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About this book

Since the late 1980s, there has been a global upsurge of various forms of regionalist projects. The widening and deepening of the European Union (EU) is the most prominent example, but there has also been a revitalization or expansion of many other regionalist projects as well, such as the African Union (AU), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Southern Common Market (Mercosur). More or less every government in the world is engaged in regionalism, which also involves a rich variety of business and civil society actors, resulting in a multitude of regional processes in most fields of contemporary politics. In this new text, Fredrik Söderbaum draws on decades of scholarship to provide a major reassessment of regionalism and to address questions about its origins, logic and consequences.

By examining regionalism from historical, spatial, comparative and global perspectives, Rethinking Regionalism transcends the deep intellectual and disciplinary rivalries that have limited our knowledge about the subject. This broad-ranging approach enables new and challenging answers to emerge as to why and how regionalism evolves and consolidates, how it can be compared, and what its ongoing significance is for a host of issues within global politics, from security and trade to development and the environment. Retaining a balanced and authoritative style throughout, this text will be welcomed for its uniquely comprehensive examination of regionalism in the contemporary global age.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Abstract
Since the return of regionalism in the late 1980s, there has been a global upsurge of various forms of regionalist projects. The widening and deepening of the European Union (EU) is the most prominent example, but there was a revitalization or expansion of many other regionalist projects as well, such as the African Union (AU), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the Southern Common Market (Mercosur). More or less every government in the world is engaged in regionalism, but regionalist processes also involve a rich variety of business and civil society actors, resulting in a multitude of formal as well as informal regional processes in most fields of contemporary politics.
Fredrik Söderbaum

2. Learning from History

Abstract
This chapter traces the origins, meanings and evolution of regions as objects and as a field of study. Even with wide use of the distinction between old and new regionalism, history has received muted attention in the general debate. Most scholars claim that regionalism is a post-Second World War phenomenon, which is to ignore the many varieties of regions and regionalisms apparent in different historical periods. A historical perspective implies that regions need to be closely related to the changing historical and political contexts, especially those concerning political organization and world order and, consequently, that new forms of regions may occur in different times. However, throughout history there have also been important continuities between various types of regionalism. It is therefore plausible to distinguish between the intellectual history of regionalism and the real world history of regionalism. This chapter distinguishes between four phases in the historical development of the field: early regionalism, old regionalism, new regionalism and comparative regionalism, which is the most recent phase.
Fredrik Söderbaum

3. Learning from Theory

Abstract
This chapter underlines the richness of regional theory and reviews a spectrum of partly overlapping and partly competing approaches to regionalism. A thorough theoretical discussion is motivated by the fact that any attempt to rethink regionalism rests, at least partly, on previous and competing theoretical experiences. This type of theoretical reflection takes a step backwards in order to take two forward later on. Since a single theory cannot give a sufficient picture of the multiplicity of regionalism, this book embraces several relatively distinct theories in a broad and eclectic approach (Katzenstein 2005). Clearly, some theories are divergent, with competing meta-theoretical and conceptual points of departures, different ways of producing knowledge and a concern with different research questions. This chapter presupposes that an overview of the theoretical landscape is essential to an understanding of which theoretical elements are compatible and which are not.
Fredrik Söderbaum

4. The Richness of Comparative Regionalism

Abstract
Despite a growing number of specific comparisons of selected aspects of regionalism (especially concerning regional institutions and the role of power) in selected areas of the world, there is a weak systematic debate on the fundamentals of comparative research in the study of global regionalism. Differences over what to compare, how to compare and even why to compare at all, arise predominantly as a consequence of the tension in the field between regional specialization (i.e. case or area studies) and more general research that is built around European integration theory and practice to a large degree. Treating European integration as the foundation for conceptual development, theory-building and comparison is the most dominant approach in the field of regionalism.
Fredrik Söderbaum

5. Obviating the Gap Between Formal and Informal Regionalism

Abstract
In the study of regionalism too much focus has been placed on issues of sovereignty transfer, political unification and policy making within fixed and inter-state regional organizations and inter-state frameworks. This methodological bias is strongly correlated with the tendency to focus on and explain variations from the standard European case, especially formalistic and EU-style institutionalization. This comparative marker is only one of many interpretations (or one essential characteristic) of European regionalism, and over-emphasizing it is a problem. Rethinking regionalism rests on a broader understanding of regions, reaching beyond hegemonic formal/formalistic and state-centric interpretations of regional institutions. This of course implies that comparison becomes a more pluralistic exercise.
Fredrik Söderbaum

6. Organizing Regional Space

Abstract
This chapter underlines the increasing heterogeneity of contemporary regionalism and the fact that an array of state, market, civil society and even external actors come together at various scales of action to produce multiple regions and regional collaborative mechanisms. At the start, a distinction is made between different types of regions, such as ecological regions, economic regions and political regions. The second section differentiates different forms of regional collaboration mechanisms in terms of forms of organization and scope of action. The third section highlights the interactions between macro-regionalism and micro-regionalism, with empirical illustrations from Europe, Southeast Asia and Southern Africa. The chapter concludes with a discussion.
Fredrik Söderbaum

7. Multidimensional Regionalism

Abstract
Global transformations during the last two to three decades have resulted in multidimensional regionalism developing in most policy fields. Regionalism has no single cause but is shaped by a number of problems and interests, as well as cognitive factors and imaginations. This chapter illustrates that regionalism has become a core feature of different policy areas and sectors, spanning a range from security, economy, and social policy to the environment. More or less every government in the world is engaged in regionalism, but regionalist processes also involve a rich variety of business and civil society actors, resulting in a multitude of formal as well as informal regional processes in most fields of contemporary politics.
Fredrik Söderbaum

8. Civil Society in Regionalism

Abstract
In region-building, placing emphasis upon the many business and societal actors rather than state elites and states-led regional organizations is a recent tendency. As this chapter shows, civil society has emerged as a dynamic force in the re-spatialization of contemporary social life. The analysis is structured in two parts. First is a section based on the notion that the first step towards a better understanding of the regionalization of civil society is to focus the theoretical and conceptual lenses through which it is viewed. To a large extent, the general neglect of civil society in the literature is a conceptual, theoretical and methodological problem. There is a risk of misunderstanding the diversity and many roles of regional civil societies around the world if the theories and conceptualizations of civil society are rooted solely in Western or European experience.
Fredrik Söderbaum

9. External Actors in Regionalism

Abstract
Clearly, external actors have not received enough attention in the study of regions and regionalism. Most theories and approaches consider regionalism as a project led by intra-regional actors emerging in response to external forces and pressures, such as globalization and hegemonic international powers (Buzdugan 2013). This chapter rethinks how external actors contribute to and influence the making and unmaking of regions. In historical perspective, the US has had a strong impact on region-building as well as region-destruction around the world. The US repeatedly has tried to remake regions to suit its own national interest. For instance, the US has tried to reshape, undermine and, sometimes, even destroy regionalist projects in the Caribbean, Central and South America as well as Central and East/Southeast/South Asia. In contrast, the US played a more progressive role in the early stages of European integration right after the end of the Second World War.
Fredrik Söderbaum

10. Regionness: The Solidification of Regions

Abstract
Most regions of the world contain a multitude of strategies, ideas and identities relating to the region, which meet, merge and compete (Neumann 2003). There is a need to go beyond such diversity and understand the processes by which regions come into existence and are consolidated. When different processes of regionalization playing out in various fields and at various scales, intensify and converge within the same geographical area, this increases the cohesiveness and thereby the distinctiveness of the region in the making. This chapter outlines and advances the regionness framework as a comparative heuristic tool for understanding the construction and solidification of regions in terms of regional coherence and community.1 It ranges from regional social space, regional social complex, regional society and regional community to regional institutionalized polity. Regionness is also connected to the capacity to act in the outside world. The concept of regional actorness helps us understand a regions ability to influence the external world and its role in global transformation (issues explored in the last parts of this book).
Fredrik Söderbaum

11. Regions in Interregionalism

Abstract
A great deal of discussion on interregionalism has centred on the EU’s past and present interregional relations. For instance, there is a long history of loose region-to-region relations between the EU and the ACP group of countries, which the new Cotonou Agreement and other EU-Africa frameworks have revised and developed. There is also a long history of interregional cooperation between the EU and ASEAN since the early 1970s. And from the 1990s onwards the EU further developed interregional cooperation as a key feature of external relations, albeit not always with a consistent formulation (Söderbaum and Stlgren 2010a; Baert et al. 2014). Most literature on the topic from the 1990s assumed that interregionalism was an integrative process promoting cosmopolitan values and, as such, constituted a building block of a single multilayered global governance architecture (Baert et al. 2014).
Fredrik Söderbaum

12. Regions in Global Governance

Abstract
This chapter deals with the role of regions in global governance. First, governance is conceptualized in light of the transformation of the Westphalian approach (government) and the increased importance of governance, especially at the global and regional level. From this perspective, the key question then is how to understand and conceptualize the relationship between different modes of governance (subnational, national, regional and global) that are nested within a multilayered global governance structure. The remainder of the chapter illustrates the rising strength of the regional dimension of global governance in three rather different policy fields: security, trade and health.
Fredrik Söderbaum

13. Conclusion

Abstract
The starting point of this book was that all too often regionalism is too narrowly understood. The book emphasizes a number of conceptual, theoretical and methodological deficits in the field, which are caused by, among other things, the many divides and conflicts between different participating disciplines, theoretical traditions and regional and thematic specializations. This book has tried to transcend some of the intellectual divides in the field, searching for more creative and synthetic ways to think about regions and regionalism. The book offers a four-fold approach to rethinking regionalism that is rooted in constructivist and reflectivist scholarship. Despite criticism of rationalist and problem-solving theories of regionalism, the goal is not to prove these theories wrong or irrelevant, but rather to justify alternative ways of thinking about the issues.
Fredrik Söderbaum
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