Geography is destiny

_ J.M., student, GegenUni. Frankfurt, 28. October 2022.

Blown pipelines, war in Ukraine and unmistakable economic turmoil in Europe: all of this is intuitively connected. The playing field on which these events converge is described by a discipline, which as at home in the natural sciences as it is in the social sciences: Geopolitics, which has fallen into disrepute at German universities, sets the rules of the game by which the major players in world politics move their figures.

On October 7th, 2022, a central course of the GegenUni started with “Geopolitics – Coordinates of World Politics” (in German). Professor Dr. Felix Dirsch gave a comprehensive introduction to the topic in his opening event, which lasted a good hour. For the first time in the German-speaking video space, the origin and meaning of the term “geopolitics” is approached in detail, instead of inflating it as a vague catchphrase.

In approaching the term, Dirsch spans a wide arc to the phylogeny of humans. The geological formation of today’s land masses and their topography led to a “difference in the natural features of the world”: There are mountains and plains, steppes and swamps, extreme and temperate climatic zones, each of which shapes people in their own way and at the same time sets the requirements for politics. This theoretical approach is to be distinguished from geopolitics as political geography, because “geopolitics is the study of the earth-bound nature of political processes” (Haushofer). It is therefore practice-oriented and shows necessities and guidelines for action for political actors. States that continue to deal impartially with power strategies use the knowledge gained from it to push through their foreign policy ambitions.

Germany, on the other hand, has a value-based or even “feminist” foreign policy. This bears witness to the lasting damage caused in Europe after the Second World War when this discipline, which is necessary for self-confident states, was made taboo. Geopolitics was stylized as the science of legitimation of National Socialism, “people without space” (Hans Grimm) or “living space” have become negative buzzwords. However, a general rejection of geopolitics, which is touching on this, does not go far enough, the abuse does not abolish the use. The political implementation of requirements posed by geography is not an ideology, but a consequence of realpolitik considerations. Alexander von Humboldt, Carl Ritter, Fredrich Ratzel and Walter Benjamin also deviated from the subsequently condemned general line of German geopolitics.

The attempt at “critical geopolitics” in the 1960s and 70s can be understood as the effort within the Federal Republic to re-cultivate this “contaminated” field. However, its deconstructivist nature left no usable geopolitical doctrine. In other European countries, geopolitics is often reduced to its economic component, the geo-economy.

In Anglo-Saxon countries, geopolitics is not suspected of being the code for National Socialist great power plans. Rather, geopolitics is pursued and discussed, building on its own line of tradition: Alfred T. Mahan (The Influence of Sea Power upon History) and Halford J. Mackinder (The geographical Pivot of History, Democratic Ideals and Reality). Zbigniew Brzeziński (†), John Mearsheimer, George Friedman and Peter Zeihan, who also appear publicly (e.g. on YouTube), should probably be mentioned from more recent times.

Geopolitics is not only being considered in the “sole world power” (Brzeziński) USA, the rising powers China and Russia also see its necessity. Alexander Dugin is probably the best known from Russia. Interesting that Dugin and Brzeziński knew each other and respected each other, even though they are diametrically opposed to each other in terms of ideology. As a neocon, Brzeziński advocated American interventionism to establish a unipolar world order, while Dugin emphasized Eurasia as a counterweight in a multipolar world order. Also relevant is the prognostic ability or effectiveness of both regarding the Ukraine war. Dirsch considers unipolarity to be illusory in the long term, while multipolar spatial planning is realistic.

He is fascinated by the tension between variable political order and (relatively – in generations) constant natural conditions, localization. Nevertheless, he also addresses the modern critique of geopolitics. It is not only contaminated, but also outdated. The “disappearance of space” through information technology or cruise missiles makes ground control tactically irrelevant. Carl Schmitt would have called it a “space revolution”. Dirsch sees very well that virtual space is to be distinguished from geographic space, but for him man remains a “land tramper” (Schmitt) and existentially bound to space. For Drisch, the great success of the relevant publications and the public interest on which they are based, such as “The Power of Geography” (Tim Marshall) or “Geography is Destiny” (Ian Morris) – speak for the relevance of the topic of geopolitics units yet received.

In the winter semester of the GegenUni, 10 units on the subject will be published. The investigative aspects of spatial theory are followed by political geography, units on German and European geopolitics and Anglo-American tradition. The German and international geopolitics after 1945 and the current developments form the conclusion.


GegenUni (CounterUni) is a conservative e-learning platform based in Germany. The first of its kind, GegenUni combines the easy accessibility of digital courses with dissident academic views, which are often cancelled by mainstream institutions.

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