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The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  1,519 ratings  ·  247 reviews
In this provocative, startling book, Robert D. Kaplan, the bestselling author of Monsoon and Balkan Ghosts, offers a revelatory new prism through which to view global upheavals and to understand what lies ahead for continents and countries around the world.

In The Revenge of Geography, Kaplan builds on the insights, discoveries, and theories of great geographers and geopo
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published September 11th 2012 by Random House (first published January 1st 2012)
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Riku Sayuj

The Revanche of the Geographers

There are books one turn to sometimes, not for improving knowledge but to be reminded of the extent of one’s ignorance. This has turned out to be one more of such books even though I had gone in thinking I was ready.

Many times in my overzealous nature, I have jumped into books which I was unable to appreciate fully because of a lack of background. In such cases, usually I end up grasping the full implications of many of the ideas only later - when some other author
A disappointing read, almost painful at times, and a missed opportunity. There is useful content here but it is poorly organized. The book reads like a series of rambling lectures. The text is verbose and repetitive; brace yourself for frequent appearances of the phrases, ‘as noted’, ‘as we have seen’, and ‘as I have explained’. Was there no editor for ‘Revenge’? And forget about using this book as a reference text for there is no index.

Much space is given over to describing national and geogra
"Revelatory prism?" No. Frankly, I read a lot of geopolitics and there aren't any new revelations here. I was fairly disappointed in this book, written by someone with tremendous expertise in the field. Although it contains some interesting and even exciting ideas, the text is not well-conceptualized and I am left with the belief that an awful lot was left on the table. The first concern is that it is not clear what audience Kaplan is writing for. On the one hand, the style assumes a significant ...more
I read all kinds of books and seldom really dislike one. But Kaplan's simplistic geographic determinism, vast generalizations, and location-dropping in this one really drove me crazy. India's monsoonal cycle makes people meditative and religious? Seriously!?

He seems to be trying to win an argument about whether geography's still important. But who's he arguing against? Who seriously thinks geography is no longer relevant? It seems like this book is part of some silly intramural argument with pe
Stupid name for a trite book redeemed by a few good lines and an occasional useful insight. As for the title, the "influence" or the "significance" of geography would have made sense, but "revenge"?

Kaplan, who served in the Israeli army but not in the American army (he is old enough to have served in Vietnam), seems to have lot more interest in and knowledge of the middle east than of America and its Latin neighbors, especially Mexico. V.D. Hanson's Mexifornia has a lot more interesting and use

I don't quit reading books often, but I had to throw in the towel on this one, which is disappointing considering I've read so many of Kaplan's books in the past. The key here, evidently, being "the past," meaning a different period in my life.

I found this book to be exhausting, as if Kaplan tries entirely too hard to come across as a scholar. I quickly grew tired of the endless citations and quotes with little actual insight from the author. A fascinating subject unfortunately presented in a d
Mal Warwick
A Fresh and Thought-provoking View of Global Politics

Geopolitics — the subject of this fascinating book — has literally been on my mind almost throughout my life.

I had recently turned three when the Allies invaded Normandy, beginning the long, last phase of World War II in Europe. I have no active memory of the invasion, but I’ve been told that I learned to read by studying the news about the event and its aftermath. My father read the newspaper at dinner, and I sat opposite him, leaning over th
Carol Smith
Well, I won’t lie. That was more than a bit like eating my peas (with apologies to peas; I really like them). I knew it was good for me, but it wasn’t necessarily enjoyable.

I had to approach this book in periodic bursts over a month's time. Many readers claim to have no problem with abandoning a book they don’t enjoy. I’m not one of them. I’m hell bound to finish my peas, even if they’ve gone cold because I keep walking away from the table for periods of time. Stubborn, I guess.

It’s hard to iden
Kaplan here displays his usual depth and erudition, giving us a new view of geopolitics with the focus on geography, which he regards as far more important than we usually consider it. He starts in Section I with a summary of the thoughts of great minds on the topic, from Herodotus to Kissinger and beyond. In Section II he focuses on a number of significant states, civilizations, and empires past and present, including China, India, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Afghanistan. He refers to Euras ...more
The Revenge of Geography takes geopolitics to an entirely new level. Robert Kaplan splits the book into essentially three parts. The first part looks at geopolitics in general and specifically looks at the theories of well respected intellectuals of the past. The second part of the book looks at the various areas of the world (Russia, China, India, Iran, etc.) where there is potential for conflict with neighboring countries or political unrest within. The last third of the book deals primarily w ...more
Kaplan argues that geography still matters for the way societies and nations organize themselves and project power in their neighborhoods and beyond. This is a necessary corrective to post-modern, 'the world is flat,' vision of globalization that seems to hold sway at the moment. As usual, Kaplan delivers an insightful, thought-provoking work marked by a deep knowledge of the peoples and states he talks about.

Kaplan first reviews in part 1, a number of theories of geopolitics, including Mackinde
Finishing this book was bitter-sweet for me. I awaited the books arrival for so long and immediately dived head first. Upon finishing this book I feel both relieved and disappointed that it is not a hundred pages longer. As a geography student, I come to this book with significant knowledge on the subject matter already. However, I feel that to fully appreciate this book for all its merit, I would need a degree in Geography, Religion, Political Science, and History. Personally, I feel as though ...more
Steven Peterson
Robert Kaplan contends in this book that geography matters a great deal in the unfolding of the human endeavor. Early on, he observes (Page xix): "I will introduce readers to a group of decidedly unfashionable thinkers, who push up hard against the notion that geography no longer matters." Ho notes that he does not contend that geography is destiny and is the only important factor in the world of human concerns. Nonetheless, once one finishes this book, he or she will realize that Kaplan thinks ...more
What a thorough disappointment! An important topic that needs to be discussed, particularly after two decades (or more, according to Kaplan) of liberal institutionalism/responsibility to protect adventurism (or the often ignored call for it, followed by neoconservative adventurism (unfortunately less ignored). Bringing back into discussion the realist worldview is necessary, and the importance of geography as a major factor in determining why the world works (or doesn't work) as it does (or does ...more
J. S. Turner
Wow, this book was such a disappointment. Kaplan's writing and structure is very odd and dry. The book reads more like a doctoral thesis than a book. Kaplan spends so much time quoting others, I am not sure what he is trying to convey or who he is writing for.

Geography hinders, got it. The opening is nothing more than name dropping and a collection of praises to the "liberal idealist intellectual elites" regarding their thoughts on the shaping of the world. Kaplan is long-winded and like any go
Matt Kenson
Part political theory, part travelogue, and mostly definitely a richly informed geography class, Kaplan's has written a hugely well researched, and oddly compelling book. It's obvious he's logged the miles, and given the global scope of this book, that's a bunch of miles. Compelling? Yes. The last chapter has timely advice about Mexico, even while the balance of the book doesn't spend time there. In one swift narrative, Kaplan puts surprising perspective on all the geography he's covered by focu ...more
If you've read one book on geography and international politics it feels like you've read them all. For the attempted level of detail in geographic descriptions, the book suffers from a lack of maps helping to identify the shifting boundaries of ancient empires described in the book.
I've been holding off on writing a review of this book for a bit now because I'm not sure that I can express my frustration properly.

This book is an apologia for Western, even Victorian mindset in seeing the world. While Kaplan goes to great lengths to talk about how geography is not destiny and geostrategists have to avoid falling into the trap of determinism, his analysis of the world is still based on the philosphies of the mid-20th century and before, complete with disturbing discussions of
Daniel Deller
I have read a few of Robert Kaplan's books: Balkan Ghosts, The Ends of the Earth, and Eastward to Tartary. I read "Monsoon" last year, and was captivated. I find his style of travelogue/reportage excellent. It is like you are traveling with him through some of the "hot spots" that feature on the evening news. He blends travel diary, history, anthropology and geopolitics into a seamless whole, like a geographer on the move! So, I was looking forward to picking up "The Revenge of Geography". I was ...more
Jul 26, 2013 Darin rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Geographers, foreign relations geeks
This is largely an academic read. As such, there wasn't a great "hook" at the beginning, so it took a while for me to get into the groove on this one. Never did read a whole lot in one sitting, but the information was insightful and opened my eyes to geography and geopolitics. It serves as a nice overview of those topics as it constantly refers to the theories of several earlier geography scholars.

I enjoyed this book for its historical overviews, analysis of current events, and predictions for t
Robert Kaplan is back with a bang with this illuminating tome. His first order of business - he apologizes for becoming too close to the neo-conservative movement and the US military. While this is not a pass for his prior transgressions, it is a start to rehabilitate his excellent work of the 1990s.

Kaplan analyzes the major geographers of the past such as Mackinder and Spengler, and views the current geopolitical situation with a great deal of concern. Geography will matter more in the future b
Zachary Buttel
I am no geography expert so some of what Kaplan says is either new or at least nuanced to me. I have read a number of his previous books and he is one of my favorite travel/international politics writers. This is not one of his best books but it is good and the topic is very interesting. His insights into Mexico and Turkey were more nuanced than the theories of the Huntingtons, Fukuyamas and Friedmans. Although clearly well read, he is by no means the world's best expert on the Middle East but I ...more
This book is a fascinating consideration of how geography affects the geopolitical timeline of the nations, including our own United States. If you want to understand why nations behave the way they do, this book is a must read for our times. Which isn't to say that geography is absolute destiny or that the decisions of individuals don't count. But geography does provide the setting, the stage. A nation's situation within its boundaries, or lack of natural ones, and who its neighbors are, and wh ...more
Paul Bassett
I had to chuckle when I read Dale Spangler’s review because he shared my reaction, exactly. The proper thing to do, it seemed to me, was to quit half way through this tortuous tome. But somehow I powered through to the bitter end. And Dale, the second half is actually somewhat improved. James Smith is to be congratulated in his review for wondering how this book could make it into print without an editor! (I wouldn’t presume to insult any editor by assuming their association with this poorly, po ...more
This book, written in a rambling, disorganized style, raises some good questions but is frustratingly truncated in its analysis.

The author misses some issues that are fairly commonly understood regarding (a) evolution of 21st Century societies, (b) paternity becoming inexpensively provable, (c) fertility rates in "advanced" societies versus those in "developed" societies and those in "developing societies" (which I'll explain more below).

The author loosely organizes the book into regions of the
Definitely Structuralist camp, and probably the most persuasive argument that I've heard from a structuralist in awhile. I've always had a dislike for structuralists because of how pre-determined it makes outcomes feel. Mr. Kaplan did make very compelling points about the importance of Geography in understanding world affairs.

It reminded me of when Hitler threw a fit that the German Army was 20 miles from Moscow and started to stall. He looked at the map and became furious over how far the Army
"For wise policymakers, while aware of their nation's limitations, know that the art of statesmanship is about working as close to the edge as possible, without stepping over the brink. In other words, true realism is more an art than a science, in which the temperament of a statesman plays as much of a role as his intellect." (24)

"According to [Karl] Haushofer, only nations in decline seek stable borders, and only decadent ones seek to protect their borders with permanent fortifications: for fr
The Revenge of Geography is what George Friedmen's "The Next _____ Years" books were not. It is a geopolitical tour de force, a textbook introduction to the history of realpolitik and realism without focusing too much on the Greeks or the Machiavelli. Kaplan begins discussing the history of geopolitics, its rise from Bismark, Mahan, and Mackinder, to its fall and defense after World War 2. He is attempting to save it from the grips of war hawks and Nazis, and I believe that Kaplan does a good jo ...more
Kaplan, oh Kaplan. Amongst the plentiful quotations, name dropping, and historical references to pre-modernity, the reader cannot follow your point of view. Try putting the thesis first and then substantiate with pounds of evidence. Should you make it (and perhaps even follow) through the longwinded Kaplan's arguments, you will still find "Why Nations Fail" more compelling and much more relevant.
It was difficult to tear myself away once I got started. Kaplan has told this story in a masterful way. I have one mild concern, and that regards his use of geography to explain current events, and even possible paths forward, based on the same geographical premises. As an explanation for geopolitical history I find his narrative compelling. While he seems to caution adequately against determinism, there seem elements of his prognosticating that almost must be somewhat deterministic, and remove ...more
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Fans of Maps: The Revenge of Geography 4 33 Oct 28, 2012 05:50AM  
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Robert David Kaplan is an American journalist, currently a National Correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly. His writings have also been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Republic, The National Interest, Foreign Affairs and The Wall Street Journal, among other newspapers and publications, and his more controversial essays about the nature of U.S. power have spurred debate ...more
More about Robert D. Kaplan...
Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History The Ends of the Earth: A Journey to the Frontiers of Anarchy Imperial Grunts: On the Ground with the American Military, from Mongolia to the Philippines to Iraq and Beyond Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus

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“As Napoleon said, to know a nation's geography is to know its foreign policy” 4 likes
“Mass education, because it produces hosts of badly educated people liberated from fatalism, will contribute to instability (p. 123).” 2 likes
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