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PA - C8 - HFC550B : Principles and history of Geopolitics


Course description and objectives:

What exactly is geopolitics? Where, when and how did it appear in the field of political-academic reflection? What have been its evolutions? Why was it long shelved after 1945? Why and how did geopolitical thinking come back to life and vigour in the last quarter of the twentieth century? How useful is it for understanding international conflicts?

This course introduces the study of geopolitics from an international relations perspective. The course should enable the acquisition of the tools necessary for the geopolitical analysis of the international scene, which implies in particular being able to: 1. define geopolitics as a "discipline"; 2. explain how space is a factor in international relations; 3. situate geopolitics in the historical evolution of the international system; 4. explain and criticize geopolitical conceptions before 1945; 5. explain the taboo of geopolitics after 1945 and the reasons for its revival at the end of the twentieth century; 6. carry out a geopolitical analysis of an international situation – real or fictional.


Evaluation format:

Class participation: 20%

Take home exam : 30%

In class exam: 50%

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Programme détaillé

Course Organization


Section I: Introduction (2h)


Chapter 1: Understanding and defining geopolitics

  • Differentiating foreign policy, international relations, geopolitics and political geography
  • Tools and objectives of geopolitics


Section II: Major schools and their applications


Chapter 2: The German school (4h)

  • Ratzel, Haushofer and the question of borders
  • Historical case-study: Geopolitics of Nazi Germany
  • Fictional case-study: The reconstruction of the Democratic, Popular Republic of Great Valadanyia


Chapter 3: The Anglo-American school (7h)

  • The importance of the Sea and Cultural Identity: seapower or sea power?
  • Historical case-studies: British and Russian attempts to build a seapower state
  • The global opposition Sea/Land : from Mackinder to Brzezinski
  • Historical case-study: the “Great Game” from the Anglo-Russian opposition to a future Sino-American confrontation?
  • Fictional case-study: take home exam


Chapter 4: Resurging and emerging geopolitics (5)

  • Russian geopolitics and the concept of a “Eurasian World”
  • China and the belt initiative



In class exam: fictional case-study (2h)


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