After geopolitics? From the geopolitical social to geoeconomics

Deborah Cowen, Neil Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

261 Citations (Scopus)


This paper makes two central arguments. First, the popular language of geopolitics needs to be understood as historically emerging from and helping create a “geopolitical social”, which both crosses and crafts traditional borders of internal and external to the national state. Second, we suggest that geoeconomic social forms are gradually supplanting this geopolitical social. After establishing the geopolitical social associated with traditional geopolitics, from Ratzel to Bismarck, we examine the erosion of geopolitical calculation and the rise of the geoeconomic. We trace emerging geoeconomic social forms in three domains: the reframing of territorial security to accommodate supranational flows; the recasting of social forms of security through the market; and the reframing of the state as geoeconomic agent. Neither an exercise in “critical geopolitics” nor an endorsement of Luttwakian style geoeconomics, this paper assumes no straightforward historical succession from geopolitical to geoeconomic logics, but argues that geoeconomics is nonetheless crucial to the spatial reconfiguration of contemporary political geography.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-48
Number of pages27
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009


  • geopolitics
  • geoeconomics
  • security
  • the social
  • Ratzel
  • the state


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