Want World Peace? Divide the World in Enough Small States
Leopold Kohr, who championed the principle 'small is beautiful', also applied it to geopolitics
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
“Small is beautiful” is an aptly brief summary of the thinking of Leopold Kohr (1909-1994), an Austrian philosopher influenced by Anarchism and influential on the Green movement. In his best-known work, ‘The Breakdown of Nations’, he applied his theory of size to nations. Why? “There seems only one cause behind all forms of social misery: bigness…” Or, put differently again: “Whenever something is wrong, something is too big.”
The main question for society, therefore, is “not to grow, but to stop growing. The answer: not union but division.” Not something you often hear advocated by politicians. Kohr wrote about half a dozen other books in all, also wrote one titled ‘Is Wales Viable?’ – a question that has still not been answered satisfactorily. Here are some maps he designed:
Europe à la USA
As Kohr saw it, the problem with Europe’s geopolitical makeup was the fact that its states were not equal in size, allowing the ‘big ones’ to dominate the rest. Or at least try to, hence the endless series of wars in Europe. One way to solve this, would be to chop up the continent into rectangular chunks of territory, disregarding most existing cultural, religious, linguistic and natural boundaries.
The US à la Europe
According to Kohr, the division into many states of roughly equal size is what made the USA strong as a nation. Should America be organised into states of unequal size, disaster would be bound to happen. States such as:
A Europe of small states
One last map by Leopold Kohr, also an addendum to his book ‘The Breakdown of Nations’ (1957). Kohr probably realised that dividing Europe into rectangular, US-style states would clash with the ‘tribal’ makeup of the Old Continent’s culturally diverse peoples. So he modified that idea to propose a European federation of ‘little states’: still too small to cause harm, but more in line with Europe’s ethnic composition.
Some states are small enough to continue undivided: Eire, Portugal, all 5 Scandinavian countries, the 3 Baltic countries (which weren’t yet independent at that time), the Netherlands and Belgium (is Luxembourg too small for this map, or has it been absorbed by Belgium?), Austria, Hungary, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria and Switzerland. The bigger European states are divvied up along not unfamiliar lines:
Strange Maps #18
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
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