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Geopolitics and empire: visions of regional world order in the 1940s

Rosenboim, O. (2015). Geopolitics and empire: visions of regional world order in the 1940s. Modern Intellectual History, 12(2), pp. 353-381. doi: 10.1017/S1479244314000547


This essay examines the influence of geopolitical and imperial thought on theories of international relations in the United States. The paper assesses the thought of Owen Lattimore, a leading American sinologist and political adviser to F. D. Roosevelt and Chiang Kai-shek, and Nicholas John Spykman, an influential international-relations scholar at Yale. In the framework of the Second World War and the "air age", they envisaged a tripolar world order that entailed a new conception of political space and international relations. Lattimore's global geopolitical order sought to replace imperialism with democracy, while Spykman employed geopolitical concepts to envisage a tripolar order of "balanced powers" which built upon - rather than rejected - existing imperial structures. This paper examines their international theories and the policy implications of their thought to claim that 1940s theoretical interdisciplinarity made an important contribution to the development of the discipline of international relations in the United States.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article has been published in a revised form in Modern Intellectual History This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © Cambridge University Press 2014.
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > International Politics
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