Geoeconomics in relation to evolutionary theory
In this chapter we define a place and scope for the study of geoeconomics. We have previously offered a number of definitions. Here we explore some of the major issues and concepts relevant for the study: the power dimension, systems of lies, its inter- and trans-disciplinary nature, its relationship with evolutionary theory, and differences from both neoclassical empiricism and relativism. The main purpose of this chapter is to show how geoeconomics can be founded in an evolutionary approach by offering an analysis of the development of the study of economics.
There cannot be any politics without political realism, and economic issues lie at the core of politics.83 The person, company, or nation which possesses economic wealth has resources, and resources are power; where power is defined as the ability to control the actions of others, thus increasing one's own opportunities for creation of further and future wealth. We find this notion in Klare's understanding of geopolitics as the study of "the contention between great powers and aspiring great powers for control over territory, resources, and important geographical positions, such as ports and harbors, canals, river systems (fresh water supply), oases, and other sources of wealth and influence" (Klare 2003: 51; see also Klare 2001). The study of geopolitics accounts for some of the more valuable contributions to political realism. Geoeconomics shares the same conviction but differs in its perspective, as it argues that the development is being driven forward by another player, not so much by the nation state as by international and multinational companies for control over strategic global resources.84 It is a continuation of the doctrine of national competitive advantage but by other means. It is the gradual substitution of competitive knowledge and trade for arms and diplomacy. This phenomenon could be said to have started with the election of Bill Clinton in 1992 (cf. e.g. Castro 2000: 201-21). That was also the time when the term "geoeconomics" showed up in the works of the American military strategist Edward Luttwak (Luttwak 1993), who had some influence on the Clinton administration's foreign policy.
While geopolitics is the single largest body of literature under the intelligence umbrella, as yet little has been published under the heading of geoeconomics. Current contributions are most numerous in France. The term "geo-economics" or "geoeconomics" shows up in French as géoéconomie.86 Other terms frequently used in a similar connexion are la guerre économique and intelligence économique, that is, in English, "economic warfare" and "economic intelligence" or "competitive intelligence". It would make things clearer if there were a more consistent distinction between "economic intelligence", as the perspective of the State, and "competitive intelligence", as that of the private-sector organization, but as always it is the practical use of a term that shapes theory. Thus intelligence économique is understood fairly broadly and now includes a whole range of intelligence tasks, both private and public.
The reason for French dominance in this field is partly historical: geopolitics never really disappeared from French universities even when it was taboo. But it is probably also due to the admiration for and interest in the art of syntheses, which is so apparent in French intellectual and academic life. The topic of géopolitique has always been appreciated in political and military circles. The revival of geopolitics in the form of geoeconomics was a good fit to growing French skepticism about what was increasingly seen as American political and economic aggression in the 1980s and 1990s. At the same time it is too simplistic to call geoeconomics a French phenomenon, and wrong to think of it as a fashion. It is both universal and permanent, following the tradition of real political thinking. Its home is not France, but the world; its oldest written traces are Chinese and Indian.
In the English-language literature "geopolitics" and "geoeconomics" are often even today used in connexion with a single topic, the world distribution of "black gold", that is oil. In the French literature and tradition there has been a tendency to understand geoeconomics as "economic warfare". This is a potentially dangerous metaphor.88 "Warfare" means armed conflict that involves killing. It is true that keen commercial competition can lead to use of less acceptable techniques, like bribery or even forms of extortion, but very rarely do private-sector organizations or the organs of government which support them resort to violence. The use of violence for business purposes is still almost exclusively confined to pariah States and "organized crime". The Mafia is by definition an organization which has found a niche relating to goods and services that the State has outlawed. In other words, the Mafia must engage in violence to survive and prosper. States have not been entirely innocent of this. Some nation states have been known to use force to acquire new markets. We have seen such behaviour more than once since the Second World War, primarily from the USA, but also from the former Soviet Union and later from Russia, and from France, Serbia, Israel, and Iraq, just to mention the chief examples. These States have used their armed forces to secure their financial interests abroad. The danger in using the term "war" in relation to business is that it implies something about what techniques are acceptable in economic competition. It is one thing to expect and plan for the possibility of foul play, another thing to encourage its use by failing to distinguish clearly between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour from the start. Violence and threats of violence in an open economy tend to lead companies into a spiral of attacks and counterattacks that is seldom good for business in the long run. These practices have a tendency to catch up with their perpetrators. For example, oil companies with a presence in Nigeria expect and prepare for violent attacks, but they do not use similar means to defend themselves. For one thing, violence or dirty tricks often have unpredictable consequences.
Business practices in developing countries can be rough. Because most developed countries have well-established economies their markets are relatively mature and saturated, making them more difficult for outsiders or newcomers to penetrate and conquer. For this reason, new markets in developing countries are often more tempting, even though they can be risky. Newly-founded countries and countries that have gone through a period of heavy turbulence constitute a special opportunity. These markets are up for grabs, so to speak. This is still the situation with most markets bordering on what was the Soviet Union. In Europe the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina has mutated from a political struggle into an economic struggle or competition (Erol 2005). Companies from major nations like the USA, Germany, Austria, Italy, Britain, and Japan are competing for market share in a whole range of consumer markets. The chief direct investors in Bosnia-Herzegovina over the past decade have been Croatia, Lithuania, Austria, Slovenia, Germany, the Netherlands, Kuwait (a fellow Muslim country), and Serbia-Montenegro (op. cit.: 6). Access to these markets typically goes through "foreign aid" programmes, which, as Russia under Putin has suspected, are often disguised forms of government support for exports, a comfortable way of opening up a new market. For the USA it has been USAID (US Agency for International Development), investing primarily in tourism, timber, and agriculture. It is a four-step plan:
First you send in the doctors and the nurses, then the businesspeople,
then you arrange for the locals to start a revolution, and then you send in the army.
It looked as though that was how things were going to go in the Ukraine and particularly in Georgia. Both revolutions (the orange and the rose) started very much as philanthropic projects supported by the American businessman George Soros. By showing force in Georgia Russia wanted to send a clear signal: that they will not accept military interference within their sphere of interest. Thus mastering markets that border on Russia is a delicate balance between political and economic considerations. Elsewhere, governments will be co-operative and will feel secure enough to deal with the multinationals directly. This is not the case for a number of countries bordering on Russia. Here multinationals risk encountering various mafia groups, some of which may or may not represent their government. Belarus, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan are probably the clearest examples. But the same holds to some extent for Kazakhstan and the Ukraine.
Ever since the end of the Cold War, geoeconomics as a national strategy has gradually become more relevant than geopolitics. The former is a strategy based on trade rather than on military and diplomatic interventions.91Power has gradually shifted from nation states to private-sector companies, to the point where we can now expect that the 21st century will be a century of geoeconomics (cf. Luttwak 1993). In the next section we shall ask how we are to understand this new phenomenon, this shift in paradigms. How do we account for it from a scientific methodological perspective? I shall suggest an answer based on an organic view of the social sciences, and thus of social behaviour.