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Harshit Rao asked: What is meant by ‘shift from state-centric geopolitics to geocentric global politics’?

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  • Rajeesh Kumar replies: Traditionally, international politics has been understood as the relations between states. In this international paradigm, nation-states are considered as the building blocks of world affairs. This thinking has also been reflected in the early theoretical approaches of International Relations (IR), which restricted the designation of ‘actor’ solely to nation-states and regarded states as the only entities capable of acting meaningfully at the international level. Consequently, the conventional approach to international politics is seen as state-centric, and the international system is often portrayed as state-system. One can trace the origin of this state-centric geopolitical system to the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which instituted sovereignty as the distinctive attribute of states. 

    However, in the late decades of the 20th century, many shared but distinct developments have brought significant challenges to the state-centric approach to world affairs. Most significant changes were the entry of new actors on the world stage, increasing interdependence and interconnectedness, and also the push towards global governance. Globalisation was one such phenomenon that disrupted the conventional state-centric geopolitics and brought a new perspective centred on geocentric global politics. It has brought not only non-state actors, including international organisations, back on the agenda of IR but also placed non-state actors, global networks and value chains at the core of the international system, equivalent to state actors. As a result, politics across all levels, global, regional, national, subnational and so on became a part of world politics. The ‘shift from state-centric geopolitics to geocentric global politics’ is essentially this transition of ‘international’ politics into ‘global’ politics.

    Posted on September 28, 2020

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.