Political Geography is a discipline that is concerned with Politics and Geography. The term ‘politics’, is derived from the Greek word ‘Polis’, which means the city-state. Politics has its roots in the name of Aristotle’s classic work, Politika, according to him it was a subject which dealt with all the activities and affairs of the city-state and Ecumene.

Political geography is a sub-discipline of geography that describes the role of political units in shaping geographic patterns and processes. It is concerned with the role of governments, boundaries, nations, and states in spatial structures.

Political geography is the field of human geography that is concerned with both geography and politics. It is the study of the relationship between the Earth’s physical condition and international affairs. In many ways, political geography has always been a mirror of the times, very much reflecting current concerns, be it the lure of global empires or a determination not to see individuality and the contribution of individuals swamped by higher-order priorities.

Political geography is defined as the study of ways in which the spatial structures and political processes influence each other. It is concerned with inter-relationships between people, state and territory.

Some Definitions of Political Geography

Political Geography is studying the interaction between the political activity of people and integral geographical space, which in physical, economic, social, cultural, and political spaces.

The German geographer Friedrich Ratzel has been attributed with the first major work to include political geography in its title- Politische Geographie, published in 1897. Ratzel compared the state to an organism with needed further living space or lebensraum in order to expand.

In 1922, Whittlesey proposed a definition of political geography as a “study of areal differentiation based on political phenomena” This definition is partial due to avoiding the positive relations.

Hartshorne (1953); Political geography is the study of political territorial units, borders and administrative subdivisions.

Alexander (1963); He said that political geography is about the study of political territorial units, borders and administrative subdivisions.

Saul Bernard Cohen defines political geography as “the spatial consequences of political process”. He constituted this definition by considering the definitions of the others.

John Agnew defines political geography as simply “the study of how politics is informed by geography”.

Vladimir Kolosov defines it as studying the interaction between the political activity of people and integral geographical space, which includes physical, economic, social, cultural, and political spaces.

Ratzel’s definition of political geography was: Political geography studies and teaches the connection between spatial facts and political conditions, events and developments.

Nature of Political Geography
1. Politics of Geography:

The ways in which political geographers have interacted with those in the world of ‘real’ politics have varied over time.

It could be said that many geographers, particularly in the past, saw their role as supporters of those in power and their work as serving clear political ends.

Regionalism and sectionalism could provide a good example of how geography shapes politics.

2. Geography of Politics

It analyses how politics (the tactics or operations of the state) shapes geography. For example, the USA has a political system in which democratic rule and territorial organization are linked together on the concept of territorial representation.

A democratic rule is a system in which public policies and officials are directly chosen by popular vote, whereas territorial organization is a system of government formally structured by area, not by social groups.

State power, therefore, is applied within geographical units and state representatives are chosen from geographical units.

Different leading authorities in the field of the political geography have defined the nature and the scope of this subject in the different terms. There is no unanimity of the opinion in the matter. However, the students of an introductory course in the subject need not be bogged down by this multiplicity of the views. Following discussion is enough to understand the basic nature and the scope of this sub-discipline.

Political geography personified has a nature, just as any human being has a peculiar nature or the psychological tendency. As says H.J. Mackinder, the geography is a science, the arts and the philosophy by nature. So, it follows that the political geography is a science, arts and philosophy, too.

Scope of political geography

Political geography is a varied and wide-ranging field of learning and research exciting and endlessly fascinating to the student and useful to the practitioner in many fields. The field of political geography grew from geographers’ interest in the spatial nature of the national state.

Political geography is the analysis of how political systems and structures from the local to international levels influence and is influenced by the spatial distribution of resources, events, and groups and by interactions among sub-national, national and international political units across the globe.

It focuses on, on one hand; how groups interact particularly the ways they manipulate each other in pursuit of controlling resources, and on the other, on how these social, economic, and political activities determine the use of, and there by modify, the resource base.

Richard Muir asserted that “Political geography is one of the most retarded and most undervalued branches of geography and one that offers the greatest potential for both theoretical and practical advance.” The scope of political geography s quite vast both in temporal, spatial and political activities terms.

Temporal scope of political geography includes the scope of going back to history and studying the significant political development of nations. For example, slave trading in Africa due to political domination of UK and Spain led to building up of enormous political and capital assets. This led to developments in economies of Europe where as huge poverty in Africa, repercussions of which are still felt in Africa.

Spatial scope of political geography includes the study of political-geographic aspects in terms of phenomena like the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere and the galactic. It includes the studies of all the continents and islands in the political terms and their interactions.

Political activities scope includes the study of production of all kinds of political activities at all levels from local to international levels. It also includes the study of both the pattern of the political consumption and the spatial aspects of the political consumer behavior.

Major Themes in political geography

While political geography now embraces a wide range of concerns some core themes can be identified.

Core themes among these are:

  • Territory and territoriality
  • State and its elements
  • Geopolitics
  • Nation and Nationalism
  • Identity and citizenship
  • Electoral geography
  • Environmental Politics
  • UGC NET/JRF/SET (Vivek Sharma, Deepika Singla)

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