Sovereignty is often seen as essentially territorial. The presumption is that sovereignty describes a mode of centralized and effective rule within a carefully delimited territory in which all political authority rests in the hands of a state that operates entirely within that territory and has no competitors or partners in ruling. The world political map with its neatly colored blocs of sovereign space is taken to define the world as it is. This chapter shows that this definition is problematic. Sovereignty is in fact only contingently territorial. A number of sovereignty "regimes" have operated differentially over space and time. Understanding this is vital in the context of contemporary world politics with its claims about "re-instating" sovereignty, "Taking Back Control," and so on.
Since the 1990s numerous writers have suggested that a transition is under way worldwide from geopolitical to geoeconomic competition among states, particularly the world’s Great Powers. This chapter challenges the assumptions that the past was somehow purely geopolitical and that the present is transitioning towards a politics-free geoeconomics. The argument proceeds from examining the dual assumptions through a discussion of how much the ‘economic’ is privileged over the ‘political’ in these accounts to an interpretation of the role of geopolitics in contemporary globalization and the consequences of this for understanding statehood.
The word ‘region’ has had a long and checkered history. The chapter surveys the shifts in meaning it has undergone, tying these to changing geopolitical circumstances. It also examines current usage and lays out some of the dilemmas attached to using the concept. The range of uses is so wide that the term can appear as incoherent. The regional concept has been a significant but often vague category across the social sciences and particularly in geography. The chapter shows that there is somewhat more coherence to it once its evolution is understood.
John Agnew and Agostino Mantegna
A robust literature showing the connections between territorial politics and economic development has built up over the past decades. This literature stresses the social construction of territories and the productive systems that correspond to them. The chapter focuses on four major strands of research. The first makes a case for the overall connection between politics, governance and economic development both in macro and micro settings. The second focuses on the important mediating role performed by local politicians in linking together political centers and their peripheries. The third is that which posits a strong direct connection between place-specific political histories and economic development. Finally, globalization and the spread of supranational institutions have reoriented the geographic framing of territorial politics and its relationship to economic development. The chapter argues that studying economic development today requires careful attention to the emerging multi-scale politics.
Mat Coleman and John Agnew
In this introductory chapter, we explore the question of power as a plural rather than singular phenomenon, and what approaching “power in the plural” might mean for geographers and others interested in the relationship between power and space. By exploring recent debates in political geography, as well as anticipating the wider and more daring arguments made by the authors collected together in this volume, we argue that the spatiality of power is never singular and easily modeled according to straightforward theoretical bullet-points, but instead is best approached as plural, contextually emergent and relational, and as deserving of concrete yet transductive investigation in particular spacings and timings. One of our core interests – drawing on a variety of intellectual sources, including critical realism, Henri Lefebvre’s discussion of power and space, and more recent research on topology and so-called new materialisms – is to move beyond what we see as a rather limited discussion of power and space in political geography, and as such to put political geography “in question” as the taken-for-granted “home” of theorizing the relationship between power and space.
Mat Coleman and John Agnew
In this concluding chapter, we explore what we understand as a “return to reality” in contemporary theories of power and space – as evidenced in a number of the chapters collected in this volume. We are particularly interested in the ways in which geographers are turning to address the “actually existing” materialities of power beyond (but not excluding) the problems of text and representation. Although we underscore the performative force of text and representation, for example as featured in so much poststructural research in political geography, we point to the importance of power’s “outsides” – by which we mean the excesses which escape the ways in which we represent the world. We also return briefly to the discussion of “power in the plural”, from our introduction, to clarify what thinking about power in the plural – or topologically – means for geographers’ received theorizations of space.