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geopolitics

geopolitics, method of political analysis, popular in Central Europe during the first half of the 20th cent., that emphasized the role played by geography in international relations. Geopolitical theorists stress that natural political boundaries and access to important waterways are vital to a nation's survival. The term was first used (1916) by Rudolf Kjeflen, a Swedish political scientist, and was later borrowed by Karl Haushofer, a German geographer and follower of Friedrich Ratzel. Haushofer founded (1922) the Institute of Geopolitics in Munich, from which he proceeded to publicize geopolitical ideas, including Sir Walford J. Mackinder's theory of a European "heartland" central to world domination. Haushofer's writings found favor with the Nazi leadership, and his ideas were used to justify German expansion during the Nazi era. Many expansionist justifications, including the American "manifest destiny" as well as the German Lebensraum, are based on geopolitical considerations. Geopolitics is different from political geography, a branch of geography concerned with the relationship between politics and the environment.

See A. Dorpalen, The World of General Haushofer (1942, repr. 1966); W. A. D. Jackson, ed., Politics and Geographic Relationships (2d ed. 1971); S. B. Cohen, Geography and Politics in a World Divided (2d ed. 1973); P. O'Sullivan, Geopolitics (1986).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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