Culture has always played a significant role in the local politics of countries, especially after the Golden Revolution in Britain in 1689 and the rise of democracies all around the world. This is because culture plays a big part in opinion making. After the dawn of globalisation and then the later rise of social media, the significance of culture in local as well as international politics has expanded exponentially. Although Karl Marx said that everything that happens in this world has an economic factor behind it, the importance of culture in geopolitics cannot be ignored, especially not in these times where the world is so integrated. Perhaps, these days, culture plays a more dominating role in driving geopolitics than it is given credit for. The West has always thought that its culture is superior to that of the East and that democracy is always preferable to authoritarianism. So the west assumed that the eastern world would accept their ways, culture, and ideology, but that didn’t happen. This was because the west forgot Newton’s law of action and reaction. People became possessive of their culture and identity, and politicians exploited this opportunity. This has started a cultural war around the world, which is affecting geopolitics in a big way right now.
Intellectuals have always contributed to political phenomena in the world. Russia is simply following the path laid down by Aleksandr Dugin, who is also called the brain of Vladimir Putin. This path has many wars ahead of it, and the Ukraine war is just the beginning. In India, the government in power is now closely following the ideology of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. This ideology of Hindutva could create a great migration crisis in the world in the long run, which worries some nations like the USA. Even if we go back a few centuries, thinkers like Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau taught us liberalism. Montesquieu separated the powers between the centre and the state, and this theory is being used in most of the democracies in the world, thus making them more stable and officiant. Mahatma Gandhi taught the world the power of nonviolence and many countries, for example, South Africa, followed it and gained independence. If we go further back…a long way back, Chanakya has given us Mandal Neeti, which tells us in detail how we should manage foreign policy and relations. Then there was Machiavelli, whose book The Prince is read by almost all the leaders of the world. People criticise him for supporting violence, but they also admire him secretly. Carl Marx gave the theory of communism to uplift the condition of the working class. This theory was accepted by many countries, like China, which is still a communist state even today. Along with this, there have been a lot of other smart people who have done a lot to change the world and, by extension, to shape geopolitics.
Political Culture in geopolitics
The local political culture of individual countries can affect geopolitics. The best example that can be given today is that of China. The Chinese economy has suffered a great loss due to Xi Jinping’s zero COVID policy. Unemployment has increased and the Chinese are getting restless for other reasons too, like in many places they have been denied withdrawal of money from banks. So, to divert the public from their problems, invading Taiwan could become the last resort if Jinping wants to stay in power. If China takes this step in the coming days, it might have serious geopolitical implications. Then we have Taiwan and its leader, who is a staunch supporter of democracy and will never accept Chinese supremacy, which might complicate things for the Indo-Pacific in the future. If we go back a little bit, the war on terror in Afghanistan declared by the United States after the 9/11 attack was also a result of heavy pressure from the public and to save America’s pride and dignity. Thus, it is evident how the political culture of individual countries can drive geopolitics.
Nationalism in geopolitics
The west underestimated nationalism and assumed that globalisation would take care of it. However, nationalism is rising again in the world these days. This is again leading the world towards ultra-nationalism, which was the main cause of World War II. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was a nationalist, but he also said that too much nationalism could be harmful to the world. These days, leaders like Donald Trump, who brought American policy first; Narendra Modi in India; Vladimir Putin in Russia; and Xi Jinping in China, etc.; are using ultra-nationalism in politics, which increases the chances of wars and affects geopolitics in the long run.
Morals and Human Rights
The thinkers of ancient times, like Plato, put a lot of emphasis on teaching moral values. Established moral values tell us how to distinguish between right and wrong. They can be called the backbone of rational thinking. However, the world has seen a decline in morality recently. Similarly, breaches of human rights are becoming more common day by day. It looks like people are getting used to irrationalism, so much so that fewer people care about it. On average, humans are growing more aggressive and irrational. These things are very dangerous because leaders sometimes act according to the mood of the public and not rationally. Thus, the decline in morality could be harmful to the world.
Religion is also part of culture and is very important in geopolitics. Even after the Renaissance, religion never lost its glory, as was expected by some. Religion is at the heart of the Middle East’s problems. Many wars were fought between Israel and a group of Islamic countries just after the formation of Israel. Donald Trump brought the Abraham accord to finish this issue, but we will have to wait to see how effective this accord will be. It will depend on how many Muslim countries accept Israel in the future. Then we have Afghanistan, which was conquered back by the Taliban recently. There was only one factor that played a role in this case, and that was religion. In India, the politics of caste and religion can be seen. This harms India’s image as a secular democracy on the international stage, and sometimes it gets geopolitical backslashes. For example, in the famous Nupur Sharma case, many Gulf countries threatened to boycott Indian goods, and so the ruling party took action against their spokesperson and banned her for six years. So clearly, religion plays a role in geopolitics.
The world is facing many problems concerning terrorism and naxalism. On February 14, 2019, an explosion took place near a convoy bus in Pulwama, India. This explosion shook India and killed more than 40 soldiers. The Indian Air Force carried out a surgical strike on Balakot in Pakistan. Pakistan retaliated and this could have gotten messy, but things cooled down after Pakistan caught and later returned Wing Commander Abhinandan. However, if things had not cooled down, then a big war could have taken place, but luckily, time was on humanity’s side and nothing devastating happened. So we can see how one act of terrorism could have driven India and Pakistan into a big conflict and maybe even a world war.
With globalisation came the birth of a new type of culture known as popular culture. The Internet and social media are the main driving forces behind it. However, it is now being abused by politicians and countries to set their agenda. The use of bots is becoming quite common. Studies have shown that the tweets on Twitter have a large number of computerised bots being used by various people to enhance and control trends. This affects the decision-making capabilities of the common man and, therefore, their country and the world collectively. Other social media platforms like Facebook are also heavily involved. The Facebook papers revealed recently how Facebook’s algorithms may be creating additional divides for revenue. Facebook promotes those posts which get the reaction of anger and feeds you only the stuff you like, thus keeping you away from the other side of the argument. This is making people more and more fundamentalist and sure about their side of the story. The minds of the people of the world are being hijacked by Facebook, which is just another piece of bad news for the already weakening democracies of the world. If democracies perish or at least get weakened, then by default, authoritarianism will rise, and the regime of authoritarianism is very dangerous because it is proven that authoritarian countries go to war more often than democratic countries.
So, this is how culture is controlling and driving geopolitics these days. Now, after the start of the Ukraine-Russia war, we are witnessing a reversal in the globalisation process. If this reversal continues, it will make culture even more prominent in driving geopolitics.