In the Fall semester of 2018 I taught a new course entitled The Global Politics of the End of the World (As We Know It). What follows is my account of teaching this course, informed by student comments and suggestions.
In 2016 five scholars published a paper on planet politics that criticized International Relations (IR) for not taking the Anthropocene and environmental concerns seriously (Burke et al, 2016). Written in the form of a manifesto, their criticisms of IR were timely. Since the 1950s IR, especially in its US form, was driven by immediate Cold War concerns of security and relations between great powers. Yet this IR of the later twentieth century superseded a more materialist IR that had flourished in the first half of the century. Part of this materialist tradition can be found in works of international political economy written by the likes of Norman Angell, H. N. Brailsford, Mary Parker Follett, Paul Reinsch, Helena Swanwick, and Thomas Parker Moon. Another part is made up of the international political geographers that were inspired By Ellen Churchill Semple’s imaginative adaptation of the work of Friedrich Ratzel.
Political geography in the interwar period was one of the major sources of thinking about the international order. Premised on the importance of human interactions with space and the physical world, political geographers pondered questions of technology, raw material spread, land use, and the effects of state-building and imperialism. In this sense there was a planet politics in IR before 1950. Perhaps the best example of this comes from the work of the Harvard-base political geographer Derwent Whittlesey. Continue reading “PLANET POLITICS IN EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS. DERWENT WHITTLESEY’S ENVIRONMENTALIST POLITICAL GEOGRAPHY”