Boundaries and borders have continually maintained their position as crucial research points in political geography, despite their varying relevance over past centuries. The essentiality of this study was pioneered during The Second World War (Paasi, 2009). During this time, the concepts of boundaries and border along with the political privileges that were attached to them contributed to the eventual breakout of the war in the early 1940s. Looking at political decisions that have been made over time, such as the dispersion of the Soviet Union, enlightens one such way of how boundaries and borders have affected the concept of territorialism. In as much as boundaries and borders define many political jurisdictions, such as local administration and districts, the more significant effect of boundaries and borders on territories is felt through state boundaries, due to their scale and considerably larger administrative areas. Exploring the political capacity of this influence also shows how barriers have affected cultural, economic, and regional powers by changing territories (Paasi, 2009). The effect of borders and boundaries on territories include globalization, mediation of social ideologies, and attachment of boundaries to power, while also seeing negative results for less developed countries.
The most significant effect of borders and boundaries on territories is the massive wave of globalization that it has allowed (Cohen, 2002). Territorialism defines the influence or control that a group of people or individuals have over a set of resources. This is made possible by boundaries or borders, created artificially by humans, to define physical locations that are under the administration of these individuals. Continental territories are, however, created by natural boundaries. This then conceptualizes the idea of countries in some continents such as Africa and states within the United States.
There are ripple effects of these boundaries, such as the fact that some areas are naturally endowed with better soils, hence, enables them to have a comparative advantage in the production of farm produce. On the other hand, other areas are better adapted to industrial production, due to the increased availability of labor that comes with the higher population in some locations such as India. The overall finality here creates interdependence between these locations separated by boundaries, such that global partnership, foreign trade treaties, and agreements are signed. The whole concept that envisions this significantly large scale of interdependence between nations is referred to as globalization, and it is created by the effect of boundaries on territories, as has been explained.
As boundaries and borders affect territories through globalization, there are other far-reaching effects of this association, that have been felt particularly throughout the 21st century. While most political geographers were initially convinced that the whole charade of boundaries and borders were detrimental to globalization, the current shaping of the modern-day world shows that the opposite has taken effect. Territories have scaled competition between countries producing relatively homogenous goods, by ensuring that each country supplies the best of what it can offer. This strife is an avenue for competing producers to mark their territories in the market, and even invest further into monopolizing the market trade.
The last three decades have mainly seen the evolution of the purposes of these boundaries and borders, into more territorial functions such as capturing the diversified needs of the world and fulfilling these wants by exchanging products and services on a global scale.
While boundaries might have been seen as further influences of global disconnection, their effect on territorialism has only overseen the want for each country to build their outreach and capacity in the globe, through better service provision for their people. The devolution of the central government into different administrative territories such as states or counties has made the delivery of service to the people of better quality. Different regions in a country experience very different factors, such as environmental factors. The economic capability of the citizens of different states may also vary greatly. When the residents of a particular internal territory experience disasters or face hardships such as financial hardships, their local governments are usually in a better position to identify and therefore help them compared to the national government since they have better outreach. Aside from just natural disasters and hardship, devolution helps with the fair distribution and management of funds meant to benefit the citizens of the area.
The other effect of boundaries and borders on territories is the mediation of social categories and ideologies such as nationalism. Boundaries and limits are the foundation upon which an area is allocated to belong to a group of people, which is the basis of territorialism. Next, this group of people forms governance structures under which leadership bodies create legislations that guide societal constructions such as nationalism. This is a basis for the creation of territorial influence to control a group of people under this formulated structure of nationalism. According to Ernest Geller, there must be an existent congruency between governmental and political units. This statement uncovers the fact that borderlines that have been created by humans over time have identified as national boundaries and motivated the contestation between country borders at some point. This is mostly imminent in countries down south in the African continent, such as Namibia and South Africa, which has had one of the oldest border disputes (Oduntan, 2019).
This translates to another causative effect of the boundaries in territorialism, in further heating up tension between nations. Unfortunately, this has been a significant factor that has caused more immigration policies and stricter border regulations, which brings back global trade due to the creation of sanctions. Social categories that partition geographical locations have formed the foundation for a territorial trap that drives nationalism narratives. While this happens, other countries such as Columbia have open borders that enable the smooth transportation of commodities and people across its borders, thereby opening up more opportunities for such countries (Kukathas, 2012).
Another critical influence that boundaries and borders have had on territories is the emergence of political boundaries’ reflection of power. Borders have formed the foundation upon which concepts of politics of delimitation and the politics of identity are built. The politics of demarcation ideally establish standards such as transgressions that can be made by people who do not identify with these locations. These include illegal border crossings or immigrations to that location. According to Briel (1985), Friedrich Ratzel, a German geographer explains that the regard of political power as an effect of boundaries and borders should be dynamic, due to the ever-changing nature of human governance systems. More importantly, he offers the measure of state power to be dependent on the relationship between a state core and its borders. The closer this relationship, the more control a state has. During world war II specifically, geopolitics became a vast platform for most of the disagreements at the time. For instance, Germany and Finland differed for about four years following Finland’s occupation of land belonging to the Soviet Union. Most political geographers have since determined that the use of boundaries to mark territories during that period was solely based on human motives of obtaining political power.
Territorial power is also marked invariably by the control of resources. The creation of borders and boundaries caused the rise of separate administrative units that collect their revenue and taxes for self-management. They have, therefore, brought about the organization in terms of trade and commerce. They prevent smuggling of goods between the two different territories, and revenue can be collected in terms of customs duty. The segmentation of the land into different regions makes it easier to control the flow of goods between two different places.
It is also critical to understand how boundaries and borders have affected political powers through regional security. Logically, a more secure border means that the country has relatively more political influence since other governments cannot exploit its resources. The borders have served to reinforce territorial security and eliminate security issues such as smuggling of drugs, arms and weapons smuggling, human trafficking, and other illegal activities. Separation of territories and enforcing security in the borders has led to the protection of the affected people from such activities.
Less developed countries have been disadvantaged by the effect of boundaries and borders on territorial marking. This is mainly noticeable in the drastic economies of these countries. Borders and boundaries have affected free trade among territories. They separate people and lead to the creation of currencies in terms of these international borders. The rules at the borders are also enforced, and crossing them requires certain conditions to be met. Tough trade sanctions, excessive tariff policy are just a few of the reasons that have made global trade very difficult. Other countries charge hefty prices for importation and exportation. All these factors make it hard for trade to occur between the countries, making people import from far countries when they could easily trade with their neighbors to get their needs. Some states, in the case of international borders, have their boundaries around places with better environmental conditions as compared to others. Such countries take advantage of their environmental conditions and can use them for economic gains such as farming.
In contrast, others lack the advantage and have to struggle to attain such economic advancements. Countries that lack benefits such as a coastline are therefore unable to carry out some activities such as importation and exportation without seeking the collaboration of the neighboring countries that have this advantage. This has made the landlocked countries dependent on the international relations they forge with their neighbors.
Looking closely at third world countries participating in the global trade shows a huge problem of foreign debts that they might not be able to pay as many as two decades from now. Boundaries that have marked territories have created opportunities for more resourceful countries to exploit the third world heavily while benefitting hugely from this association. Looking at the mica industry, for example, shows that its net worth will rise as high as 727 million dollars come 2025 (Research, 2019), yet the Indian subcontinent, which produces up to 60% of this mica, still has little children risking their lives in mines to make ends meet (Lebsack, 2019)
There has been a lot of strife between third world countries, especially on resources shared between territories. The territories are marked with borders. Borders and boundaries are meant to reduce conflict over areas for economic activities such as mining. They clearly define where one country starts and where its limits are; hence, the minerals found in the area are all considered to be owned by the state in which they are. For the case of minerals, governments may sign contracts with miners to explore the minerals in a specific area of land. Conflicts may arise if the border had not been agreed upon before causing the strain of the relations between the two nations and, as a result causing both countries economic losses.
This can be seen in the case of Kenya and Ethiopia, two African countries, whose border disagreements caused an estimated loss of forty-four million dollars in bilateral trade (Oduntan, 2019). Apart from economic activities, marked boundaries that have been mutually agreed on by the different leaders of different nations are aimed to reduce border conflicts, enhance neighborliness while reducing hostility and therefore improving economic exchange between the two territories involved. For developing countries, however, there is a considerable proportion that is still held back by massive land disputes that inhibit economic growth, primarily when insecurity arises due to these disagreements. As developing countries continually fight over boundaries and borders, first worlds are investing in bettering opportunities and amenities within their territories, hence widening the disparity between developing and developed countries further.
Conclusively, political geography forms an informative avenue to understand how boundaries and borders have affected territories. There has been a great move towards globalization as a result of this relationship, which has allowed the citizens of particular territories to experience better social services and use better infrastructure. Additionally, this effect has led to the mediation of social ideologies or categories, while also building the basis for political power. Unfortunately, there has also been an adverse effect of boundaries and borders on territories. This has been particularly significant in developing countries whose economic progress is still being held back by land disputes. This means that it might be a while before the disparities of the first worlds and third worlds are reconciled with complete global development.
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Cohen, E. S. (2002, December 17). Globalization and the Boundaries of the State: A Framework for Analyzing the Changing Practice of Sovereignty. Wiley Online Library. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/0952-1895.00152.
Paasi, A. (2009). Regional geography I. International encyclopedia of human geography, 9, 214-227.
Kukathas, C. (2012). Why open borders. Ethical Perspectives, 19(4), 650.
Lebsack, L. (2019). The Makeup Industry’s Darkest Secret Is Hiding In Your Makeup Bag. Mica Mining Exposes Child Labor In The Makeup Industry. https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/05/229746/mica-in-makeup-mining-child-labor-india-controversy.
Oduntan, G. (2019, October 21). Africa’s border disputes are set to rise – but there are ways to stop them. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/africas-border-disputes-are-set-to-rise-but-there-are-ways-to-stop-them-44264.
Research, Z. M. (2019, July 25). Global Mica Market Will Reach USD 727 Million By 2025: Zion Market Research. GlobeNewswire News Room. https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2019/07/25/1887733/0/en/Global-Mica-Market-Will-Reach-USD-727-Million-By-2025-Zion-Market-Research.html.
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