Heinz Nissel


„Geography is what geographers do“. This succinct and nevertheless famous statement by the American geographer A.E. Parkins (1934) can be used as a killer argument in every discussion. It would not, however, help us with settling the definition of the position of Critical Geopolitics. Be that as it may, the crisis of identity of Critical Geopolitics persists, as does the one concerning Geopolitics. Its subject matter, its methods and its contributions to social scientific theories remain controversial. One will never find an unanimous definition. Within the field of human geography, on the other hand, it appears to be clear what Critical Geopolitics means, as opposed to “classical Geopolitics. But the term „Geopolitics“ has a different connotation in related disciplines such as political sciences, in international relations or in mass media. Here, the term “Critical Geopolitics“ seems to be a contradiction and at best is a “wrong” combination of terms. Since Ratzel and Haushofer „Geopolitics“ stands for the use of power by the powerful against the inferiors, and can by definition not be “critical” with regard to the condition of a society or its relations of power. As modern and post-modern macro-theories are incompatible, all attempts at combining some of their partial fields are not successful. What does “critical” actually mean? There are very varied attitudes, and thus the question becomes interesting whether Critical Geopolitics is only a new Geopolitics (in disguise) in the end. Exactly this - strictly speaking - blending of incompatible items has contributed to the popularity of Critical Geopolitics. This is a core problem of the „travelling theories“ in the social sciences. Does the lack of a “great theory” keep Critical Geopolitics from being “ideologized” - exactly for this reason many experts categorically disapprove of creating a theoretical-methodical and binding canon - or will such an attitude not inevitably lead to the destruction of the core competence of the subject (to the deconstruction of geopolitical discourses and role models sooner or later? Other ways appear to be more promising: Leaving the “Western” hegemonies discourse and concentrating on the “rest” of the world, reducing the sticking to the fields of formal and popular Geopolitics for the benefit of practical Geopolitics, creating stronger cross connections with political economy, political ecology, and geo-ecological and geo-economical approaches altogether, and finally focussing on investigations of the media and media analyses. It is certainly conceivable that a critical counter-public will form via Internet, Twitter, Facebook beyond (Critical) Geopolitics, which acts rhetorically powerful and frustrates the intervention plans of policy-makers and their helpers. The orchestration of scaring-campaigns launched by the media (especially television) in order to ensure the acceptance of military operations (Iraq, Afghanistan) has suffered heavy setbacks in recent years. The latest about-face concerning the sanctions against Syria is certainly not rooted in the (not any longer) silent majority of the US-population.