CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE POLITICAL CULTURE and the EVOLVING STATE
POLITICAL CULTURE and the EVOLVING STATE Political geography is the study of political activity in spatial context. All of us are affected by political geography, from the composition of school boards to the conduct of war. Even a brief examination of the world map provides valuable insights. For example, the inequality of countries in terms of territory and relative location, where being landlocked creates disadvantages.
Political geographers study the spatial manifestations of political processes at various levels. Areas of study include how countries/governments are organized ….
… .how they overcome (or fail to overcome) divisive forces,….
… . and how their boundaries function . Recent times have experienced dramatic political events ( can you name any? ).
A 20 TH CENTURY CASE STUDY Of GERMAN DIVISION & REUNIFICATION
Following Hitler’s defeat, the Allies divided Germany into four zones of occupation as a practical military move and to satisfy a strong desire to punish & humiliate the vanquished (France & USSR). The German capital, Berlin, was also divided into four zones. Disagreements over post-war German policy would represent the first battles of the Cold War .
In selecting their zones of occupation, the French and the Soviets utilized geo-politics from past and present.
In 1948, the U.S., Britain, and a wary France sought to re-unite a “reformed” Germany for economic and political reasons. Stalin refused to reunite because of a fear of a resurgent Germany. Confronting unending gridlock, the U.S., British and France proceed to unite their three zones, forming the future West Germany. The Soviets retaliate by sealing the borders of their zone and establishing the future East Germany (GDR). Berlin is also divided along a geo-political east and west boundary. The divided Germany and Berlin would become the symbols of the geo-political events known as the Cold War.
With Germany now split, there remained the problem of Berlin, lying deep within the Soviet zone. In an attempt to drive the three western Allies out of Berlin, Stalin abruptly choked off all rail and highway access to Berlin. Electricity was also cut to the city. The Soviets were evidently attempting to starve-out the Allies. At stake was the fate of the city and the Cold War test of wills between Moscow & Washington. Washington responded with a gigantic airlift in the midst of hair-trigger tension. For nearly a year Berlin was supplied by air. The Soviets, their bluff called, finally lifted the blockade in May 1949. That same year, both rival German governments were formally established.
The Cold War in Europe soon crystallized with the formation of rival military alliances, NATO and the Warsaw Pact. A tense peace would ensue until the Cold War ends in 1990-91.
The once-unified Germany eventually evolved into a democratic and prosperous West Germany/Berlin and a poor and authoritarian East Germany/Berlin. As the contrasts between the two new political entities became greater, East Berliners began flooding into West Berlin as a gateway to West Germany. Faced with this humiliating and economically draining flood of people out of East Berlin, the East German govt. constructed the Berlin Wall in 1961. This wall would become the greatest symbol of the Cold War.
As the Cold War enters its fifth decade in 1985, a leadership change occurs in the Soviet Union that will turn out representing the beginning of the end of the dangerous geo-political rivalry. Mikhail Gorbachev , the new Soviet leader, implements two unprecedented programs, glasnost & perestroika, that hasten the collapse of communism, allow for German reunification, and culminate in the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War in Europe.
The beginning of German reunification is marked by the dramatic tearing-down of the Berlin Wall in November, 1989. With Berlin reunited, it becomes a question of “when,” not “if,” the two Germanys will unify.
After nearly a year of negotiations, historic German reunification occurs in October, 1990. This will set-off a dramatic series of political changes in Europe, including the demise of a superpower. Political geographers continue to closely monitor the reunification process, which is more than a decade old and has proven to be more time consuming and expensive than originally thought. The lessons learned in Germany may be valuable in the future if the Cold War-divided Korean peninsula ever unifies.
POLITICAL CULTURE From congressional district boundaries to international borders the maps we create reflect political culture. And political cultures vary. People adhere to political ideas just as they profess a religion and speak a native language.
Today, many political systems are designed to keep religion and politics separate, but other states are theocracies – describe this political phenomenon.
It is widely believed that the effort to control pieces of the Earth’s surface for political & social ends is a fundamental dynamic in human affairs and must be a key component of geographical research. Robert Sack used the term human territoriality to describe this effort. Robert Ardrey agrees with the concept of human territoriality, but disagrees with Sack on application. Explain their differences. Territoriality attracts so much attention because it is key element of political culture. The rise of the modern nation state carries with it a distinctive view of territory as a fixed, exclusive element of political identification and group survival. As a result, few issues can agitate a people the way a perceived violation of territory can. The current contest over the Golan Heights is a good example – explain the dynamics for each combatant.
STATE & NATION As political geographers, distinguish between the commonly used terms, country, state, and nation. Provide an example for each.
Recently a new geo-political term, nation-building , has become a controversial international issue, with the U.S. at the center of the controversy. As the world’s lone superpower, the U.S. government increasingly uses a combination of economic, military, and political power to unify states that are not nations under an “umbrella of democracy.” The most recent example is U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Iraq.
International reaction to American nation-building has been generally negative, led by the accusation that U.S. action is simply self-serving. Consider: Is nation-building cultural imperialism?
STATELESS NATIONS Still another complication is that some nations are stateless – explain how a nation can be stateless. Presently, the two most prominent examples of this phenomenon are the Palestinians, who are locked in a deadly struggle with Israel to secure a state ….
… . and the Kurds, who are currently battling the governments of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran for territory to create a state. The U.S. is caught in the middle of both territorial disputes.
GEOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS of STATES A map reveals that states are not all alike. There may be a “European model” of the nation-state, but even in Europe states differ in as many ways as they are similar. States vary in territorial size & morphology, demography, organizational structures, resources, development power, etc. Some microstates do not even have 1000 sq. km or more than 250,000 people.
TERRITORY The territorial character of states has long interested geographers, who have focused on matters of territorial size, shape, and relative location, together referred to as their territorial morphology. Different territorial characteristics can present opportunities and challenges, depending on the historical and political-economic context. Distance and shape are the two primary characteristics to consider. Identify the potential problem(s) associated with the different territorial morphologies.
EXCLAVES & ENCLAVES A particularly interesting type of territorial irregularity occurs where historical circumstances have led to the existence of small outliers of territory that are separated from the state by the territory of another state. Exclaves and enclaves are special cases that can create political problems.
LAND BOUNDARIES The territories of individual states are separated by international boundaries. A boundary is more than a line, far more than a fence or wall on the ground. Explain how a political boundary is established.
When boundaries were established, the resources below the surface were much less well-known than they are today. As a result, coal seams extend from one country to another, oil reserves are split between states, and gas reserves are shared as well. With the scarcity of valuable resources, these situations can spark both political and military confrontations. Explain the potential serious implications of boundaries “above the ground.” Boundaries evolve through 3 stages ( definition; delimitation; demarcation ). Describe each of these three stages.
TYPES of BOUNDARIES Even the most casual glance at the world’s boundary framework reveals that boundaries differ in morphological terms. Some countries are separated by geometric boundaries (explain) ….
… and some countries are separated by physical-political boundaries (explain) …. What could be a potential problem with using a physical feature to mark a political boundary?
… and still some boundaries are known as cultural-political boundaries (explain & provide some examples).
Currently, the Israeli government’s controversial imposed barrier around the West Bank (a cultural-political barrier) separating Palestinians from Israel exasperates the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
ORIGIN-BASED CLASSIFICATION Another way to view boundaries has to do with their evolution or genesis. This genetic boundary classification was pioneered by Richard Hawthorne – he reasoned that certain boundaries were defined & delimited before the present-day human landscape developed. Identify and describe the four types genetic-political boundaries.
FRONTIERS The term frontier is misused almost as often as nation . “ Boundary ” and “ frontier ” are used interchangeably, as though they were synonyms, but they are not. Describe the geographic meaning of a frontier. How often were they used in the past, versus the present?
FUNCTIONS of BOUNDARIES There was a time when states and empires built walls to fortify their borders, to keep out adversaries, and sometimes, to keep inhabitants from wandering too far from the seat of authority. China’s Great Wall is an excellent example of such intentions. The notion that boundaries could serve as fortifications endured through WWII. Technology would change this strategy.
In more recent times, the Berlin Wall was built to keep East Germans from crossing into the Western enclave of West Berlin and seeking asylum from communist rule.
Today, boundaries mark the limits of state jurisdiction. They serve as symbols of state sovereignty . Governments often prominently display their national maps, which contributes to the building of a national consciousness, a sense of inclusion that fosters nationalism. Nationalism is a potent force.
INTERNAL BOUNDARIES For administrative purposes, and sometimes to mark off cultural regions within the state, it is necessary to divide countries internally. Political geographers have identified another kind of internal boundary, a kind rarely shown on a map. The “boundaries” marking cultural divisions within a country.
BOUNDARY DISPUTES Nations, like families and individuals can become very territorial when they feel that their space has been violated. These disputes range from legal disputes between suburban families to warfare between states over a boundary. In short, states often argue about their boundaries. These boundary disputes take four principal forms: Definitional Boundary Disputes; Locational Boundary Disputes; Operational Boundary Disputes; Allocational Boundary Disputes. Describe each of these.