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


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Hall, HR 1986 , 'Antarctica and world politics: the significance of political factors in Antarctic affairs during the twentieth century', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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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
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.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Hall, HR
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