Earth – rethinking geopolitics

Here’s my abstract for CityState: A Lexical Workshop later this year in Tel Aviv:


Geopolitics has, today, become effectively a synonym for global politics. Armchair strategists still come up with grand plans for understanding and changing the world; critical geopolitics scholars offer broad analyses of such strategies and the interlinked relations of capital, state power, nationalism and territory. But could geopolitics be rethought in a way that was closer to the etymological roots of the word, yet for progressive political purpose?

Geopolitics literally means politics of the ‘geo’, the earth, land, planet or world. Each of those terms would need to be thought carefully, both in relation to and differentiation from each other, and from a notion of the global. Here the focus is on the question of the earth. A geopolitics that was a politics of the earth, rather than of the globe, might  easily collapse into reactionary politics. Friedrich Ratzel’s notion of Lebensraum; Martin Heidegger’s distinction between earth and world, and his reimagining of autochthony; and Carl Schmitt’s nomos of the earth are ideas that were in each case partnered by deeply unpleasant politics. In the present moment, calls for religious, national or cultural rights to promised lands can be found in Israel’s claims to the West Bank, Argentina’s claim to Las Malvinas, other contested territories such as Western Sahara and Kashmir, and self-determination movements the world over.

But might there be an alternative to such politics and ways of imagining space? What if there were resources in Deleuze and Guattari’s work on geophilosophy, or Elizabeth Grosz’s notion of geopower, to think geopolitics differently? Such a politics of the earth would take into account the power of natural processes, or resources; the dynamics of human and environment; the interrelation of objects outside of human intervention; the relation between the biosphere, atmosphere and lithosphere;  and the complex interrelations that produce, continually transform and rework the question of territory and state spatial strategies. It would be appropriate to the complexities of space and territory in three dimensions, rather than the tendency to imagine political space as a surface, an area. This paper tries to take forward that work of rethinking a politics of the earth.

[Update: the audio recording is now available here.]

This entry was posted in Carl Schmitt, Conferences, Elizabeth Grosz, Felix Guattari, Gilles Deleuze, Martin Heidegger, Politics, Territory. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Earth – rethinking geopolitics

  1. Reblogged this on rhulgeopolitics and commented:
    An abstract by Stuart Elden on ‘Earth’.

  2. kazanecki says:

    Reblogged this on Wojciech Kazanecki: strona domowa and commented:
    This is a very up-to-date reflection and in my guess Geopolitical analysis should go exactly in this direction!

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