University of Tasmania
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Antarctica and world politics: the significance of political factors in Antarctic affairs during the twentieth century

posted on 2023-05-26, 00:02 authored by Harold Hall
This study is about Antarctic affairs during the twentieth century. The images most often associated with this subject throughout this period focus on science . Apart from a brief interlude in the 1940's and early 1950's , and again in the late 1970's and 1980's, political considerations have been portrayed in the background and of little account . These images also depict Antarctic affairs as unique - separated from events and forces arising elsewhere in the world. The view is put forward in this thesis that these images are in important respects deficient: political factors have been more significant than these dominant images suggest and Antarctic affairs have not occurred in isolation The study begins by examining Antarctic affairs during the first four decades of the twentieth century - a period commonly divided in to the \heroic age\" from around the turn of the century to the end of World War I and the \"air age\" during the interwar years. The dominant image associated with this period focuses on scientific activity and exploration in the region . The argument here is presented however that significant political and economic factors concerned with the partition of Antarctica which occurred between 1908 and 1939 when five countries asserted claims to about 85 per cent of the region must also be brought into focus to achieve a more complete and accurate picture of Antarctic affairs. It is also argued that this partition was an expression and extension of two under lying structural forces of world politics which first became operative during the closing years of the nineteenth century: the Second Indus trial Revolution and the New Imperialism. The study continues in the 1940's and 1950's with an examination of the origins of the Antarctic Treaty of 1959. The dominant image associated with this era portrays a series of events connected with the International Geophysical Year which led directly to the signing of the Treaty . The picture presented is one of \"the triumph of science over politics . \"The argument of this study is that this image is superficial and misleading. It overlooks the interplay of political and strategic considerations which were in turn consequences of basic structural changes in world politics which impacted on Antarctic affairs following the outbreak of World War II such a s the rise of the United States and the Soviet Union to superpower status and the intensification of rivalry between these countries after 1947 to become the Cold War . The third period under review in his study is the two decades or so following the signing of the Antarctic Treaty and its entry into force in 1961. This period of Antarctic affairs is generally portrayed as a time of regional peace and order . The dominant image associated with this era sketches a picture of the Treaty providing a blueprint for science with the ensuing scientific activity engendering that this image is Pax Antarctica.It is argued in this study that this image is one-sided. Left out of account is the continuing conflict-management function of the Treaty and its attendant arrangements - the central one of which is the Antarctic Treaty Consulative Meeting. This Meeting can be viewed as a form of international organization and several mechanisms of it have played an important part in the management of conflict pertaining to Antarctica and thereby also contributed to regional peace and order. It is also shown how a structural change in world politics again began to impact on Antarctic affairs during the late 1970's as the world entered \"the era of interdependence\" Antarctica became entangled in a number of global issues concerned with resource scarcity North-South relations and environmental conservation. In sum it is proposed that (i) political factors have played a significant part in Antarctic affairs throughout the twentieth century and (ii) structural changes in world politics have impacted upon Antarctic affairs throughout the same period. On this view it is concluded that Antarctic affairs have been an integral part of world politics. Accordingly they must be considered in this way and not sui generis as commonly asserted. This means that Antarctic affairs cannot be assessed realistically unless they are ranged firmly against the past and analysed in the light of structural forces in world politics."


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