Stiftelsen för forskning inom områden med anknytning till Östersjöregionen och Östeuropa

Continentalism and Geopolitics: The Idea of ‘Big-Space’ Political Formations in Comparative Historical Perspective.


Ämne: Idéhistoria
Projektledare: Mark Bassin
Startår: 2018

This project examines the history and current relevance of continentalist ideas and their influence in national and international policymaking. For centuries, the “default” political form of the nation-state has been challenged by the idea of a supra-national, large-scale political entity. Continentalism is one category of big space thinking, based on a geographical teleology of political unification within the borders of a “continent”. In some cases, this teleology underlies a comprehensive geopolitical ideology of continentalism, which historically has drawn on the “big space” theories of F.Ratzel, C.Schmitt and H.Mackinder. Continentalism is used by political elites in order to consolidate a geopolitical identity and policy, larger than the national one, to influence processes of state formation and international integration. Continentalism can be associated both with hegemonic-authoritarian tendencies as well as democratic projects, and can inspire imperial expansionism as well as anti-colonial liberation movements. The project involves four case studies, which compare ideological iterations of continentalism in Europe, Russia-Eurasia, South America, and Asia. It is designed as a study in the history of political ideas, and draws on critical geopolitics as a methodological framework. This approach helps us to understand discursive fluidity the diversity of expressions that can be found in different forms of constructing ‘continentalist’ geographical visions.