Haroon Sheikh – Hydropolitics

Collaboration and Conflict on the Seven Seas


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Canals are dug to make new connections between seas, artificial islands are created, and countries compete for access to the harbors of island nations and for new routes along the melting North Pole. What are the effects of the shifting maritime power balance for global politics?

In Hydropolitics, Haroon Sheikh analyses the dynamics on the seven seas. He describes the relations between powerful countries and powerful maritime nations, between the waters and trade, and the innovative spirit of naval powers. With special attention for the role of the Netherlands and for the changing relations between the USA, a traditional naval force par excellence, and China, a long-established force on land. By exposing the historical patterns, Sheikh offers a new point of view on the new maritime connections and water borders, from political, economic, and philosophical perspectives.

Published in October 2019 | Paperback | 320 pages | ca. 90,000 words
English sample translation available
Translation grant from the Dutch Foundation for Literature available, click here for more information

Shortlisted for the 2020 Socrates Philosophy Prize
Dutch edition published by Boom Publishers

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Haroon Sheikh is Senior Scientist for the Dutch Scientific Counsil for Government Policies, and teaches Philosophy at the Amsterdam Free University. He previously was in charge of the Freedomlab Thinktank, he writes columns for the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, and he wrote the books The Rise of the East (2016), and Embedding Technopolis (2017), both published by Boom Publishers.


‘Political scientist and philosopher Haroon Sheikh gives his readers a profoundly different perspective in Hydropolitics, which leads to different insights. After a philosophical introduction, we travel along for the past, present, and future of the Mediterranean, the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, the South-China Sea, the East-China Sea, the American Waters, and the North Sea. He offers a fresh perspective to the readers and inspiring thoughts.’
Paul van der Steen in Trouw newspaper

‘We desperately need a book like Hydropolitics, the world is adrift and Sheikh shows us where we are heading to. The decline of the Atlantic powers and the rise of Asia are undeniable, but are most often ignored. But this book offers inspiration for any country to device a long-term strategy.’
Joeri Boom on DeGroene.nl

‘It is fascinating how Sheikh combines the world of power with the world of ideas in Hydropolitics. In his meandering chapter about the philosophy of hydropolitics, many classical and modern philosophers are discussed. Interesting thinkers from India, like Pankaj Mishra, Singapore, Parag Khanna, and China, Wang Gungwu. It is impressive how much is brought together in this book, and the attention for the interactions between history, geography, and ideas is stunning.’
Addie Schulte on Boekenstrijd.nl

Hydropolitics is highly recommended and meets all expectations. Ingeniously written, extremely informative, providing fresh perspectives, intellectually challenging, and so on… The author went to great lengths in researching and writing this book, and pulled out all the stops to exhibit his intellect. This pays off because Hydropolitics is a real joy to read. As a posthumous intellectual heir to Samuel P. Huntington (The Clash of Civilizations), Sheikh has delivered an updated version of Huntington’s masterpiece with an interesting twist. He describes the geopolitics of the water (seas, oceans, rivers, lakes, canals…) that divide the nations, leading to tension and rivalry, or contributes to reconciliation and new coalitions. This book has all the signs of a classic work and is definitely worth reading and rereading.’
Olli Salvatore



1. Philosophy of Hydropolitics
2. The Mediterranean Sea
3. The Arabian Sea
4. The Indian Ocean
5. The South-China Sea
6. The East-China Sea
7. The American Waters
8. The North Sea


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