The Social Construction of the Ocean, Sea Power, and Maritime Transformation

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Kuang-hao Hou


This review article elucidates concepts related to sea power, the social construction of the ocean, and maritime transformation. It begins with Mahan’s and Mackinder’s classic understanding of sea power, arguably the source of all traditional perspectives on the subject. Although this article accepts Till’s definition of sea power, it maintains that conventional wisdom does not offer a clear distinction between sea power as “a means of social power” and sea power as “states with powerful navies.” Furthermore, this article discusses Lambert’s conception of seapower identity, contending that his perspectives on seapower-state establishment are not based on relationships between the state, military, and the oceans. Lambert’s analysis of seapower states focuses on the activities that people engage in on land for seapower identity. His account suggests that maritime transformation could only occur in cases in which sea states transform into seapower states. However, this article claims that Steinberg’s concepts and theory of the social construction of the ocean provide a useful approach to examining the maritime transformation required for a transition from tellurocracy to thalassocracy.

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