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Middle Powers  

Marion Laurence

Formal diplomatic recognition of “middle powers” began with the Congress of Vienna, but the concept gained increasing currency after World War II because medium-sized countries like Canada used it to distinguish themselves from smaller states and secure a relatively favorable position in the postwar order. Early definitions of middle powers focused on states that lacked the system-wide influence of great powers but whose resources and capacities were recognized as being more significant than those of small states. The term’s exact meaning remains contested, but early definitions capture three important dimensions of the concept. First, it is inherently relational, from both a material perspective and a social perspective, and often used as a residual category. Some scholars define middle-power status using material factors like geographic size or population, while others emphasize social roles and recognition, but all of these approaches focus on a state’s position, roles, and status relative to other states. Second, the middle-power concept is both state-centric and practitioner-adjacent. National policymakers invoke, reify, and continually reinvent the concept to achieve specific foreign policy objectives. Third, the middle-power concept is bound up with wider debates about global order. Middle powers were long conceptualized as good international citizens and champions of the liberal world order. The rise of “emerging” middle powers raises questions about their orientation toward existing global institutions. Going forward, the most pressing questions about middle powers and their foreign policy behavior will be linked to broader conversations about geopolitical change and the future of contemporary global governance arrangements.

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The Politics of Regional Integration in Africa  

Paul-Henri Bischoff

On the African continent, a commitment to Pan-African unity and multilateral organization exists next to a postcolonial society whose 54 Westphalian states interpret the commitment to unity and integration to different degrees. The tension between a long-term Pan-African vision for a unified continent that prospers and is economically self-empowered, and the national concerns of governing state-centered elites with immediate domestic security and political and economic interests, lies at the heart of the politics surrounding African integration and affects both the continent and its regions. The politics of integration demand that a patchwork of regionalisms be consolidated; states give up on multiple memberships; and designated regional economic communities (RECs) take the lead on integration or subordinate themselves to the strategy and complement the institutions of the African Union (AU). In the interest of widening the social base of regional organization, politics needs to recognize and give status to informal regional actors engaged in bottom-up regionalism. Of issue in the politics of integration and regionalism are themes of norm adaptation, norm implementation, intergovernmentalism and supra-nationality, democracy, and authoritarianism.