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      Realism and the spirit of 1919: Halford Mackinder, geopolitics and the reality of the League of Nations

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      European Journal of International Relations
      SAGE Publications

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          Abstract

          Recent analyses of interwar International Relations (IR) have argued that there was no realist–idealist debate, and that there is no evidence of a distinct idealist paradigm. Less work has been done on realism in the interwar period. This article analyses the thought of one particular early 20th-century realist: Halford J. Mackinder. A product of the development of political geography, and a major influence on American strategic studies, Mackinder is best known for his Heartland thesis, which has been interpreted as environmental determinism. Yet, Mackinder’s realism is a complex mix of geopolitical analysis and the influence of ideas on human action. His concepts of organizer and idealist foreign policy ideal types pre-date Carr’s realist–utopian distinction by two decades, while his interpretation of the realities of international politics is at odds with Morgenthau’s realism. A closer analysis of Mackinder’s realism (1) underscores the links between geopolitics and realist strategic studies; (2) demonstrates the diversity of realist approaches in interwar IR; and (3) shows that it was possible to be a realist and also support the League of Nations. There are limits to Mackinder’s usefulness to 21st-century IR, but an understanding of his brand of realism is necessary for a fuller understanding of the development of realism as a 20th-century school of thought.

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                European Journal of International Relations
                European Journal of International Relations
                SAGE Publications
                1354-0661
                1460-3713
                June 2011
                June 16 2010
                June 2011
                : 17
                : 2
                : 279-301
                Affiliations
                [1 ]University of Limerick, Ireland
                Article
                10.1177/1354066110363501
                0a53aba9-6d3b-4c5e-8ae1-cd5e2f0c51a8
                © 2011

                http://journals.sagepub.com/page/policies/text-and-data-mining-license

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