A great deal of chaos and upheaval has taken place, with much more to come, as the global order undergoes an all-encompassing and significant change in the balance of power and influence continues to shift. Many observers, especially in the West, tend to be focused on the tangible elements available to powers in the international system (available manpower, number and type of weapon systems, financial resources, national infrastructure – those elements observed in the physical realm). However, the author suggests that the power and effects of intangible assets (related to resources in the information and cognitive realms) in terms of the potential in increasing the capability and capacity of an actor to protect and project their national interests. This can also be managed through collaborations of like-minded actors through reciprocal and collaborative action pursue and protect their interests in an age of global diametrically opposing values, norms and ideas.
Geopolitical Change and Transformation in the 21st Century
The era of the Western-centric United States unipolar order is in crisis as it desperately seeks to cling on to its hegemony, which is a relative and not an absolute one because of its escalating state of decline. This is a far cry from Francis Fukuyama’s declaration of the End of History, which was intended rhetorically and symbolically to herald the total global domination of the twins sustaining US power and influence – US economic and military might and global liberal democracy – as being both ‘inevitable’ and as the ‘ultimate’ form of civilisational development. However, the conditions and relations between the US and its system of power with other states is based upon a zero-sum game that is both non-reciprocal and asymmetric.
The global geopolitical order is in a state of transformation and change, which is owing greatly to the overreach and excesses of the West from the moment of their presumed of triumph. At an increasing rate of decline, the Western-centric US unipolar order is in the process of being overtaken by the Non-Western multipolar order. Of course, the US has no intention of going quietly and managing its way into the pages of history, a point made patently clear by the 2019 RAND Report and Biden’s 2020 declaration and promise to “take back” US global leadership. As a result of this situation of decline and desire to maintain their hegemony, the US has reverted to pursuing Brzezinski’s geostrategic imperatives.
One of the results of the increased conflict and competition between the Western and Non-Western worlds has been the Western attempt to brand the process as the New Cold War. This is intended to restrict allowable debate and discourse on the issue (orthodoxy of knowledge), to bestow on the US-led Western ‘rules-based order’ a façade of legitimacy and engineer consensus on the other. These are intended to restrict and constrain Non-Western foreign policy options and to create a reactive stance in international relations to lose the momentum of their initiative to slow or stop the geopolitical transformation. These are the main points and overview of geopolitics through the lens of realism in the contemporary environment of 21st century international relations. However, the lens of constructivism can also provide a useful perspective for understanding the intangible elements (related to psychological and cognitive domains) of the unseen and yet influential variables as culture, identity and other higher order psychological needs of people.
What is Geo-Socialisation?
Commonly heard are the theoretical constructs of geopolitics (the interactions of politics with geography) and geo-economics (the interactions of economics with geography), so the author proposes the new concept of geo-socialisation to consider the intangible influences found within the psychological and cognitive domains. As this is an entirely new name for perhaps, an old idea, some clarification and definition need to be provided. This concept refers to the geographic distribution of ideas, norms and values as expressed in constructed forms of culture and identity among different groups of people. These elements are transmitted to collective cultures and identities through the centres of cultural production. The centres of cultural production induct socially and psychologically individuals into a given human collective, such as an education system, organised religion, mass media, parliaments and the military. They transmit the requisite norms, values and ideas for an individual to integrate into the wider community. This is the process of induction and integration of individuals into the group where they are physically and/or psychologically located and belonging.
Therefore, the imperatives of government policy and practice in the social sphere is an important task in defining how a people collectively define themselves, and how they project their purpose and identity to the wider external world. It is a means of internal cohesion of the group, either in harmony or in opposition to other social groups. As such, it has the power to create communities of like-mindedness for the sake of unity of purpose or to create communities of otherness as a means of creating division and conflict. Geo-socialisation can assist in understanding the interpretation of the key politico-social geographies of key identities, cultures and values in the formation of collective world views of different regions, countries and civilizations. This is not the same thesis, although there is some overlap, with Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations as this is based upon the premise that conflicts over cultural and religious identity will dominate global politics. This current thesis is more refined, and despite possible cultural and religious identity differences, cooperation and collaboration is possible on pragmatic matters through emotional cognitive and psychological connections and similarities in worldview that are informed by values, norms and ideas.
What is its Potential Role and Significance?
The concept of geo-socialization therefore has distinct connections to geopolitics, which is particularly so during periods of (geo)political change and transformation seen in the rapidly intensifying competition and conflict within the branded Western geopolitical concept of the New Cold War. The New Cold War brand is an attempt to leverage the intangible elements of fear (to create US alliances and dependencies) and coercion (to wedge and prevent counter-alliances), which is a negative tactic that creates asymmetrical and zero-sum relationships with the US to vassal and client states. It consequently lacks attraction and appeal for the non-US party in the realm of reasoned logic. The logic of the Clash of Civilizations for example is based upon otherness and conflict in an unstable system of international relations in the wake of the collapse of the bipolar global order of the Cold War.
Currently, the global geopolitical configuration is undergoing a great deal of instability as it transforms in the 21st century, when the process of hegemonic collapse begins a great deal of uncertainty and risk emerge that can sharpen the perception of difference and otherness to increase conflict and competition.
The situation necessitates a deeper understanding and consideration is given to geo-socialization as this can affect the building of civilizational alliances or the breaking of those alliances. Differences in intangibles can exist between potential partners in the international system if the pragmatic goals and outcomes of the relationship are to be reciprocal and symmetrical and a parallel positive emotional basis can be constructed.
Values, norms and ideas are critical and key in engineering higher order psychological needs in individuals and groups (sense of purpose, sense of belonging and self-actualization) in a given society and between different societies. They have the potential to bind the individual and collective parts as a functioning whole and not merely a less functional sum of the parts. To rationalise this logic out loud, according to Huntington religion, identity and culture are the main determinants for the presence or absence of conflict based upon civilizational boundaries around the globe. This may have been the case historically, but no longer needs to be in the present day of international relations. The geographic distribution and dispersion of religious culture and identity still exists, but other more pressing variables and considerations operate that create common risks and threats.
A premise and purpose of the New Cold War in the psychological and cognitive sense is to ultimately subjugate and prevent the rise of powers or blocs of powers that do or can challenge US hegemony. Practically speaking in terms of realism, the threat to hegemony can come from both foe and friend to the US, the imperative is the maintenance of global hegemony. US attempts to isolate and contain Russia internationally are failing, and intangible elements play a significant role in this failure. The US rather arrogantly assumes ‘universal’ values and norms that it created to stack the global system of power and influence in its favour. If anything, the Ukraine military conflict has demonstrated that much of the Non-Western world and even some of the Western world do not share that (attempted) imposed systems of ‘liberal’ norms and values as they are conservative in outlook. The main divide is not in fact religious culture and identity, but Western liberalism versus social and cultural conservativism.
Given US-led attempts to impose their continued hegemony on the globe through coercive geopolitical and geo-economic means in their geostrategy, the risk and hazard is not isolated to the three main geopolitical/geo-economic adversaries (China, Iran and Russia) that the US attempts to simultaneously weaken and contain as elements of the emerging multipolar order, but other international actors that wish to be subjects rather than objects of international relations. Hence, the pragmatic work being done on Non-Western institutional framework, such as BRICS and the SCO. There also needs to be work done on constructing the psychological and cognitive emotional frameworks that add value and additional commitment between actors of the international system as a means of creating further resilience to the likely further subversive attempts of the US unipolar system as it seeks to salvage its hegemony. Therefore, rather than looking at religious divides, it is better to seek commonalities and like-mindedness in sets of socially and culturally conservative values and ideas as a basis for realising those higher order psychological needs to emotionally bond diverse groups with a common pragmatic purpose. Hence ensuring mutual state and human security, and the realisation of interests and goals through a united meeting of the current threats and risks in an unstable system of international relations.