a mid-twentieth-century issue in Cold War politics, the dominance of the idea of demographic transitions and political economy, and subsequent links between aid, development, family planning, and various international agencies. A third is the history of reproductive and bodily rights, feminism, and birth control, which has been analyzed with respect to the history of technology, the history of colonialism and neo-colonialism, the history of nationalism, and to some extent the history of internationalism. The political economy aspects of the population question tend chronologically to bookend the feminist narrative, with Malthus at the late eighteenth-century end and Cold War political economy of third world development at the twentieth-century end. A fourth strand is a burgeoning intellectual history of demography, social science, and economic theory.
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  • Chapter
    During the Second World War there was an abundant growth of literature in the United States aimed at stating and refuting the arguments of German geopolitics. Writers such as Ratzel, Kjellen and Karl Haushofer were pillorized, and every effort was made to emphasize that their views were in agreement with those of the ideologists of Nazism. Inasmuch as they provided justification for the war of conquests in the name of living space and preached unification of the Germans by virtue of their membership in Deut-schtum, it might be alleged that they were in league with the leaders of the Third Reich and endorsed their warlike ventures. Thus, the technique employed was to blunt the edge of their arguments by describing their work as unscientific and their behavior as a kind of “trahison des clercs.” Karl Haushofer regarded geopolitics as praxeology, and did not conceal the fact that it was a means to an end, the end being the restoration of a strong Germany free from all encumbrances. It was therefore relatively easy to show him as an accessory to Nazism at a time when ideological warfare prevailed and there was little concern for nice distinctions.
  • Article
    Three elements of late nineteenth century society are examined: imperialism as the urgent moment of sociopolitical necessity, Social Darwinism as compelling ideology of an imperial capitalism, and environmental determinism as first version of modern geography. To legitimate imperial conflict and conquest, sociological principles were derived from biology using the methodological linking device of the organismic analogy. Fundamental differences between humans and the rest of nature could not be comprehended within this methodology. Though aimed at a science of society. Social Darwinism in general and environmental determinism as its geographic version were forced to assume a quasi-scientific form in racism, and nature was given a causal power that could not be scientifically justified. Marxism, by comparison, provides a theoretical basis for scientifically comprehending the relations between nature, production, and society. Following Social Darwinism rather than Marxism prevented geography from achieving a science of environmental relations.
  • Article
    A meeting of historians on “Colonialism and Colonization” certainly raises a terminological problem. Colonization is a great and old subject of historical study. The word “colonialism,” on the contrary, seems to me to have come to us from the international rostrums where diplomats and propagandists wage the psychological wars of today; and to my taste it has that Basic English quality of an international vocabulary ready-made for simultaneous translation, where the suggestive power of words is in inverse relation to their accuracy. In its current use it seems to be a synonym of imperialism or, more generally, of domination of one country by another, or by the rulers of another country. But imperialism, at least, says what it means: the policy of building and holding together an empire, a unit of domination which transcends the national state. Foreign domination is a self-defining expression apt to describe all degrees of dependency, from straight political and military to economic or even cultural ones. What, then, is the use of forging yet another term?