The terms “region,” “regionalism,” and “regional integration” are often used synonymously in the academe. For instance, one author refers to Pacific Asian regionalization, North American regionalism and regional integration in Europe. Some authors view “regionalism” as the analytically broader term. Since the mid-1990s, there has been a more general movement toward “economic regionalism or regional trade agreements,” building on the concept of “new regionalism” and coinciding with the notion of “preferential trading arrangements.” This implies only those integration schemes which have an economic purpose, are in geographical proximity to each other, and consist of more than two states qualify for inclusion. There are five stages in the deepening of formal regional integration: free trade area, customs union, common market, economic union, and political union. From the late-1950s to the late 1990s, two approaches have attempted to explain the process (rather than the origins) of regionalism: neofunctionalism and liberal intergovernmentalism. Scholars argue whether there is a causal connection between regional integration and Global Political Economy (GPE), or whether they are simply correlated. Three themes from the literature on regionalism and GPE can be identified. First, the numerous studies since the late 1990s that have taken a decidedly comparative approach, irrespective of their level of analysis, agree that there is some “logic” to regional arrangements. Second, confusion occurs with domestic causality. Third, large membership has become a concern for the European Union.
Stefan H. Fritsch
International information and communication have become central cornerstones for global economic, political, social, and cultural actors, issues, structures, and processes. Accordingly, various social science disciplines have become interested in understanding international communication’s economic properties and also produced empirical evidence demonstrating its remarkable impact on global economic development. Subsequently, the relationship between technological evolution and the evolving economics of international communication has become of central importance to the analysis of international communication. Of particular relevance in this context is digitization’s impact on information and communication technologies and related digital conversion processes of once separated media and business sectors. In this context, the constantly evolving economic and technological properties of international information and communication systems and the economic opportunities/challenges they pose have also motivated or forced individuals, business enterprises, states, as well as international organizations to pursue structural and policy changes in order to reap the potential benefits of international information and communication.
The global political economy is a multilevel system of economic activities and regulation in which the domestic level continues to predominate—in other words, it is a global system comprising national capitalist economies. Nations differ in terms of the regulations and institutions that govern economic activity, an observation that is embodied in the so-called “varieties of capitalism” (VoC) literature. Contemporary VoC approaches highlight the significance of social and political institutions in shaping national economies, in stark contrast to neoclassical economics which generally ignores institutions other than markets or sees them as hindrances to the functioning of free markets. Three analytical premises inform the diverse conceptual frameworks within the VoC literature: the firm-based approach, national business systems approach, and the governance or “social systems of production” approach. The VoC literature offers three important contributions to our understanding of the global political economy. The first is that different sources of competitive advantage for firms and nations are institutionally rooted and not easily changed. The second contribution is that these distinct national arrangements give rise to different interests/preferences in how the global economy is constructed and managed. Finally, the VoC approaches provide a framework for analyzing long-term institutional changes in capitalist systems and the persistence of diverse forms of capitalism, including the global financial crisis of 2008–2009 that may usher in yet another epochal change in the “battle of capitalisms.”