This chapter considers the meaning and significance of regions and regionalism and their roles in international politics today. It does so by first considering how regionalism as a concept has come to be defined and understood, and by exploring its characteristics and contours in European and non-European settings. The chapter then tracks the major developments in the history and theory of regionalism. It is particularly concerned to illustrate regionalism as a global process, one that is not uniquely associated with any single regional experience. In that sense it seeks to move beyond a commonly held Eurocentric bias in studies of regionalism and consider regional processes in Latin America, Africa and Asia. In highlighting its contemporary significance it qualifies the notion that regionalism has experienced exponential growth since the end of the Cold War – a point brought sharply into focus by the continuing crisis of the European Union (EU). Rather, it argues that regionalism today needs to be understood as part of a complex architecture of multilateralism.
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