Sphere of Influence

Series of Lectures with Stephen Kotkin

Lecture 1: The Gift of Geopolitics: How Worlds are Made, and Unmade

Americans and Europeans long tended to think of geopolitics as a kind of primitivism to be transcended.  The “escape from geopolitics” has both a right wing and a left wing incarnation: the former rooted in a fantasy of universal democracy and benign US-led hegemony, the latter, in a world order governed by supranational institutions and pooled sovereignty.  What both share is a conviction that the rivalry of states, with conflicting interests and worldviews, produces conflict, insecurity and impoverishment.  Hence the “return” of geopolitics today is lamented.  But should it be?  Interstate rivalry can unleash cataclysm, of course, but the wealthy, democratic West arose not in spite of geopolitics but as a result of it.  The question therefore is not whether geopolitics is escapable or bad, but how the inevitable interstate frictions can be harnessed to push the major powers security and prosperity.

Stephen Kotkin is the Birkelund Professor of History and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University.  He directs the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, and the Program History and Practice of Diplomacy.  He is also a Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Next Lectures:

Lecture II: What, if anything, is the Difference between Fascism and Communism?
April 19, 2017, 6:00pm

Lecture III: The Chip on the Shoulder
April 26, 2017, 6:00pm

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