In recent years there has been a growing interest in questions of geoeconomics and geopolitical economy. Geoeconomics – a term with a broader remit than economic geography – is the interrelation of politics, economics and the spatial. It marks the calibration of space with market logics, trans/national actors (corporate, non-profit, and state), and the political geographies of capital, goods and human flows (Sparke 1998; Pollard & Sidaway 2003; Cowen & Smith 2009). Geopolitical economy is a notion that, broadly conceived, challenges some of the narrowly state-centric assumptions of conventional political economy, and yet does not simply work in the same register as international political economy. To both, it insists on the importance of the spatial register, the ‘geo’ added to the political economy, in a way that includes, but cannot be simply reduced to, the international. Some of the interest in these ideas has been in relation to the global spread of neoliberalism, and the return to concepts of imperialism to make sense of new global orders emerging after the end of the Cold War and the events of September 11th 2001. The authors collected here would all likely agree with Ould-Mey when he writes “the imperatives and the political weight of geopolitics and imperialism should not be ignored in any economic analysis” (1999, p. 157 – in this issue). Some of the authors, coming from an economic geography or political economy tradition, would also suggest the claim should equally be reversed.
Such debates have been played out in a number of registers, and in a range of disciplines and journals. Earlier proponents such as Immanuel Wallenstein, J-K Gibson-Graham, David Harvey, Doreen Massey, Henri Lefebvre, Saskia Sassen and Giovanni Arrighi provide inspiration and a foundation, even as their work is criticised and supplemented. This virtual theme issue brings together a range of papers from Society and Space that we believe make significant contributions to those discussions, either by taking the analyses into diverse geographies, different realms of politics or economics, or setting the very terms of debates.
All the articles address the geo, the political, and the economic, with differing emphasis, even as they challenge the boundedness of these categories. These investigations of geopolitical economy all (implicitly or explicitly) trouble bounded national spatiality that often underpins geopolitical action and thought. They do so in a variety of ways, either by interrogating the constitution of supranational spaces (such as the EU, Southern Africa, the global, etc.), the dynamics of cross border flows (of migrants, of resources, of capital), and the importance of ‘exceptional’ spaces such as oceans. The crossing of categories (both economic and geopolitical) also suggests this crossing of spatial categories, and the complications of any straight-forward idea of being inside or outside state space.
The following papers take up these entanglements in diverse ways. The differences largely pivot on the particular use and meaning of both ‘geo-political’ and ‘political-economic’. Authors like Markusen offer something like a (domestic) political economy of ‘geopolitics’, where geopolitics is understood as inter-national politics. Authors like Peck and perhaps Corbridge & Agnew, provide a geo-political-economy where we see a political-economy that is spatialized but where ‘geopolitical’ is interpreted as political-geographical in the broader sense (and not necessarily denoting the inter-national). Others approach these themes from a concern primarily with the politics of economic space and the political geographies of markets, typically operative transnationally. Geographically they range from North America and Europe to Southern Africa, Asia, the Mexico-Guatemala border to the world ocean. The examples are widespread, and address development (Sidaway) to debt (Corbridge and Agnew) and protest (Zajko and Béland); globalization (Ould-Mey, Dalby, Trentmann, Klein and Smith) to regions (Markusen, Sidaway, Engelen et al) and borders (Walters, Galemba); and relate the overarching concerns to topics from different theoretical registers, such as etymology and genealogy (Peck, Walters), nature and neoliberalism (Klein and Smith), and representations of political-economic space (Peck, Steinberg, Kelly, de Goede, Engelen et al). The emphasis on the three terms of the economic, political and geographical is different placed in the articles, but we would suggest all three terms are at stake in each.
Taken together, these papers, published over a more than twenty year period, demonstrate something of a shift in focus from 1990s work that took a more orthodox political economy perspective to a concern with representations in work from the late 1990s and 2000s. The papers are in conversation with each other, but not all voices are saying the same thing, or even using words and concepts to the same purpose. Rather than try to impose a retrospective order or framework upon them, we hope that this collection of papers encourages thought, debate and future contributions to the journal. This is indeed a key aim of all virtual theme issues of the journal: to demonstrate the enduring importance of past work, and to use this look back as a means of looking forward, to recharge debates in these areas and encourage more work on these themes, particularly the complicated interrelations of politics, economics and geography.
Deborah Cowen and Stuart Elden
Virtual Theme Issue Papers (open access until 18 February 2014)
Corbridge S, Agnew J, 1991, “The US trade and budget deficits in global perspective: an essay in geopolitical-economy“ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 9(1) 71 – 90
Dalby S, 1999, “Against ‘globalization from above’: critical geopolitics and the World Order Models Project“ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 17(2) 181 – 200
De Goede, M. 2003, “Hawala discourses and the war on terrorist finance“.Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 21(5) 513-532
Engelen E, Hendrikse R, Mamadouh V, Sidaway J D, 2011, “Turmoil in Euroland: The geopolitics of a suboptimal currency area?” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29(4) 571 – 583
Galemba R B, 2012, “Remapping the border: taxation, territory, and (trans)national identity at the Mexico–Guatemala border“ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 30(5) 822 – 841
Kelly, P. 2001 “Metaphors of meltdown: political representations of economic space in the Asian financial crisis“. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 19(6) 719 – 742
Klein N, Smith N, 2008, “The Shock Doctrine: a discussion” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 26(4) 582 – 595
Markusen A, 1991, “The military – industrial divide“ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 9(4) 391 – 416
Ould-Mey M, 1999, “The new global command economy“ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 17(2) 155 – 180
Peck J, 1998, “Workfare: a geopolitical etymology“ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 16(2) 133 – 161
Sidaway J D, 1998, “The (geo)politics of regional integration: the example of the Southern African Development Community?“ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 16(5) 549 – 576
Steinberg P E, 1999, “The maritime mystique: sustainable development, capital mobility, and nostalgia in the world ocean“ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 17(4) 403 – 426
Trentmann, F. 2007 “Before ‘fair trade’’: empire, free trade, and the moral economies of food in the modern world“ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 25(6) 1079 – 1102
Walters, W. 2002 “Mapping Schengenland: denaturalizing the border“. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 20(5), 561 – 580
Zajko M, Béland D, 2008, “Space and protest policing at international summits“ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 26(4), 719 – 735
Cowen, D, Smith, N, 2009 “After Geopolitics? From the Geopolitical Social to Geoeconomics“, Antipode 41(1) 22 – 48 [requires subscription]
Sparke, M. 1998, “From Geopolitics to Geoeconomics: Transnational State Effects In the Borderlands,” Geopolitics 3(2) 61 – 97 [requires subscription]
Pollard JS, Sidaway JD. 2002. “Nostalgia for the Future: The Geoeconomics and Geopolitics of the Euro.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 27(4): 518-521 [requires subscription]