Humans have been organizing and structuring
themselves from the beginning. Geographers are interested in
that structuring because it is both an expression of the human organization of
space and is closely related to other spatial evidences of culture, such
as religion, language and ethnicity.
Political Geography is the study of the organization and distribution of political
phenomena, including their impact on other spatial components of society and
For this course we will define state on the
international level as an independent political unit occupying a defined,
permanently populated territory and having full sovereign control over its
internal and foreign affairs.
In contrast a nation is a cultural concept
defining a group of people with a common culture occupying a particular
territory, bound together by a strong sense of unity arising from shared
beliefs and customs.
The composite term nation-state properly
refers to a state whose territorial extent coincide
with that occupied by a distinct nation or people.
Iceland, Denmark, Poland, and Japan.
A multi-nation state is one that contains
more than one nation.
A part-nation state is when a nation is
dispersed across and is predominant in two or more states.
A stateless nation
are a people without state. The Kurds are a nation of
some 20 million people divided among six states.
Palestinians - Basques
THE MODERN STATE
now universal idea of the modern state was developed by European political
philosophers in the 18th century which advanced the concept that
people owe their allegiance to a state and the people it represents rather than
its leader or king.
new concept coincided in France with the French Revolution and spread
throughout western Europe to England, Spain and
THE MODERN STATE
This idea of state was passed on to much of Africa,
Asia and the Americas during the European Expansion in the 17th, 18th,
and 19th centuries.
Indigenous people had their own organized used of
space, but the borders were drawn for the convenience of the Europeans who
ignored the existing cultures and political structure.
As many of these former colonies have gained
political independence, they have maintained the idea of state and the borders
established by the Europeans.
THE MODERN STATE
The idea of separate statehood grew slowly at first.
In 1800 there were 35 countries in the world.
By 1939 there were 70 countries
After World War II, and the end of the colonial era
brought a rapid increase in the number of sovereign states.
At present there are over 200 sovereign states.
Size, shape, and location have great effect on the
power and stability of states.
Keep in mind that some states are bigger than
others, but resources are not evenly distributed.
In general, the larger the state, the better the
chance that there will be enough resources to support the state, but
Canada, Russia and Australia are large states but have relatively small
areas capable of supporting agriculture.
Size can also hinder the effective control of a
states people and/or resources.
Like size, shape can affect the well-being of a
state by fostering or hindering effective organization.
States that are roughly circular in shape are called
compact states because the distance from the edges to
the center are minimal.
Prorupt States are nearly compact but possess one or sometimes two
narrow extensions of territory.
Proruption may simply reflect peninsular elongations of land area.
In other instances, the extensions have an economic
or strategic significance securing access to resources or water routes.
Namibia strip was designed by the Germans to give access to the Zambezi river.
The least efficient shape administratively is
represented by countries like Norway, Vietnam, or Chile which are long and
In such elongated states, the parts of the
country far from the capital are likely to be isolated.
These countries are more likely to encompass more
diversity of climate, resources, and people.
Fragmented states include countries composed entirely of islands (Philippines, Indonesia),
partly on islands, partly on mainland (Italy and Malaysia) and those that are
chiefly on the mainland, but whose territory is separated by another state
Pakistan was once a fragmented country until 1971
when the eastern part broke away and became Bangladesh.
The whole world, even Antarctica, is divided up and claimed by countries.
Natural Boundaries are those on recognizable physical features, such as mountains, rivers,
Even though these natural boundaries seem like a
good idea, in practice there are problems.
Along mountain ranges China and India
Along rivers - Mississippi
The alternative to natural
boundaries are geometric boundaries or artificial boundaries.
An antecedent boundary is one drawn before an
area is well populated and prior to the cultural landscape features.
The 49th parallel separating the U.S. and
Boundaries drawn after the development of the
cultural landscape are termed subsequent boundaries.
There are two types of subsequent boundaries.
Consequent boundary which is a border drawn to accommodate existing cultural differences.
Northern Ireland and Ireland.
A Superimposed Boundary is a boundary imposed on an area by a
conquering or colonizing power that is unconcerned about pre-existing cultural
A relict boundary is a former boundary line
that once had meaning but no longer functions as such, usually marked by
landscape features (forts, castles).
The abandoned castles dotting the
frontier zone between Wales and England is a relict boundary.
Boundary disputes are a constant source of problems
in the world. Since World War II almost one-half of the countries in the world
have been involved in some kind of boundary dispute.
There are four general types of boundary disputes.
Positional disputes occur when states disagree about
the interpretation of documents that define a boundary.
The boundary between Argentina and Chile was to
follow the highest peaks and the watersheds between the east and west flowing
rivers. These two things do not always coincide. Argentina and Chile nearly
went to war in the late 70s over this when oil and gas deposits were
discovered in the disputed area.
Territorial disputes arise when a superimposed boundary divides a
ethnically homogeneous population. Conflicts can arise when one of the states
wants to annex part of another state to reunite a group of people.
Hitler used this as an excuse to invade
Czechoslovakia and Poland to reunite pockets of German minorities residing in
Somalia has had border clashes with Ethiopia over
Somalis living in that country.
Kashmir, a disputed area between India and Pakistan have caused two wars so far.
Resource disputes arise when neighboring states want to access to resources from another
The U.S. has had a dispute with Mexico over water
rights from the Colorado River and with Canada over fishing grounds.
The Gulf War was also related to this. Iraq helped
justify its invasion of Kuwait because of a large oil reserve that mostly lies
in Iraq that Kuwait pumps oil from.
Functional disputes arise when neighboring states disagree over policies to be applied over
U.S. Mexican border Drugs and Immigration
At any moment in time, a state can be characterized
by forces that promote unity and by others that disrupt unity.
Centripetal forces are factors which bind together
the people of the state.
On the other hand, centrifugal forces weaken a state.
One of the most powerful centripetal forces is nationalism
which is an identification with the state and the
acceptance of its national goals. Nationalism is based on the concept of
allegiance to a single country, its ideals, and way of life.
Most countries have more than one culture and in
multi-cultural societies, nationalism helps to integrate groups into a unified
population. This kind of consensus nationalism has emerged in the U.S.
Unifying Institutions like schools are expected to instill a societys goals, values, and
traditions, and to teach a common language.
Organization and Administration is a binding force when there is public confidence in the effective
organization of the state.
Good Transportation and Communication
networks foster political integration by promoting interaction between areas
and by joining them economically and socially.
Nationalism is one of the most powerful centripetal
forces but it also can be a disruptive centrifugal force.
The idea of the nation-state is that states are
formed around nations of people. It is a small step from that to the notion
that every nation has the right to its own state or territory.
A dissident minority that has total or partial
secession of the state as its primary goal is said to be guided by separatism
or autonomous nationalism.
Canada, for example, has a powerful secessionist
movement in French-speaking Quebec a vote on this in 1995 just barely lost 51
Separatist movements are expressions of regionalism,
which is minority group identification with a region rather than a state.
Problems can arise because the way in which boundary
lines are drawn can maximize, minimize or effectively nullify the power of a
group of people.
Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing the boundaries of voting districts so as to
unfairly favor one political party over another, to fragment voting blocs, or
to achieve other non-democratic objectives.