The Geographer in Schmitt: A comparison between the Spatial Thought of Carl Schmitt and Halford Mackinder
Boxtel, S.J.C. van
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This thesis compares the spatial thought of the British geographer Halford Mackinder (1861 – 1947) and the German jurist Carl Schmitt (1888 – 1985), with attention to the way in which they conceived of the ‘spatial revolution’ in the beginning of the twentieth century, and the ways in which these theories legitimated the brute political realities of their time. This thesis points to the fundamental dissimilarities in the spatial ontologies of these authors but emphasizes that both works explicitly justify dubious political practices. Therefore, this thesis concludes that Schmitt’s infamous reference to Mackinder, in the foreword of Schmitt’s work The Nomos of the Earth (1950), is likely rhetorical in nature. Moreover, it suggests that Schmitt’s reference is likely premised upon ignorance of Mackinder’s network and influence – as a so-called ‘aid to statecraft’. Despite the differences in spatial ontology among these two authors, this thesis argues that the comparison between the work of Carl Schmitt and the tradition of ‘classical’ geopolitics is justified, and even beneficial. Uncritical contemporary reappropriation of Schmitt’s (spatial) categories seems undesirable, but that does not mean that Schmitt’s spatial thought ought to be neglected. Critical analyses of Schmitt’s spatial thought illustrate the ways in which complex spatial ontologies justify dubious political practices, beyond the oft-repeated example of Darwinist conceptions of international politics.