The Tribune - Spectrum

, April 7, 2002

Return of regionalism
Kuldeep Kaur

Regionalism in World Politics: Regional Organisation and International Order
edited by Louise Fawcett and Andrew Hurrell, Oxford University Press. Pages 342. Rs 610

Regionalism in World Politics: Regional Organisation and International OrderTHIS This book is to be commended for it tries to grapple with the complexities of the current regionalist debate. In the process, it raises several significant questions: what are the factors that explain the resurgence of regionalism? Can new regionalist schemes be understood in terms of the old logic of sovereign states which relentlessly pursued power and hegemony and produced, in the process, peculiar dynamics of anarchy? Alternatively, in what ways do these schemes reflect the imperatives of globalisation and economic interdependence, and their accompanying logic of transformation, Cupertino and community?

An optimistic understanding of the relationship would view ‘open regionalism’ as quite compatible with economic multilateralism and would, therefore, regard regional integration as a stepping stone to further liberalisation at the global level. That is so because open regionalism permits differential levels of integration and institutionalisation, depending on the degree of economic development as well as interdependence. Andrew Wyatt-Walter’s chapter, for example, argues that new economic regionalism has not thus far proved incompatible with multilateral arrangements.

Quite naturally, then, the resilience or fragility of new regionalism is another question, which many contributors to the book discuss. Several chapters paint a somewhat sombre view of its long-term prospects. Other chapters point out that despite such skepticism, the past decade has seen both a striking reappearance of regionalist rhetoric and impressive evidence of concrete progress being made in various parts of the world.


In undertaking such scrutiny, authors of this book focus on both the politics and political economy of contemporary regionalism. The booklends an overarching perspective to the growing number of detailed studies, which deal with specific cases of regionalism in different parts of the world.

The chapter by Louise Fawcett places new regionalism in historical perspective. It provides an overview of major forms of regionalism in the contemporary international system, and reviews the most important literature on the subject. The chapter by Andrew Hurrell relates the revival of regionalism to contemporary debates in International Relations Theory.

The following three chapters consider the links between regionalism and broader issues in contemporary international relations. The author analyses the ways in which new regionalist trends are related to developments in the global political economy.

Alan Henrikson sets the revival of regionalist groupings against the parallel revival of the most important global political organisation, the United Nations. He analyses both the tensions that may emerge between the two and the scope for productive partnership between them. At another plane, James Mayall considers the critical issue of the relationship between identity and political community and the various ways in which the two may affect regionalism.

Chapters in the second part of the book examine regionalism in various parts of the world. This section begins with a chapter by William Wallace which places the story of the EC within a broad historical perspective and discusses the ways in which it has become ever more problematic to view the European case as a ‘model’ for the other parts of the world. The two chapters that follow examine areas where region building has been a central feature of the past few years and where forward momentum has been most apparent. Rosemary Foot examines developments in the Asia-Pacific, whereas Andrew Hurrell takes up the case of the Americas. In contrast, Charles Tripp examines the Arab Middle East which has by no means remained immune from the recent regionalist enthusiasm but in which the obstacles and constraints are all too apparent.

Finally, the conclusion seeks to sketch out some of the ways in which contemporary regionalism is related to international order.