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The Value of Space: Geopolitics, Geography and the American Search for International Theory in the 1950s

Rosenboim, O. ORCID: 0000-0002-3764-2133 (2019). The Value of Space: Geopolitics, Geography and the American Search for International Theory in the 1950s. International History Review, doi: 10.1080/07075332.2019.1596966


This article examines the Council on Foreign Relation engagement with geography and geopolitics. It focuses on the history of the 1953 study group on international theory, gathered under the Council's auspices. The group dedicated its attention to international theory and geopolitics, reflecting the prominence of spatial thinking in mid-century American politics. In the 1950s, American politicians and the general public alike started to pay a greater attention to the role of the physical geographical environment in shaping world affairs and foreign policy strategy. Nonetheless, the reception of geopolitics and geography at the study group was icy. Their wariness towards spatial thinking reflected a more general aversion to geographical modes of analysis among American scholars and practitioners of international affairs that continues today. I explore the study group's interpretation of spatial thinking and offer counter examples in the form of three American mid-century approaches to geopolitics. By mischaracterising the spatial thought available at the time, the study group missed a wide range of geopolitical ideas that could have contributed to the formation of a pluralistic and diverse theoretical foundation for the discipline of International Relations. Focusing on the work of Nicholas Spykman, Hans Weigert and Harold and Margaret Sprout, I argue that geopolitical scholarship in the United States at the time offered a richer variety of concepts that could still serve International Relations scholars today.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in 'International History Review' on 11 Apr 2019, available online:
Subjects: E History America > E151 United States (General)
J Political Science > JK Political institutions (United States)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > International Politics
Text - Accepted Version
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