Reconsidering Geoeconomics as a constituent element of Geopolitics. An Analysis


Abstract: The paper aims to offer a critical and, at the same time, proactive look at geoeconomics, considering it not simply as a sub-discipline of geopolitics but as a constituent, and therefore indispensable, part of it. In this sense, it is hoped that geo-economics will be increasingly taken into account in the computation of geopolitics and in the interdisciplinary approach among the sciences that interact with it, thus allowing it not to be fallacious in the analysis of economic processes.

Keywords: Geopolitics, Geoeconomics, Politics, Labour, Trade, Finance, Money, Society

Putting Geoeconomics in its proper context

In the scientific context as well as in the world of massified information, we hear a lot about geopolitics, a discipline in the sphere of political science and international relations that studies a plurality of themes, as Carlo Terracciano defined it:
That branch of Anthropic Geography that analyses the relationship between Man and the earth, between Civilisation and Nature, between History and Geography, between peoples and their Lebensraum (Leben=Life; Raum=Space; Lage=Location), that is, the vital space necessary for the State Community, organically understood, to live, grow, develop, expand and prosper: creating well-being, Civilisation and Values for its members, living together on the same soil and united in a unitary community of destiny. Or, to put it in Luraghi's more technical terms: "Geopolitics is the doctrine that studies political phenomena in their spatial distribution and in their causes and environmental relations, also considered in their development". And again: 'Geopolitics is synthesis: a broad view in time and space of general phenomena linking the perception of geographical factors with states', and peoples.[1]

Less widely but no less importantly, one hears of Geoeconomics, which is a sub-discipline[2] of Geopolitics that is characterised by the study of geopolitical doctrines and actions from an economic perspective, including processes, relationships and the financial status of interacting actors.

In order to better define the framing that is due to Geoeconomics, one must first observe its development in the strand of political science. Classical Geopolitics (19th century-early 20th century) perceived the world as subdivided exclusively on the basis of state borders, with the broad spectrum of urban categories that had crystallised in the collective imagination (cities, metropolises, colonies, states, nations, etc.). ), while twentieth-century Geopolitics changed its approach and began to recognise the presence of zones and flows of influence, dynamic and tending to vary in their geographical location (capital, goods, labour, migration, tourism, Heartland, Rimland, etc.).

While, therefore, the 'old' Geopolitics only investigated the determination of policies on the basis of the political geographic location of states, the 'new' also began to study the impact of the history of economic development, ethnic, confessional and national identities, socio-political conflicts and financial and monetary transformations, and much more.

The domains considered have also been changed, adding to geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere also spatiosphere and infosphere (or cybersphere). More recently, we have also witnessed the formation of sub-spheres such as the economic (industrial and commercial), financial (monetary), and cultural (art, theatre, cinema, fashion, music). Again, increasing consideration is given to international relations between actors, such as alliances, agreements, shared strategies on all the above-mentioned planes of interest.

It is therefore clear that, nowadays, in order to change the geopolitical status of a country, its influence, leadership and dominance, one has to change the structure of the spheres and the complex world of which it is characterised.

Trying to place Geo-economics in this extended agon, we can try to make a distinction into macro-areas of Geopolitics:
- Geo-history (or Geo-chrono-politics), which studies the political constitutions, doctrines and actions of states within History and in their interaction;
- Geo-economics, which approaches geopolitical doctrines and actions from an economic perspective;
- Geo-ethnopolitics, which deals with the interactions of different ethnic groups, their positioning on the earth's surface and migration flows;
- Geo-confessionology, which divides the world into regions dominated by specific religious doctrines and studies the interactions between states;
- Geo-conflictology, which focuses on the conflict component of politics, dividing the world into conflict zones and studying their possibilities;
- Geo-futurology, based on the prediction of various scenarios and situations and theoretically based hypotheses of the restructuring of the world.

While the distinction may appear somewhat blurred, given the normal intermingling of the fields of knowledge described, it is nevertheless true that scholars of geopolitics are increasingly tending towards specialisation in the various fields, drawing their boundaries more and more markedly, a fate typical of every science as it develops.
It is no longer possible to ignore the specificity of a disciplinary field without running the risk of falling into a serious scientific and even before that epistemological, gnoseological and hermeneutical shortcoming: Geoeconomics must be recognised as such and be fully addressed within Geopolitics.
By studying markets, the division into spheres of influence, the clash of economic interests, status dependencies-independencies, cross-border economic space, currencies and financial systems, Geoeconomics acts as an organisational tool for the creation of a state's geoeconomic strategy, which determines its position within the global geoeconomic space.

The statics of Geoeconomics should include:
- The industrial and economic division of the world among the most powerful powers;
- The financial and economic division of the world into zones of dominance
The influence of the dollar, euro, ruble, emerging yuan zone, national currency zones and the world of cryptocurrencies;
- The division of the world between commodity-producing and commodity-consuming countries;
- The energy division of the world between energy-supplying and energy-consuming countries;
- The world division between producer and consumer countries of armaments and military equipment;
- The division of the world between agricultural producing countries; The division of the world between energy producing and energy consuming countries.
- The division of the world between producing and consuming countries;
- The division of the world between countries with a favourable climate and developed tourism infrastructure receive predominantly tourists, and countries that direct predominantly tourist flows.

The dynamics of geo-economics encompass all global economic processes that introduce changes in the geo-economic structure of the world, including:
- flows of goods;
- labour flows;
- financial flows;
- tourist flows;
- flows of athletes and their fans, etc.

It is clear that we are dealing with a discipline that is still not entirely independent - assuming that disciplines can exist in isolation from others - and that is rather an activity that takes place in a research context.

Geoeconomics occupies a prominent place among other modern academic disciplines, including economics, political science, geography and history.

Firstly, from the point of view of economic science, geoeconomics is considered a part of economics, a method of studying economic processes; at the same time there is no unanimity within economic science, there is a lack of consensus on the place of geoeconomics.

Secondly, geoeconomics can be regarded as a part of geographical science, i.e. as a geographical subdiscipline, the subject of which is the study of the formation of transnational economic geosystems, spatial (geographical) factors of international importance.

Thirdly, it can be approached through political economy, studying global and regional political-economic development patterns, interrelationships between states and economic unions between countries, the political-economic structure of the world.

In the fourth part, Geoeconomics is a combination, a certain synthesis of geographical, economic and political approaches and strategies. Political and economic processes are not exhausted in a single geospace, nor are they merged over time. This gives modern geographers and economists to apply a field approach to their research, constructing geo-economic spheres of influence that do not always coincide with a nation's borders, strengthening or weakening them.[3]

Its interface between economics, geography and political science make it a crucial node in the approach to the complexity of the contemporary world.

Genesis and brief history of geoeconomics

The fixation of economics with politics, history, geography and national culture can be found in many scholars of the 19th and 20th centuries. Such approaches belonged to Fernand Braudel, Immanuel Wallerstein, Fritz Roerig and Friedrich List. The very notion of geo-economics was introduced by the French historian Fernand Braudel[4]. As a civilisation researcher and expert in the history of economics, Braudel studied long time spans, making extensive use of economic statistics and retrospective geography, in order to create a broad historical landscape of 'history without events', in which events are recorded not as local phenomena of politics, but 'anomalies' discovered by the historian in the natural course of the historical life of society. In this way, he created an original research model by considering the 'structures of everyday life' that do not change over time and are material conditions of state existence in a given geographical and social environment. This approach makes Braudel a geopolitician and geoeconomist in his own right.

Russian authors have also used geo-economic terms and arguments. At the beginning of the 20th century, various aspects of global life Economic and geopolitical concepts were developed in Marxist political economy, N.D. Kondrat'ev's[5] Theory of Major Cycles, and A.A. Bogdanov's[6] tectological conception of society, the theories of the Eurasianists. The main ideas of Russian geoeconomics emerged in the first third of the 20th century, a period in which notions of economic and geopolitical dynamics such as systems of international financial capital domination, major business cycles, Eurasian regional development, etc. were introduced.

Geoeconomics as a unifying concept for geopolitics and economics began to be actively used relatively recently. The founder of the modern phase of geoeconomics in the United States is considered to be Edward Luttwak, an American historian and geopolitician specialising in coups and military conflicts. Luttwak opposes geo-politics to geo-economics as politics based on economic competition; in his view, the behaviour of the major powers today is carried out as an embodiment of the logic of conflict in the grammar of trade. Geoeconomics then calls for the development of techniques of economic defence and offence, as the geopolitical threat of a state is an economic threat.

In Europe, in the 1980s, the French politician and economist Jacques Attali, representative of the neo-worldview approach, was an advocate of the concept of geo-economics. Attali argued forcefully that geopolitical dualism had been abolished and the rise of a single world structured on the principles of the 'geo-economy' was imminent.

The main economic zones of the world are the American space, the European space and the space of the Pacific region. Between these three globalist spaces, according to Attali[7], there would be no particular distinctions or contradictions, because both economic and ideological types would be strictly identical in all cases. The only difference would be the purely geographical position of the more developed centres, which would concentrate by structuring the less developed regions located in spatial proximity around them. Such concentric restructuring will only be possible at the 'end of history' or, in other words, at the abolition of traditional realities dictated by geopolitics. The mix of geo-economic logic and neo-worldism, i.e. the absence of a polar opposite to Atlanticism, became possible after the collapse of the USSR. Neo-worldism is not a direct continuation of historical globalism, which originally presupposed the presence of socialist elements in the final model. It is an intermediate version between globalism proper and Atlanticism.  The intensification at the end of the 20th century of the analysis of long-wave economic dynamics and the appeal of an increasing number of researchers to the system-world approach led to the emergence of a new civilisation paradigm in which the focus is on long cycles of global hegemony.

The necessary (re)consideration of Geoeconomics

The essence of the most recent vector of world development is the world's entry into the era of changing the geopolitical view into a geo-economic one. Multipolarism is now an increasingly obvious factual reality and it is inevitable to consider it also from an economic and financial perspective, which indeed constitutes a very important and inevitable part of it, since the processes that are leading to a factual multipolar geopolitics are largely economic in nature. A new area of agreements on common interest has opened up. The geo-economic approach - its geogenesis - has received a deep theoretical and methodological grounding. A new framework for understanding the world has been formed on the basis of newer notions, categories and meanings.

Among these are geo-economic attributes such as geo-economic space, pulsating economic boundaries, geo-finance, the evolution of commodity forms and subjects of world economic communication, the 'environment market' with its strategic effect, internationalised reproduction cores (cycles), 'country-systems' turned 'outward' and 'inward', the counting of world income, the geo-economic atlas of the world, a renewed interest in geology, multifaceted volumetric interpretations of geo-economic situations, high technology, geo-economic wars, geo-economic counter-attributions, the first hints of geo-economic law, ethno-economic trans-nationalisation, not forgetting cyberspace with the digitisation of currencies and trade.

Of great importance is the impact of the geo-economic strategy of supranational entities with high financial power interacting with states and macro-structures, such as the World Economi Forum, the United Nations Organisation, the Eurasian Economic Forum, the BRICS, but also Big Pharma and Big Data, in particular the FANGs, whose activities, strategies, documents and decisions are crucial both for understanding the multivariate nature of world development and for analysing the actual centrality of Geo-economics in a communicative context in which it is weakly manifested.

A concrete example is the level of economic and social development is offered by the United Nations based on the following criteria:
-level of economic development (GDP/GNP per capita, industrial structure of national economies, production of major products per capita, quality of life indicators, economic efficiency indicators);
-type of economic growth (extensive, intensive, knowledge-intensive);
-level and nature of external economic relations (determined by the degree of openness of the economy to the world, sophistication of domestic markets, etc.);
-economic potential of the country.

Based on these criteria, the UN identifies groups of states: Developed countries, developing countries, countries with economies in transition, which constitute different worlds on the geo-economic map of the world. These indicators also determine the geopolitical and geo-economic status of each state and the geo-economic picture of the world as a whole, consisting of the geo-economic statuses of states.

It clearly follows that the formation of global and national geo-economic strategies has become an important task of applied geo-economics. The creation of a global development strategy is a complex and multifaceted task, which is undertaken by many entities and approved, as a rule, by the participants, often availing themselves of external fiduciary or advisory structures, as in the case of the large bank holding companies that are called upon to draw up the financial laws of states or to manage the credit of central banks.

In a certain sense, however, this way of operating assigns Geoeconomics a rather modest place after social justice, i.e. overcoming economic gaps and inequalities in the living conditions of citizens, peoples of the North and South as well as West and East, ecosystem issues and the advent of new digital parodies. Here too, it is inevitable to emphasise how a global strategy does not correspond to a strategy valid 'for all', recalling how symmetries in a multipolar geopolitical set-up typify geo-economic strategies, and vice versa.

The global strategy aims to achieve sustainable development and the equalisation of countries (in terms of living standards, social criteria and development opportunities). The geo-economic strategy of a state is to increase its competitiveness in the struggle for world markets, to increase its influence on global geo-economic processes and its geo-economic sustainability. From this we see how there is a duality of operational level, one internal and one external, as a guiding criterion in geo-economic strategic formulation, and this is perhaps one of the most important points on which the revaluation of Geo-economics as a science is played out in the scales of Geopolitics ahead of the other social and political sciences: a state or, in full, a macro-area of influence and relations, cannot fail to take into account internal success, in terms also of existence and continuity, as a starting point for inter-national and inter-area strategies. It is, ipso facto, the pragmatic and even before that the conceptual failure of unification under a single governance. This 'success' of multipolarism, which has defeated unipolarism and opened up new political, economic and existential cartographies, is the promoter of a multi-geo-economism, in which spheres of influence are afferent to the geopolitical poles of identity and power.[8]

A criticism of a conceptual nature that is, in my opinion, legitimate to make towards Geoeconomics, always with a view to a careful re-evaluation, is the need that this discipline has for greater conceptualisation. In fact, there is a lack of well-defined theories and sectorial meta-analyses, which means that most of the time Geoeconomics refers to economic and geopolitical doctrines and theories, without, however, developing its own, according to that multidisciplinary character that is its due. The risk is to remain a branch with a development by inertia, without releasing its potential and without being able to adequately explain the global complexity we are experiencing.


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