1705766905 Take care of the geopolitics

Take care of the geopolitics

Take care of the geopolitics

After decades of ostracism, geopolitics is back. The World Economic Forum mentions it 34 times in its global risk report presented in Davos. Geopolitics is establishing itself as an analytical and attractive approach not only in international forums. Also for institutions that design, implement and evaluate the foreign policy of countries and even for universities, companies, think tanks and media that already use the term as a matter of course. Then why talk about “return” and, above all, why the previous ostracism?

The question of return is related to the limitations associated with the tools used to analyze some transnational issues. The most classic and formal approaches, based on legal, economic and/or institutional perspectives, face increasing difficulties when it comes to understanding very Latin American phenomena such as organized crime, arms trafficking, public insecurity, in all their complexity and informality, migration, Deforestation or biopiracy crosses borders and analytical references.

There are also some methodological obstacles: quantitative approaches tend to identify trends, but ultimately ignore seemingly insignificant details that can be critical to understanding particular dynamics over time. In general, the social sciences tend to listen to understand, while risk studies, which are more mechanical, take more inductive approaches that result in forward-looking statements with sometimes larger margins of error.

The reason for the previous ban has to do with the geopolitical background. Since it was proposed in 1900 by the Swedish political scientist Rudolf Kjellén, it has traveled through dark areas… The first works tried to use it to understand those areas of the planet (Africa and Asia, but also Latin America) that had the great European powers were distributed at the Berlin Congress in 1878. At the time, it was known that these regions were rich in resources, but not always in what resources or who lived near them.

It wasn't long before this controversial way of understanding geopolitical knowledge turned against Europe itself: Karl Haushofer, one of the leading authors in Nazi Germany, was on trial in Nuremberg. Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan also justified and glorified their expansionism on geopolitics. In Latin America, models were copied and contradictions reproduced during the Cold War: a great friend of this view was the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

This type of background and company caused geopolitics to become less important during the Cold War, although it was never ignored. Apart from his identification with totalitarianism (and before that with colonialism and, in Latin America, with military dictatorships), the main accusations leveled at him from an academic perspective were his geographical determinism; his methodological nationalism, but above all his claim to give scientific respectability to capricious or self-serving stories without any rigor.

The big break with everything that happened at the end of the 20th century. Then as now, innovative approaches and tools were needed to understand a changing world. In the Anglo-Saxon world, authors such as Gerard Toal, John Agnew and Simon Dalby promoted an academic reinvention of geopolitics. They rethought it as a field of interdisciplinary problematization; They challenged the determinisms, representations, and formalisms that hindered their development and forcefully demanded methodological rigor. All tools that can be useful for rethinking the Latin American region.

The result of his proposal is called critical geopolitics. On this basis, we seek to understand how different visions of the world, often contradictory, are constructed and legitimized through specific narratives (in which the media plays an essential role) (think of Ukraine, the Middle East or Guiana Esequiba ). In addition, it was assumed that events such as climate change, the energy transition or North-South relations, which are of great interest to our region, can be as geopolitical as traditional military, economic or commercial issues.

In the current turbulent Latin American context, we must be careful. Geopolitics offers analytical flexibility but requires accountability. The critical element should not be confused with identity, interest or militancy. Geopolitics must also not limit itself to supporting official discourses or developing a simplistic or biased criticism of the “status quo”. In a world overloaded with information, we must not forget that we are talking about a tool that, as history shows, also has a disturbing potential for combining fake news and science. Let's get serious, let's do it differently…

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