Even the pre-capitalist forms at the beginning of the formation process of the modern state have been accompanied by forms of maritime expansion. Since the emergence of modern statehood under the auspices of capitalist economies, the aspects of sea power, presence on the world’s oceans, and maritime expansion were considered to be of paramount importance for the maintenance and further development of wealth, political influence, and military power. Moreover, the sea functioned both in the sense of an order-creating and in the sense of an order-relating instance in relation to the modern state and the global state system. This ambivalent character is indicated, among other things, in the narratives of the British Empire as a maritime power and in the pirate utopias of the 18th century. Right up to the age of modern imperialism, the sea was considered both a place where conflicts between states came to a head and a place that promised a bright future.
But what role do maritime topics play in the various global crises and in the socio-political and scientific discourses of the present? In view of the steadily increasing global interconnectedness and fragmentation of production processes and markets up until today, however, the sea seems to have gained in importance. To cite just one figure: 90 per cent of world trade is now transacted via sea lanes. This steadily increasing potential of the sea seems promising, but at the same time it harbours new conflicts. (opens in new tab)