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29 An arch-anticommunist, Mackinder would have been horriﬁed by the parallels between Lenin’s relational geography of capitalist expansion and his own. But Mackinder too was prescient. His notions of an “explosion of social forces” reverberating around the world and the “shattering” of weak elements in the global system anticipate not just World War I but also Lenin’s own revolution in Russia. The grammar of global power in this period was indisputably geographical, but the relevance of geography to social, economic, and political change was changing fundamentally.
Absolute space” refers to space conceived as a given ﬁeld of action; natural and social events and processes happen “in space,” and their location can be measured according to some kind of coordinate system. Philosophically, absolute space derives from Descartes and Kant among others; in practical terms it can be thought of as the space of private property, national territoriality. It is the space of Newtonian physics and of national state making alike, the space of nineteenth-century European expansion and colonization as well as Euclidean geometry.
Precisely because geography was everything—the American Century was global—it was simultaneously nothing. The American Century, therefore, was premised on a quite opposite connection between geography and political economy vis-à-vis that which drove the European empires and fueled European geographical traditions. European attention to local and global geographies was integral to strategies of territorial expansion in a way that no longer applied to the United States lost geography of the american century / 19 in the mid-twentieth century.