Geopolitics by Leopold Kohr

There seems to be only one cause behind all forms of social misery: bigness. At least, that’s what the Austrian philosopher –and convinced anarchist- Leopold Kohr (1909-1994) believed after witnessing the Spanish Civil war and fleeing Austria after the Nazi takeover in 1938.

In his book ‘The breakdown of Nations’ (1957), he argued that geographical size not only influences how countries see themselves, but more important: how they interact. As Kohr saw it, the problem with Europe’s geopolitical situation was the fact that its states were not equal in size, allowing the ‘big ones’ to dominate the rest, ‘the dose makes the poison’. The wrong mix of sizes could be disastrous for the international equilibrium and the main question for society was therefore “not to grow, but to stop growing. The answer: not union but division.

To achieve his utopia, Kohr supported the independence movements of Puerto Rico, Wales and Anguilla, and opposed grand unification projects like the European Union. He appealed for the breakup of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, long before they happened. And he published his ideas about how such small states should be formed and governed. He even devised a concrete upper limit for “smallness”: “The absolute maximum to which a society can expand without having its basic functions degrade, is about 12 to 15 million people.”

To illustrate the unequal balances of Europe, he projected a Europe-like division on the USA to see how different American history would be if the union had looked like this:

His conclusion: Wars would be as frequent as in Europe. So what if Europe could have been sliced up -like America- into rectangular chunks of territory, disregarding most existing cultural, religious, linguistic and natural boundaries.

Kohr’s studies on Europe and North America were unique at the time and influenced other great minds to develop similar theories. One of them: Eurotopia by Freddy Heineken – Yes, the Dutch beer brewer- but that story is for another time.