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Article

“A Marriage of Convenience” became the best metaphor, coined in 1990 by distinguished American economist Sidney Weintraub to summarize the fundamentals under which NAFTA was built and understood, at least in mainstream analysis: the economic complementarities existing among the three countries of North America could work to the benefit of everyone involved if economic integration is well managed and geared toward the improvement of regional competitiveness. Thus, NAFTA became the privileged tool under which managed integration became implemented and assessed, at least in three major domains: as a foreign policy tool to advance the interests of each nation, as an economic device to reap the benefits of integration, and as the backbone under which a regional political and social bloc could eventually be constructed. Scholars, intellectuals, and public officials engaged in the discussions around NAFTA in each of those fields shared ideas, built some consensus, and split on dissents following competing approaches and/or national cleavages. The current literature in those three major fields of discussion is rich, voluminous, and highly inspiring, sometimes making references to other integrative experiences. This article reviews these debates and highlights either the consensus or dissention witnessed in each of the three domains under which NAFTA has been discussed the most. Since NAFTA cannot be separated from the political and social contexts that the debates and discussions took place in, a reference to those political contexts can be made when explaining and summarizing the debates. At a time when the mainstream consensus around NAFTA is being challenged by U.S. President Trump’s assumption that NAFTA is not about complementary economies but about economies competing against each other under a zero-sum game rationale, politics comes back to the forefront of North American affairs. The renegotiation of NAFTA will doubtless redefine the partnership among the three North American countries and the role that economic cooperation and integration entails for each.

Article

In 1991, the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) was launched with the aim of fostering regional integration among its four original members—Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. MERCOSUR evolved from open regionalism to postliberal regionalism in the course of the first 15 years of the 21st century. The organization has faced several challenges since its inception: internal struggles that result from significant asymmetries between members as well as underlying deficits in the regionalism process and external difficulties in managing MERCOSUR’s relations within the hemisphere and beyond (such as relations with the European Union and China).

Article

Walter O. Oyugi and Jimmy Ochieng

The East African region historically has comprised Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. The politics of these countries have been shaped by the colonial heritage bequeathed at independence and its impact continues to reverberate on politics and administration of the region five decades after independence. While the three countries inherited similar systems of governance that sought to decentralize power, they all reverted to the centralized governance systems that predated independence, to not serve the leaders’ own power interests but to also secure effective control of the localities. According to the said system, all governance institutions at the subterritorial level operated in line with centrally determined guidelines. This centralization of power has impacted on the evolution, character, and nature of the state in the region as well as on the governance of the individual states. Even with constitutional and legislative changes to check on the excess powers of the executive—which in all three cases means the president and his key allies— it continues to seek means of controlling the processes of democratization and decentralization in a manner that defeats the logic of introducing checks and balances. While Tanzania and Kenya have experimented with democratization since the 1990s and Uganda since the 2000s, consolidation remains a challenge due to the reluctance of those in charge of central government to let go of power and its attendant benefits. In addition, the various experiences with decentralization have suffered from the desire of the center to use them not as platforms for participatory governance but rather as tools for control and domination. At the regional level, the issues of national interest and mistrust have continued to constrain endeavors toward deeper integration.

Article

Comparative regionalism constitutes a new frontier of international relations analysis that provides a more focused theoretical lens for understanding the localized phenomena dominant in international politics. However, as is often the case with a relatively new area of academic inquiry, the subfield currently suffers from a number of challenges in conceptual agreement and operationalization conventions that have slowed progress. Having perhaps finally caught up with area specialists and researchers in the field of comparative politics in recognizing the relative importance of regional spaces, the question remains as to how to most effectively understand the extent regions—as either levels of analysis or units unto themselves—are substantively integral in generating the outcomes studied by international relations scholars. Following almost four decades of theorizing, future steps lie in clearer conceptual definitions followed by generating novel empirical findings that may complement, or contradict, existing international relations theories. While some early attempts at engaging comparative regionalism exist prior to the Cold War’s conclusion, most theorizing begins at the point at which the region as a concept is able to emerge from the shadow of international relations research’s emphasis on the bipolar order of the American–Soviet rivalry. These early explorations, however, were frequently limited to either qualitative discussion of emerging trading behaviors and political institutions or, alternatively, the exploration of “non-Western” types of political engagement that challenged the traditional Anglo-European understanding of both international relations and the conduct of political science. Building on the backdrop of this conceptual theorizing, empirical work highlighting regional distinctions began to emerge as well. This renewed emphasis on comparing regional spaces is often undertaken from a small-N comparative methodological approach to identify similarities and differences between regions, with a very specific interest in developing an understanding for the causal variation behind how regional spaces’ trajectories develop and diverge. Finally, one of the greatest theoretical challenges of comparative regionalism is the applicability of theories designed to understand the interactions of the entire international system (with primary focus on the major powers) to more localized spaces and conflicts. This is not to claim that politics necessarily follows different rules within different regions, but instead that because regional-local contexts are sufficiently unique, the combination of causal variables present may lead to very different outcomes for many phenomena of interest that scholars seek to understand. As regional importance has risen over the past 20 years, a clear set of criteria upon which theoretical development and empirical analysis can proceed is required in order to delineate the effects of regions on states and international politics.

Article

Arjan H. Schakel and Emanuele Massetti

European integration and regionalization have been parallel processes over the past five decades, leading to a multilevel governance system where decision-making powers are allocated across European, national, and regional governments. The upshot of both processes is that regional governments have gained representation within European Union (EU) institutions and they have gained the ability to affect EU policy through domestic institutions. Regional governments are involved in the EU policymaking process at the EU level through two institutions: via their representatives in the Committee of the Regions and via the participation of their ministers in the Council of Ministers. Similarly, regional governments are institutionally involved with EU affairs within the member states through three institutional channels: formulation and implementation of EU Cohesion Policy, intergovernmental meetings between national and regional governments to coordinate EU affairs, and subsidiarity monitoring of EU legislation by regional parliaments. The analysis shows that the EU’s multilevel governance system is highly asymmetric. Regional involvement in EU affairs through EU and domestic institutions is mainly restricted to powerful regions which can be predominantly found in the populous, federal, and regionalized member states from Western Europe. In addition, the analysis reveals that regional impact on EU policy is far more apparent within the member states than at the EU level. Furthermore, regional governments prefer to impact EU affairs through or in collaboration with their member state governments rather than bypassing them.

Article

Integration attempts in Latin America have historically been linked to the European experience. Transatlantic influence has gone from policy learning through institutional mimicry to direct funding. Modern Latin American regionalism dates back to 1960, when the Central American Common Market and the Latin American Free Trade Association (LAFTA) were founded. Both associations were a response to the creation of the European Economic Community in 1957 and the fear that “Fortress Europe” would cut extra-regional markets off, so alternatives should be developed. The Latin American blocs aspired to overcome the small size of the national markets by fostering economies of scale. Shortly thereafter, European-born, U.S.-based political scientist Ernst Haas—jointly with Philippe Schmitter—put to the test the neofunctionalist theory he had developed for Europe to analyze Central American integration, correctly diagnosing the latter’s limitations and forecasting its setbacks. LAFTA also faltered and failed and, in 1980, the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI by its Spanish acronym) replaced it. A decade later, ALADI would become MERCOSUR’s umbrella organization. After the third wave of democratization, which in Latin America started in 1978, new attempts at regional integration took hold, and MERCOSUR was initially considered as the most successful. Successive leaders of the European Union (EU) nurtured big hopes and devoted a great deal of attention to EU–MERCOSUR relations, first assisting with integration technology, material resources, and intellectual guidance and, since 1995, conducting several rounds of negotiations to strike a trade deal. The path that had led to MERCOSUR resembled that of the EU, as it started in 1985 with functional and sectoral integration (wheat and oil prominently, in place of coal and steel) around the Argentina–Brazil axis. A few years later, in 1991, the binational association was opened up to Paraguay and Uruguay and transformed itself into a typical Balassa-like organization, prioritizing broader market integration over focused sectoral integration—just like the Treaty of Rome had done in Europe. Intra-regional trade tripled during the first seven years, but it later stagnated and never bounced back. As a result, the member states decided to up the rhetorical ante and broaden the areas encompassed by the organization rather than fostering economic interdependence or deepening the level of regional authority. An optional tribunal and a powerless parliament were established in 2002 and 2005 respectively. The outcome was grim: more institutions on paper did not enhance performance in practice. Having exhausted the internal agenda, the external agenda remained the only one where positive developments were still expected. In 2019, after twenty years of bumping negotiations, a political agreement on a comprehensive trade deal was reached with the European Union, MERCOSUR’s role model and largest trade partner. If this agreement is signed and ratified, it will become the largest interregional arrangement ever.

Article

A significant, if minority, current in contemporary international relations scholarship places regions at the center of analysis. In practice, the shift to the regional level of analysis serves several purposes within international relations scholarship. Within the sociology of the discipline, regionalism provides a theoretical justification for work that in earlier periods would have been associated with traditional area studies. Within the broader international relations literature, a regional focus allows for a more nuanced analysis of war and peace outside of the core great power conflicts at the center of traditional analysis. In particular, regional approaches remind us that conflict at the regional level is driven more frequently by local than by global concerns while providing a framework for studying important conflicts that are not simply a manifestation of great power rivalries. Finally, this approach is essential for answering questions that can be couched only at the regional level of analysis. At a narrow level, regional approaches are particularly useful for specifying the dangers of conflict spillover and the actors who are most vulnerable to such spillover. At the broadest level, regional conflict systems become the unit of analysis for work examining why some regions are more peaceful than others and how violent regions may transition to peace. A good understanding of these questions has implications both for policymakers seeking to advance national interests and for peacemakers seeking a solution to violence.

Article

Latin America is usually referred to as a homogeneous region that shares a collective identity based on common history, language and culture in general. As a result, it is broadly expected that collective identity should underpin and facilitate regional integration among Latin American states. However, the idea of a Latin American identity can be problematized, arguing that the concept of “Latin America” is more an exclusionary one than an integrator. Moreover, addressing collective identity as a social construction among state elites reveals the political disputes that lay at the backdrop of regionalism as a political enterprise. The relationship between identity and regionalism in Latin America can be discussed using a study of the role of collective identity in the unfolding of three case studies of the Andean Community. A constructivist approach can be engaged to show that it is possible to observe three dimensions of collective identity in the Andean Community, whose interplay led to advancing regionalism in certain ways but also caused disagreements and failures. Instead of taking a simplistic view of identity as the sharing of similarities, disentangling collective identity into cultural, ideological, and intergroup dimensions helps in understanding that identity is mostly a political issue and therefore a disputed one, and that analyzing the relationship between these three dimensions contributes to explaining the unfolding of regionalism in terms of advance and stagnation.

Article

Thomas J. Volgy, Kelly Marie Gordell, Paul Bezerra, and Jon Patrick Rhamey, Jr.

Despite decades of scholarly attention to conflict and cooperation processes in international politics, rigorous, comparative, large-N analyses of these questions at the region level are difficult to find in the literature. Although this relative absence may stem in part from the difficulties related to the theoretical conceptualization or methodological operationalization of regions, it certainly is not for lack of interesting variation in terms of conflict and cooperation processes across regions. Between this variation and recent contributions toward a dynamic identification of regions, comparative analysis of conflict and cooperation outcomes at the region level are primed for exploration and increasingly salient as recent political elections in the United States (Trump election) and the United Kingdom (Brexit) have demonstrated a willingness on the part of policymakers to scale back efforts toward global interdependence. Turning attention to a region level unit of analysis, however, does not require abandoning decades of scholarship at the state or dyad levels. Indeed, much of this work may be viewed as informing or complementary to comparative regional analyses. In particular, regional propensity for cooperation or conflict is likely to be conditioned by a number of prominent explanations of these phenomena at state and dyad levels, which may usefully be conceived in their regional aggregates as so-called regional fault lines or baseline conditions. These include the presence of major and/or regional powers, interstate rivalries, unresolved territorial claims, civil wars, regime similarity, trade relationships, and common membership in intergovernmental organizations. Of these baseline conditions, the impact of major and regional powers on regional patterns of cooperation and conflict is notable for both its theoretical and practical implications. Power transition theory, hegemonic stability theory, hierarchical theory, and long cycle theory all suggest major—and to a lesser extent regional—powers will seek to establish order within areas under their influence; alternatively, the overwhelming capabilities these states bring to a region arguably act as a deterrent inhibiting conflict. Empirical analysis reveals—irrespective of the causal mechanism at hand—regions characterized by the presence of a major or regional power experience less conflict. Moving forward, future research should work to test the two plausible causal mechanisms for this finding—order building versus deterrence—to determine the true nature of hierarchy’s pacifying influence.

Article

Federations have existed in a modern form since the constitution of the United States entered into force in 1789. Riker defines a federation as follows (1975, p. 101) “a political organization in which the activities of government are divided between regional governments and a central government in such a way that each kind of government has some activity on which it makes final decision.” The process of getting to the federation, the integration process, is best described as federalism. There is some agreement on the core of what a federation is, and some disagreement over whether to apply the term “federation” strictly to states and state-like actors or in a broader sense. Federations are concrete ways to organize government, but in many writings, they are also given positive attributes, such as enhanced democracy and efficiency, too. There are two ways to think about federalism: as a politico-ideological theory of action and as an academic theory of regional integration. The first theory is propagated by writers such as Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, Jean Monnet, and Altiero Spinelli. This theory is of political rather than academic interest. Academic theories of regional integration are divided into two groups, following the common practice in international relations theory: liberal theories (by far the largest group) and realist theories. Federalism theory as a theory of regional integration was abandoned too early because, inter alia, it had been linked to the development of the European Community, which was in crisis from the mid-1970s till the mid-1980s. This was a mistake. Federalism theory provides the scholar with at least two tools. First, under the title “federation,” it introduces a large number of theories, methods, and empirical studies on how to analyze the European Union and other regional integration projects. Second, as a federalism theory, especially in the realist or the Riker-McKayian version, it provides a theory of how countries may unite peacefully. This approach must be developed in terms of (a) the concept of threat, which must be broadened to include economic, social, and cultural elements, and (b) the role of a basic common culture, which primarily facilitates the founding of the federation and constitutes the foundation securing the maintenance of the new federation. A brief analysis of the development of today’s European Union, following the realist approach, demonstrates that, broadly speaking, a correspondence exists between threat and the integration process: In times of threat, the process of integration and federalization advances; in periods of peace and no crisis, the integration process stagnates.

Article

The pattern of international conflict and peace differs from region to region. Regions differ from each other not only in terms of the simple presence or absence of war but also the degree to which war or any sort of military conflict is likely in the long run. Arguments have been offered to explain the spatial heterogeneity in war and peace. One approach to explaining regional peace is additive—the peacefulness of international politics is essentially analyzed and explained at either monadic or dyadic level variation. Notably, the dyadic approach to international conflict and peace has been dominant in the contemporary international relations. For example, two states that are economically dependent, both democratic, with vastly different levels of capabilities, and involved in neither a territorial dispute nor rivalry are likely to develop peaceful relationships. From this perspective, the regional degree of peace is explained by summing up the peacefulness of dyads within a region. Although this approach to regional peace has been dominant in the field, other approaches go beyond this simple additive approach. The first such explanations base their theoretical arguments on dyadic or monadic mechanisms, but focus on regionwide conditions such as consistency between national and state borders. Regional conflict and peace are ultimately explained by these regional historical conditions. The second group of explanations draw on the notion of spatial contagion through such mechanisms as domestic instability and war expansion in which international and civil wars provide opportunities for further conflict in the neighborhood in various ways. Conflict diffuses through spatial contagion and war joining, which in turn produces a zone of conflict. The third strand of explanations involve more explicit analyses of interdependence between units—states or dyads—which does not necessarily have to take place in the spatial context but often so. For example, pacifying international trade may result from “flying geese” learning and socialization processes within a neighborhood, thus making a whole region peaceful. Furthermore, studies that draw on techniques of network analysis tend to directly model dyad-to-dyad interdependence as an important source of conflict and peace. In short, there are various approaches to explain the regional variation of international conflict and peace from both additive monadic or dyadic approaches and more complex approaches that assume regional clustering of material conditions and interdependence between micro-units in space.

Article

Intergovernmental relations in Latin America present a varied sample of both institutional determinants and actual dynamics. Constitutional structures regulate whether countries have a federal or a unitary system of territorial distribution of power and stipulate the territorial levels of government. Thus, constitutions structure the number of vertical and horizontal intergovernmental relations. Actual dynamics, however, depend on policy prerogatives that establish subnational authority vis-à-vis the national administration. These prerogatives, usually understood in terms of power, responsibilities, and resources, shape the territorial balance of power within a country. Power, responsibilities, and resources can be combined to apprehend the degree of authority in the hands of regional governments. Such authority is analytically organized into two dimensions: the regional power of self-rule and the power to share rule with national decision makers. This distinction helps to explain that the trend toward increasing regional authority is mostly a product of decentralization and devolution politics that have enhanced self-rule, rather than reforms that advance the shared rule dimension. Nevertheless, neither constitutional structures nor new regional policy prerogatives are the only determinants of the dynamics of intergovernmental relations. Informal institutions, such as subnational coalitions and local political clientelism, are particularly relevant to understanding the actual balance of power between national and subnational governments and among subnational arenas.

Article

Frank Schimmelfennig

Regional integration theory seeks to explain the establishment and development of regional international organizations. Key questions are why and under which conditions states decide to transfer political authority to regional organizations; how regional organizations expand their tasks, competencies, and members; and what impact they have on states and societies in their regions. Whereas regional integration theory started with a broad comparative regional and organizational scope in the 1950s and 1960s, it has since focused on European integration and the European Union. The main (families of) theories explaining the development of European integration—rather than decision making and policy making in the EU—are intergovernmentalism, neofunctionalism, and postfunctionalism. The key debates in regional integration theory have taken place between variants of intergovernmentalist and neofunctionalist integration theory. Intergovernmentalism assumes national governments to be the key actors in regional integration. Governments use regional integration to maximize their national security and economic interests in the context of regional interdependence. Integration outcomes result from intergovernmental bargaining and reflect the regional preference and power constellations. Governments delegate authority to regional organizations to secure their bargaining outcomes but remain in control of regional organizations and the integration process. By contrast, neofunctionalism disputes that governments are able to control the integration process. Transnational corporations and interest groups as well as supranational actors are empowered by the integration process and shape it in their own interest. In addition, integration creates a variety of “spillovers” and path-dependencies that push integration beyond the intergovernmental bargain. More recently, postfunctionalism has enriched and challenged the theoretical debate on regional integration. In contrast to neofunctionalism, postfunctionalism assumes a backlash mechanism of integration. As regional integration progresses and undermines national sovereignty and community, it creates economic and cultural losers who are mobilized by integration-skeptic parties. Identity-based and populist mass politicization constrains regional integration and may even cause disintegration. Regional integration theories have closely followed and adapted themselves to the development of European integration. They cover the establishment and progress of supranational policies and institutions but also the recent crisis of the EU. An exemplary review of their explanations of major development in European integration shows that they are more complementary than competing.

Article

Javier A. Vadell and Clarisa Giaccaglia

The roots of Latin American regionalism blend together with the birth of the region’s states, and despite its vicissitudes, the integrationist ideal represents the most ambitious form of regional feeling. It is an ancient process that has undergone continuous ups and downs as a result of domestic and foreign restrictions. In the early 21st century, the deterioration of the “open regionalism” strategy, along with the rise to power of diverse left governments, led to the development of a “physical-structural,” “post-liberal,” “post-neoliberal,” or “post-hegemonic” integration model. In this context, Brazil—governed by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva—constituted itself as a crucial protagonist and main articulator of the South American integrationist project. From this perspective, in addition to the existing MERCOSUR, UNASUR was created, and it encompassed the whole subcontinent, thus reaffirming the formulation of regional policies regarding the concept of “South America.” At present, however, a new stage of these regionalisms has started. Today, the Latin American and Caribbean dynamics seem to bifurcate, on the one hand, into a reissue of open regionalism—through the Pacific Alliance—and, on the other hand, into a fragmentation process of South America as a geopolitical bloc and regional actor in the global system. Regarding this last point, it is unavoidable to link the regional integration crisis to the critical political and economic situation undergone by Brazil, considered as the leader of the South American process. In short, the withdrawal of the Brazilian leadership in South America, along with the shifts and disorientations that took place in UNASUR and MERCOSUR, have damaged the credibility of the region’s initiatives, as well as the possibility to identify a concerted voice in South America as a distinguishable whole. That regional reality poses an interesting challenge that implies, to a great extent, making a heuristic effort to avoid being enclosed by the concepts and assumptions of the processes of regionalism and integration that were born to explain the origin, evolution, and development of the European Union. From this perspective, the authors claim that the new phase experienced by Latin American regionalisms cannot be understood as a lack of institutionality—as it is held by those perspectives that support the explanations that they “mirror” the European process—but rather it answers chiefly to a self-redefinition process influenced by significant alterations that occurred both in global and national conjunctures and that therefore, have had an impact on the regional logic. Given the regional historical tradition marked by vicissitudes, the authors believe that they can hardly talk about a “Sudamexit” (SouthAmexit in English) process, namely, an effective abandonment of regionalisms. Recognizing the distinctive features of Latin American and Caribbean countries, rather, leads us to think of dynamics that generate a complex and disorganized netting in which the political-institutional course of development of Brazil will have relevant repercussions in the future Latin American and Caribbean process as a whole.

Article

Since 1957, the European Union (EU) has been a constant and reliable partner of Latin America, on the one hand, and the Caribbean, on the other. It still offers a unique model of idealist interregionalism based on the promotion of its own integration model, combined with limited economic interests, soft power and, more recently, shared global visions such as sustainable development, Compared with the two bigger external actors, the United States and China, the EU is a normative actor that complements and sometimes counterbalances (in the cases of Brazil, Cuba, and Mexico) relations with the dominant power. Although, in relative terms, trade exchanges have declined since the 1990s, Latin America and the EU share a solid network of multilevel and contractual relations integrated by political dialogue, development cooperation, and investment flows. The EU signed free trade agreements plus (dialogue and cooperation) with Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, the Caribbean, and Central America. In June 2019 finalized a twenty year process of free trade negotiations between the EU and MERCOSUR. Once in force and approved by EU institutions and the four South American states, the EU-MERCOSUR association agreement will reactivate trade exchange grounded on economic, political, social and cultural cooperation between state and non-state actors. Nonetheless, it remains unclear if the 32 states involved in the mixed agreement (European Commission’s exclusive trade competences plus EU member states) will approve the deal in a foreseeable future.

Article

Arne Niemann

Developed in the 1950s and 1960s, neofunctionalism underwent several ups and downs, often closely related to the stops and starts of the European integration process. During this time, neofunctionalism has repeatedly become subject to revision, a development that has continued in the new millennium. The theory has been widely criticized, and some of the criticisms have aptly revealed considerable shortcomings, but neofunctionalism retains a central place in conceptualizing European integration. This is due to (a) neofunctionalism possessing a unique toolkit for analyzing important issues of European integration, mainly concerning the dynamics of the integration process; (b) the theory inspiring subsequent (micro-level) theorizing, and later approaches having frequently drawn on neofunctionalist tenets and concepts; (c) neofunctionalism having proven to be capable of reformation. Instead of pinning the theory solely down to certain time-sensitive formulations dating from up to six decades ago, neofunctionalism should be understood as an evolving theory, whose research agenda is by no means exhausted.

Article

The Asia–Europe Meeting (ASEM) was launched in 1996 to provide a forum for East Asian and European Union (EU) leaders to meet and a platform to strengthen the links between Asia and Europe. It was conceived against a backdrop of optimism about regionalism and globalization and the belief in the necessity of international dialogue and cooperation and institution-building. The forum was also meant to close the missing link between Asia and Europe, two of the three engines of global economic growth (the other being the United States). Since its inaugural summit in March 1996, ASEM has developed to encompass various multilevel sectoral meetings—multilevel in that it involves ministers, senior officials, and technical experts—but is also multi-sectoral in that it has grown beyond diplomatic meetings overseen by the foreign affairs/external action service to those involving trade and finance, education, transport, and so on. It has also enlarged from 26 members to 53 members, and now comprises all 28 EU member states, 10 countries from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the ASEAN Secretariat, China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Norway, and Switzerland. Yet, despite the enlargement in number of meetings and members, ASEM has been criticized for the lack of depth of its meetings, its dearth of tangible outcomes, and its poor visibility. The sense is that after 20 years, the dialogue within ASEM has broadened but not deepened. With its disparate membership, ASEM remains essentially a forum for scripted speeches and informal dialogue. While it has created a few initiatives that have become “institutionalized,” such as the Asia–Europe Foundation (ASEF), the general perception of ASEM as a less-important forum persists. Media coverage of ASEM meetings, and even of its summits, is usually rather low-key. However, ASEM continues to draw support from the EU and China in particular, for the very reason that it is one of the few multilateral forums that the United States is absent from and where it hence cannot dominate and drive the agenda. This is perhaps one main factor that has kept ASEM alive, and with an increasingly challenging global environment in the shape of an unpredictable, transactional, and unilateral America under Trump, the need to rethink the instrumentality of ASEM for its 53 members grows ever more important.

Article

Sociological institutionalism is part of the larger group of new institutionalisms that share the basic understanding that institutions matter in social processes. Opposing a more descriptive, “old” institutionalism and a rational-choice version of institutionalism, which defends the idea that actors have the option to choose independently from a large number of attitudes, sociological institutionalists introduced the notion of logic of appropriateness, influenced by a specific strand of the sociology of organizations. This understanding, however, led to limits in the explicatory force of the approach: institutional change, as well as continued conflict and differentiated power relations among actors, could not be explained well. More recent approaches that took sociological institutionalist assumptions very seriously offered a series of possible solutions to those difficulties. While elements of rationality and power exist implicitly in different conceptualizations of sociological institutionalism, these authors explicitly brought together both actors’ rational behavior and their embeddedness in broad institutional frameworks through concentrating on the power relations that exist among agents.

Article

Globalization, or increased interconnectedness between world regions, is a dialectical and recursive phenomenon that consequently tends to deepen through time as one set of flows sets off other related or counterflows. This is evident in the history of the phenomenon in Africa, where transcontinental trade, and later investment, were initially small but have grown through different rounds including slavery, colonialism, neocolonialism, and the early 21st-century era of globalization. However, globalization on the continent, as in other places, is not unilinear and has generated a variety of “regional responses” in terms of the construction of organizations such as the African Union and other more popularly based associations. The phenomenon of globalization on the continent is deepening through the information technology “revolution,” which also creates new possibilities for regional forms of association.

Article

Ronald L. Tammen, Jacek Kugler, and Douglas Lemke

Power Transition theory is a dynamic and structural model for analyzing fundamental shifts in global power. The theory itself, while maintaining its core concepts, has metamorphosed over time by adding new dimensions and addressing new topics. It is both data based and qualitatively intuitive. As a probabilistic theory, it has proven useful in predicting the conditions that forecast both conflict and cooperation at the global, national, and subnational levels of analysis. As a foreign policy tool, it creates historical signposts pointing toward tectonic shifts in nation state and alliance power profiles.