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  1. Mediterranean geopolitics: when central gets peripheral - Paris Innovation Review
  2. Background
  3. The Geopolitics of Europe’s Identity
  4. Section List

For there is a fundamental world picture, quite independent of sovereign nationhood, common to nineteenth-century nation-state imperialism, twentieth-century geopolitical aggression and seventeenth- to twentieth- century European empire-building, which has fed imperialism and geopolitics over the centuries. The world its history and its geography is perceived as a disorderly space: that is, space without any regularity that can be understood, relied upon, or factored in to ensure the outcome of action.

If order is to arise, it seems to follow, that can happen through the will of orderly governmental entities to spread their dominance over the disorderly parts of the globe. Though a number nourished in parallel the view that actually they were more civilised and civilising than the other European nations! For their activities on the global plane, the dichotomy between order and disorder, expressed in the juxtaposition civilised-uncivilised, was more fundamental than that between nation and nation. Whilst there remains a clear tension between national-statehood and imposing global order, it is easy to make extending empire inseparable from order.

The former brings the latter; the latter is the rationale and legitimation of the former: empires bring order; order legitimises imperial dominance. In short, nation-centrism can be removed from geopolitics without weakening the geopolitical paradigm above, founded on the exten- sion of an ordering power. As Agnew points out, s development theory, for example, reflected an analogous sense of the progress of order worldwide, though with no explicit reference to imperial expansion as the mechanism. Given their proclivity for extending control, empires are ready-made for the task implicit in the sense of a disorderly world beyond.

Because their fundamental aspiration is to extend an order, where there is disorder they are the natural, self-selected agents to bring geopolitical order. It is no wonder, then, that over the length of historical time empires have been the most visible mechanism in the ordering of global space: empire and geopolitics pursue the same ambitions. And it is likewise perfectly natural that, in a globalising environment, the imperial ordering of the globe should be embraced as a goal by political entities that are not nineteenth-century European colonising national states at all.

A number of powerful advocates of an American-led geopolitics for the sake of worldwide order have accordingly appeared since , setting out an agenda for the proper ordering of the world. We have seen how well empire fits as a possible force in the accounts of the geopolitical ordering of the world.

In the light of the argument of the previous section, the issue can be further re-formulated: If geopolitics entails an ordering of space, are there other ordering processes or actors working in parallel, but over and above that implicit in any given empire? It seems beyond belief that no such processes or actors could be postulated.

So, we can approach the issue by asking how other potential geopolitical orders stand in relation to empires. The very first attacks on imperialism alleged that something else in domestic politics was indeed at work within the pursuit of the empire. Arguing against the direction of British government in the late eighteenth century, Burke, for example, claimed precisely that the empire served the power of the court over the established nobility, benefited a nouveau riche, and undermined the public morals of the nation with fortunes rapidly made by irresponsible power- and wealth-seekers.

Of course, any public policy must be expected to alter society, and in the nature of things most will favour some fractions of society over others. It fol- lows that we can expect the imperial extension of power to promote power concentration at the centre, and to be driven by interests of this kind in the metropole.

Mediterranean geopolitics: when central gets peripheral - Paris Innovation Review

Empires shape global space in ways that are often indirect and unwitting, while they concurrently generate deceptive understandings of global order in both metropole and periphery. The ranking of populations which is integral to empire is not an object of the political drive for power over others; but it may be a precondition for attempting to build an empire, and is certainly an almost unavoidable outcome of it — especially in the colonised spaces where administrators and colonists function to impose imperial rule.

I have so far concluded that, within a given empire, there are forces and processes that are not subject to it. Can these forces and processes originate in something broader than any particular empire? The entire body of twentieth-century theory of imperialism from Hobson to Schumpeter can indeed be said to promote one or other version of that claim. To be sure, it has now become hard to determine which elements of capitalism drove it towards imperialism.

In explaining British imperial expansion, John Darwin evinces factors ranging from chance events to modernisation as such: e. We have already met one: when we saw how historical soci- ology of empire leaned on modernisation. A masterly theoretical structure to embrace both empire and modernisation was created in s World System Theory WST. Economic, social and political functions in the modern world have been arranged appropriately for that overarching geopolitical pattern.

For this bigger setting is not a creature of empire, and its size and complexity imply the possibility of cross-currents within. There is opportunity for sub- movements and counter-movements which destabilise the balance between the different component parts. How should we understand dynamics like this in the geopolitics of which empires are a part?

Just as the world econ- omy trumps the power of particular empires, so might something distinct within the world economy trump it in structuring the globe. A wide-ranging attempt to demonstrate that, over the long term, con- trary dynamics have operated in and through the European colonial empires was put forward by Nederveen Pieterse in the late s.

The sequence of values-social institutions is. As for geopolitics, the only pattern is that no overall pattern can be stable and determinate. All top-down patterns from an imperial centre are confounded through culture. Yet an alternative, which incorporates development in the form of the World System rather than stopping short at the idea that impositions are always confounded, is presented by Peter J. Modernisation is not a fixed, once-for-all transition. Each version of modernity has added new features. One imperial centre after another is the site of institutional innovations that enable it to realise an imperialising impulse over the wider world.

The overall conception envisages empires that reshape the space of the world, bearing geohistorical models of development not necessarily identi- cal with themselves, which they also extend. At the same time, each model itself evolves, through the combined processes of resistance and emulation, while the dominant centre from which it emanated declines and is ousted by others. Under these circumstances, I will argue, empire in the form that I have just teased out is bound to return as a figure for the geopolitical ordering of space. It refers to capitalism only in the form of economic relations between private parties acting outside the power of political authority.

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That is to say, relations increasingly straddle the limits of the space where agents can factor in the regularity of response which they know closer to home. With globalisation, the occurrence of disorder becomes, one might say, more acute from above and from below.

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Much of the regional and local opposition to globalisation is precisely prompted by the sense that it is undermining established local order. One central element emerged in my earlier exposition of the basic form of empire: that empires are orders extending over space.

If globalisation amplifies problems of disorder, then, functionally speaking it invites empire- building. For it identi- fies an empire by the spatial extension of its mode of order, rather than by sovereign power over territory — which is precisely what the American empire does not have. The same might be argued on the basis of the spread of American culture — though it is far harder to determine the content and import of this phenomenon. Using the tools of historical sociology, Alexander Motyl has shown that we should expect a renewed imperial order in Central Europe.

For, where globalisation processes are weakening states, an over- arching imperial power can impose a degree of governmental uniformity. Nor is it a line to be defended against incursion, so much as a jumping-off point for outward incursion, into the space beyond. In this context, it is the boundaries of nineteenth-century European empires, which were externally recognised by agreement between the European imperial powers if only in name at times , that have to be seen as the exception.

Even if the edges of its territorial identity are not fixed, at least the centre, the owner of the power that spreads out over territory, can be identified. Given what has been said regarding order, however, it seems that this too gives too restricted an image of imperial order over territory. This diversity can only become more marked with the increasing deterrito- rialisation of human economic, social and cultural activity, which has made control of territory a less effective way to impose order.

Terri- tory is only one type of space which an empire seeks domination over. A fortiori, it is unwise to take for granted the picture of empire where a given centre, capital city or whatever, extends its power out over discreet space. This explains how a number of historical empires Rome, China, the Iranian and other Muslim empires over the seventh to fifteenth centuries, the Portuguese at one time or another could move their centres of power — or divide them between locations, either functionally or by competition.

Again, there are grounds for associating the order of global capital from any centre62 — which can even be taken so far as to dissociate empire from all spatial concentration of power. Historical Necessities The agency of empire has repeatedly been an issue in this discussion. The classic image of the nineteenth century — and perhaps also that of emperors and their governments! But there are outcomes of empire that cannot be said to be willed, or to emanate from the centre.

On the one hand, as repeatedly noted, empires bear within them effects over and above their deliberate, ostensible purposes.


On the other hand, they produce conse- quences — most obviously their own decline — which cannot have been intended. But it would be overhasty to suppose that what happens outside of the ostensible aims of empire is attributable to some determinate, unbending historical force, such as modernisation or capitalism. The self-serving notion of advancement ethnocentrically modelled on European experi- ence excluded all likelihood of other centres, with other models of social organisation capable of superseding that of Europe64 — or, for that matter, that of the West.

I have tried to capture that as the competitive emulation, dissent or downright opposition that promotes an alternative order. Empire as a Geopolitical Figure Order and Legitimacy An irony of arguing for the prominence of empire in geopolitics is that it is so often a form of geopolitics which dares not speak its name.

The Geopolitics of Europe’s Identity

In particular opinion in the USA has historically been hostile to empires seen as a bad form of power which the USA originally rebelled against and continues to oppose wherever it may appear. If, as the argument implies, we must live with empire as a geopolitical figure likely to make its way in the world, we can, and must nonetheless ask: How can we minimise the drawbacks for which empires are rightly notorious?

The ethical issues of geopolitics that this suggests are apparently compounded by the fact that, in order to formulate the relationship between empire and geopolitical order I began by removing the ethical priority of any given order over others. My analytical claim thus does not address the question of whether there are alternatives to empire that would be capable of fulfilling the need for order in preferable ways.

Nor does it entail the legitimacy of any particular imperial order — whether we can characterise it as effective, benign, just, pluralistic, autocratic, oppressive, etc. Whilst not itself setting out an ethical standard for imperial power, this claim at least suggests the con- ditions for posing ethical standards. Given the frequent unintended corollaries of imperial power, moreover, to divert legitimacy from the centre and its powers, appears a proper political strategy.

The empire that is nearest to legitimate would then be that with the most understanding of, and benefit for its peripheral subordinate parts. It examined the historical sociology of empire, noting that the central element of the imperial form was its procliv- ity for expansion, whilst putting a critical question mark against unthinking use of the modern domestic-international distinction and reliance on the narrative of modernity. The article then considered early geopolitics as critically re-assessed by recent geopolitics.

The implication of this finding was that empires are likely to figure in the geopolitical ordering of the globe at other times, paradoxically including when the late twentieth century has undermined nationalism and the national state. It followed that, for all its differences from nineteenth- and twentieth-century examples, the geopolitics of empires is likely to be found in the present and in the future — the EU, and still more obviously the USA being instances of the form in contemporary guise.

The challenges and comments have helped enor- mously to refine the case above.

Section List

There are, of course, exceptions, depending upon the setting of the given analysis. The improbable success of any actor in obtaining long-term dominance would end the multipolar system as such. Marks et al. This account of order rejects uniqueness, and is neutral as regards the legitimacy of any actual order. Order is embedded in the social practices of one or other empire. In much the same way, Michel Foucault showed the difference between rationality and insanity as an order embedded in the discursive practices of a particular historical moment M.

Canguilhem, The Normal and the Pathological, trans.

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Periphery is the most common term in this field, as it was in the World System Theory of glo- bal order engendered with capitalism. Parker ed.