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Regions and Regionalism in International Relations

Introduction

In this paper, I am going to focus on the descriptions of regions and regionalism, regions and its various definitions will be given in the first chapter, then some basic origins and theories, which are necessary to explain the foundations of regions, will be mentioned in the first chapter as well. Regions and regionalism has been linked to each other in terms of international relations, they are interwoven norms to explain the area of the world, we can call them in short narrowing of the boundaries. The dynamics which generates the regions in the origin and the requirements to being a region will be explained.

Throughout the history regions and regionalism have been improving by empires, states, groups, treaties, alliances, trade routs and also wars. Nowadays we say that the regions and regionalism as a concept is useful to understand international system and its subsystems, to analyze all regions is one of the most difficult things in international relations, so world must be divided as regions, I would rather to say in practice regions become regionalism, the theories  transformed into a reality as tangible and a process of integration in practice.

The second part will be analyzing of definition of regionalism and how they perceived from a theory and what kind of actors or theories support to the regionalism processes on the world, Federalism, institutionalism, neofunctionalism will be analyzed in this section according to liberalist perspective. I would like prefer to use liberalist perspective to explain regionalism because of liberalism promotes the basic principles of those new currents.

In conclusion, I will focus the relations between regions and regionalism process, they are not separable things and directly linked to integration process regarding to analyze world parts, but also they are useful to draw boundaries for academic research and to notice that international relations is also generated from those type of interactions in deep.

Key words: Regions, regionalism, institutionalism, liberalism, international system

1. The Definition of Regions

Throughout the history regions have been seen as subsystems of larger communities such as hegemony, empires, Westphalian system, even in antiquity it can be seen that Caesar and Gaul, Greek city-states, The clear-cut identification of region is not possible to describe because there is also some alternatives, regions can be occurred as various forms of created union according to below elements. In today’s world, subordinate and subsystems appeared with nation states, they are both proximate and they need not be contiguous.[1] Regions can be described smaller than states, nevertheless, the obstacle element for this definition is that this definition degrades the regions to relatively microscale and creating regions by states is ignored by this definition so, the main idea of this chapter focused on the definition of regions in general.

The classical definition of region is that bounded segment of earth space, a segment limited or by physical obstacles. We cannot have all regions in one region. Regions, for certain reasons, we will mention these reasons in the text, and the process which starts after being accepted as a region will create the types and characteristics of the regions. Those dynamics have to be taken into consideration because of affecting the establishment process of regions. According to social constructs, if anybody decides somewhere is a region, then it becomes a region. Generally many agree upon regions are based on territorial system which means the subsystem of international system.[2]

On the other hand regional culture and culture of any region constitutes an identification for social groups living in that regions,[3] broadly speaking, this identities create another part and of regions that means society. To identify a society, the main definition tool would be regions and its features. Identity is crucial for being a regions in terms of interests, common habits etc.

Furthermore, regions can be understood as human constructions during the historical period, because political and economic events led a phrase, which was created by humans. On the other hand cultural events had a major role in this process of creating regions. The most crucial thing is that the regions should be cover some parties who has common cultural, economic, political and geographic features in that region. Imaginary ways to create the regions had been used by humans as well[4] like imagined communities, regions can be imagined and created by human beings.[5] These imagined communities not only do not need to have any boundaries but also do not require any concrete evidence.[6]

Regions are determined by:[7]

  1. Cultural and economic centers and internal connections.
  2. Integrations
  3. Self-Organizations
  4. Multi-dimensional homogeneity.

According to geographer regions can be divided into three categories and they characterized the regions under certain titles:[8]

Instituted: Those types created by some authorities within same organization, nation states, governments, religious dominations, corporations such as multinational or relatively big size companies. When they are established by authorities, these regions are recognized as existing borders they are clearly seeable and if it is not on the land, probably everyone will accept them.

Objectively denoted: These regions are mostly regions created by academics or social scientists to reduce the complexity of the world, they can separate events, simirlarities, differences to reach their aims and to reduce the complexity of science. This category is divided into two groups; formal and functional recognitions. Formal recognition means that we can call them uniform regions such as slavic world, Protestantism, sunnis, etc… Those regions generally characterized by people and their strong belongings, homogeneous appears as important factor for formal type of regions. Functional is mostly understood as region in cooperation or organization level and generally tied to some central and nodal place by the movement of people, ideas and so on, such as Corn Belt, Shanghai Cooperation Organizations.

Natively Perceived: These regions are completely different than objectively denoted and instituted regions because the identity and native progress is critical here, they both have major role in naively perceived region. This type of regions comes from directly people and the history they are created historically and institutionalized over time. Confucianism area, Arab world, Mesopotamia are natively examples of perceived regions and they were created by identifying, belongings, religions, geography.

As it can be understood from above, in fact regions are foundation of regionalism and institutionalism process. Those phases are generated from the regions and the beginning of the integration process can be called regional integration, the fundamental element of this process starts in region level by the people or governments exist in that region.

Regions have been described in many terms in international relations, varieties of elements for describing the region, have always been changed and to find appropriate definitions for regions. While there are many variables that can be considered, it would be useful to give a brief explanation of these variables. It will be appropriate to sort the issues to be dealt with without the definition of regions and to explain the different views that make up the region.

Those four elements can describe the foundations of regions as:

  • Cultural
  • Political
  • Economic
  • Geographic

1.1. Cultural Effects

Cultural effects can be formed by society while inventing the traditions of the society, it is a tradition of observing them and the following process is a basic step for the formation of cultural norms, and the next phase will be spill-over effect as Ernst Haas used as a political and economic concept, but I will use it as a cultural concept, after the spill-over process, communities or nations affected by the spreading of culture and are beginning to create a culture-based region during the formation of these regions, common interests are recognized by themselves and culture plays a unifying role among those states or communities.[9]

1.2. Political Effects

Politics and its effects can directly influence on describing regions, to some extent political interests can keep nations states together and they are controlled by common interests, political aims allow to bring local supranational authority between states, especially when they have to act collectively against a political conflict.

1.3. Economic Effects

Economy is the fundamental element for every regions or regionalism process in the world. The most remarkable point is regions can be easily under influence of economic situations and interest, economy can lead the nation states to cooperate and build a region on their land. Economic areas can be defined as economic regions even inside of the states. In the world economic areas contains of certain parts and lands, to describe those kind of regions is really difficult.

1.4. Cultural Effects

Referring to Huntington cultural elements carry a significant role for each region. They are constructed by people who has different cultures and theory basically based on cultural differences according to Huntington, cultural differences describe the regions, Culture is broad term to use, first better to explain what kind of elements creates culture. At first glance culture is more like a term that contains of traditions but traditions contain of many detailed dynamics, which directly affects to culture. Language, religion, the way of living, belongings, beliefs etc… create the culture itself, when culture needs to be explained we have to directly address to elements which create culture. How can we divide the world according to culture, according to Huntington there is a strict distinction between regions such as confucianist region, islamic region, western side, Japan (he says that this is completely another civilization.). They created in harmony with their cultural dynamics and Huntington called them civilizations, in his opinion the world was made entirely of civilizations by culture.[10] Identity plays a major role on creating sense of belonging and identity means the core value for each region and identity creates the common culture and culture generates the region itself natively.

To define the regions there are three main theories to differentiate regions according to their purpose and the first one materialistic theory concentrates on geographic markings, as Nadine Godehart says, historically, academically, politically have been used as a delineation of the world and geographically bounded their borders. Ideational theory generally focuses on the idea of social contract and asserts that regions are created by interests of nation states and they must be recognized as contracts. The main example of this theory would be the European Union, which has binding contract with its society and member states. Shangai Cooperation Organizations would be another example of this theory in terms of social contracts. OECD may be included into this theory because of their role of advisor for nations states to improve their development levels in many fields. Behavioral theory contains of human political and economic practices, in this theory humans’ activities and creations can be understood as part of differentiation of regions. Human activities or leaders’ activities can directly affect on regions to separate them from the other regions, In addition, it can take place within the behavioral theory of the organizations established by the leaders in the same line of thought, the main reason for this is that the leaders’ ideas come into existence within a certain region and they are created together with the common interests, as well as transnational or regional actors.

Referring to Lewis and Wigen refer to Arnold Toynbee better approach to understand how regions were created by different perspectives, the British historian highlights that the ‘two traditional Hellenic geographical names “Europe” and “Asia” were transferred from “the mariner’s chart to the publicist’s political map and to the sociologist’s diagram of the habitats of cultures.[11]

From different perspective of Arif Dirlik, regions can be defined as a broader term to explain the international system of the world. Arif Dirlik advocates that the there is two blocks; Soviet and Western side but he asserts that there is a region called the Third World, which should be taken into consideration.[12]

2. The Definition of Regionalism

The brief historical background of regionalism and giving some examples would be the effective and useful to understand the fundamental beginnings of regionalism. The 19th century is a good example of examples of regionalization. Certain alliances in this century and certain political associations established will constitute serious and important examples of regionalization. This military-political partnership, which started in Europe in 1815 as the European Harmony 1 and addressed the military unity and political attitude against Napoleon, can be cited as the first regional integration movement. The importance of this is that the common political and economic interests have ensured the cooperation of states against a common enemy and limited it to a region.European Harmony 2 was also a continuation of this process, and the states were oriented towards political and military cooperation. Regionalism emerged a very specific historical context between World War II and the late 80’s: Cold War and the integration of ECSC. State security would replace by old terms and notions.

On the other hand economic cooperations organizations have key role for regionalism and also integration processes such as ASEAN, Shanghai Cooperation Organizations. Their first purpose to reach economic integration in the region, as all beginnings of regionalism processes.

Furthermore, after the completion of economic integrations the next step is to implement policies of political integrations for particular regions such as European Union, the union is very close to complete the economic union and advance to the political integrations to some extent, actually the idea of military of Europe, and the representation of the union in political conflicts are the most crucial signs of political integration process. Regionalism is also directly positive impacts on members’ living standards.[13]

Regionalism is not linked to geography to some extent but after a while cultural interests lead to regionalism process, regionalism usually requires international governance and international actors, whose decision are binding for member states, during the regional integrations.

Regionalism is considered a unity of nations according to:

  • Cultural interests
  • Economic interests
  • Political interests
  • National interests

Integrations is part of regionalism concept and integration levels basically:

  • Economic
  • Cultural
  • Political

Affects on the regionalism process, integration starts with economic interests and followed by cultural combination, the last part of this regionalism process is that political integrations, political integrations means that certain regions unifies with each other to build another political unit, which is over the nation state level.

Regionalism has many dimensions, The multidimensionality of regionalism allows it to be derived not only from a structure but also from many dynamics. The notion of regionalism corresponds with the notion of region, somehow emerges from it.[14] Regionalism should be considered as process, outcomes of economic, political, social (cultural) integration.

2.1. The Various Forms of Regionalism

Regionalism in international relations can be varied

2.1.1. Federalism

Federalism is a form regionalism, because how nation states can create a regions among each other, federalism also suggested by Altiero Spinelli and he said that nation as the root of evil. Regional organizations should be reconstructed as a federation, which means political unity with strong constitutional and institutional background.

Federalism also splits into 3 groups:

  • Supranational Bodies
  • National Bodies
  • Sub-national Bodies.

Idea of the constitutionalism remains integral to both state building and regional integrations, principle of legal federalism, idea of international law. United States of Europe can be significant example for federalism and its understanding. On the other hand Thera two more ways to understand federalism.

  1. Centralization on higher level on administrative and political power, it removed the decision makin from local, national level.
  2. Dispersion of authority decentralization and devolution of government.

2.1.2. Instituionalism – Functionalism

According to David Mitrany Westphalian system as outdated. Peace attainable though law. League of Nations failed because of it did not help to control all over the world in a single power. Regionalism as counter productive is better than nation states system. Solution should be searched in international agencies, what kind of benefits do they have?

Benefits of international agencies according to functionalist theory:

  1. Functionally constituted.
  2. Authority over specific issue taken over from the state.
  3. Performing very specific tasks.
  4. Transcending national borders.
  5. Eventually a network of organizations.
  6. Governments turn obsolete.
  7. More of a globalism than regionalism theory.[15]

2.1.3. Neo-functionalism

As I mentioned in my previous article those statements are remarkable and it is requirement to mention it once again.

Ernst Haas gives us different point of view and neofunctionalist thinker proposed spill-over effect that means people build nation states and then they need to create companies, institutions which can regulate all process of the world. Those who creates companies or institutions, after a while realize that their devotion gravitates towards to this institutions rather than their nation states. Basically this propagation is circle and always benefits to the theory of spill-over. He also says that spill-over cannot be automatically and it needs to have some institutions that will be regulate and organize it. The opinions of Haas and Mitrany are essential to take into consideration and it is directly connected with geography, for instance Western unions such as European Union and United Nations. European Union and the other regional integrations by creating institutions can be defined limited integrations and struggle to pass to political level of integration, regional integrations had spill-over effect, therefore integration of all states were affected by this spill-over[16]

First of all, the whole NGOs, companies, etc. have to be taken into consideration. Agencies and these kind of organizations can implement the spill-over effect on the whole world by their sub-organs.

Although some damages and risks of the theory, in positivist way there are some advantages for both countries and societies, global governance may create global civil society referring to Hedley Bull, building of international society needs to be governed by international united powers which contains of nations states and that means there is a theory beyond nation states.

To sum up, the theory is still disputable, regionalism and the idea of liberalism support each other to promote the level of international governance and in case of globalizations, they are all part of those wider integrations.

 2.2. The New Regionalism

According to Bjorn Hettne there are some elements that specify the qualities of a region to be effective actor an meaningful entity. Björn Hettne is the founder of new regionalism theory and NRT based on the the multidimensional result of the process of regionalisation of a particular geographic area.[17] The theory mostly concentrates on the regional space, regional complex, regional community and regional society, those varieties specify the regionness, the new era of regionalism is also indicates main points:

  • Anarchy among states is the main problem.
  • Regionalism directly linked to international system and order.
  • Regionalism linked to globalization processes.
  • International order concerned with political, economic, social organization of the international arena. Norms, regimes and sub-institutions can be rebuilt in accordance with the new regionalism process.

Geographical barriers and ecological characters, security of society in other words safety feelings of states, regionalism provides, community, economic, political, security cooperation among states, on the other hand regionalism movements at international levels could be the deterrent power on the possible misuse power of hegemonic state or superpowers.[18]

To describe new regionalism and give the specific differences between old regionalism and new regionalism[19] it is necessary to explain how it occurs in today’s world, firstly world order has been changing from bipolar world to multipolar structure. Secondly, new regionalism focuses on developments, processes and developments. Old regionalism was protectionist and inward-oriented, nevertheless new regionalism focuses of the openness process and region which society oriented.[20]

Conclusion

To sum up, the brief importance of both terms carry significant while regions and regionalism are of great importance in the context of international relations, theories that form themselves are fundamental building blocks for better understanding of regions and for understanding all processes that may occur after. In the context of regions and regionalism, culture, politics, economy, interests and many other international societies and factors that directly affect international cooperation will play a key role in regionalization processes. In many of the academic studies on regionalization, attention should be paid to the development of the regions not only in countries at a small level, but also in regions as larger structures. In fact, when regions develop and enter into integration processes, they become stronger and become involved in international relations as transnational actors. The process of economic integration is followed by cultural and political integration and with the help of common interests, these processes are developing rapidly. Whether an international government is established by nation-states or discussed by supranational organizations is still a question, regionalization processes provide a positive field for such developments.

Regionalism should be considered as a cooperation of different regions to reach or gain the same interests, (economic, political or cultural) sometime the targets and the main purpose would be the higher level such as European Union, Shanghai Cooperation Organization or United Nations like in the past Warsaw Pact, NATO, League of Nations etc.

Regions generates the regionalism and the process itself the crucial things is how regions can shape themselves, the remarkable answer would be that they regions could be seen as regional units, unions which are created by states in that region, there is ne necessity to recognize the region smaller units than state. Regionalism is that process which has been started and promoted by nation states activities, regions and regionalism interwoven terms in international relations and they will be more integrated in the future but there is something to remember is that current international system is still based on nation state centered and nations states allow international or transnational actors to make policies on behalf of them, this authorization is limited to some extent, still there is disputable dynamics upon who controls whom?

[toggle title=”Bibliography” state=”close”]

Anderson Benedict, Imagined Communities, Verso Press, London, New York, 2006 p. 6-37

Beşen Atilla Arda, Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace Theory and Its Practice In Case of United Nations, History Economics and Politics Research Association, p. 9.

Haas, Ernst, “International Integration: The European and the Universal Process,” International Organization, Volume 15, No.3, 1961, s.366-392.

Dirlik, Arif, Spectres of the Third World: Global Modernity and The End of the Three Worlds, Carfax Publishing, Third World Quarterly Vol. 25, No. 1, pp. 131-139.

E. Baldwin Richard, The Causes of Regionalism, Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 1997, p. 865

Fawcett Louise, Exploring Regional Domains: A Comparative History of Regionalism, International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), Vol. 80, No. 3, Regionalism and the Changing International Order in Central Eurasia (May, 2004), pp. 429-446.

Godehardt Nadine, The Chinese Constitution of Central Asia, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, p. 3-46

Hettne Björn, The Europeanisation of Europe: Endogenous and Exogenous, Dimensions.’ European Integration 24 (S4), pp. 325–340.

Hettne Björn, Theories of the Rising of Regionness, Contribution to New Political Economy, Vol 5, No 3 (December), p. 457-473.

J. Cantori Louis, and L. SpiegelSteven, The International Relations of Regions, The University of Chicago Press Journals, Polity, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Summer, 1970), p. 400.

Ostergren Robert, Regionalism in the Age of Globalism Volume 1: Concepts of Regionalism, edited by: Lothar Hönnighausen, Marc Frey, James Peacock, and Niklaus Steiner, Section: Concepts of Region: A Geographical Perspective, University of Wisconsin Press, 2005 p. 1.

P. Huntington, Samuel, Clash of Civilizations and The Remaking of World Order, Simon & Schuster Press, 1996, pp. 125-139.

Świątkiewicz Wojciech, Region and Regionalism Culture and Social Order, Section: The Regions and Regionalismn as Cultural Values, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego Press, p. 20.

Toynbee, A. J. (1957). A Study of History. Abridgement of Volumes VII–X. by D.C. Somervell. Oxford etal.: Oxford University Press, p. 239 &Lewis, M. W. and Wigen, K. E. (1997). The Myth of Continents. ACritique of Metageography. Berkeley at al.: University of California Press. p. 21.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Louis J. Cantori and Steven L. Spiegel, The International Relations of Regions, The University of Chicago Press Journals, Polity, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Summer, 1970), p. 400.

[2] Björn Hettne, Theories of the Rising of Regionness, Contribution to New Political Economy, Vol 5, No 3 (December), p. 12.

[3] Wojciech Świątkiewicz, Region and Regionalism Culture and Social Order, Section: The Regions and Regionalismn as Cultural Values, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego Press, p. 20.

[4] Robert Ostergren, Regionalism in the Age of Globalism Volume 1: Concepts of Regionalism, edited by: Lothar Hönnighausen, Marc Frey, James Peacock, and Niklaus Steiner, Section: Concepts of Region: A Geographical Perspective, University of Wisconsin Press, 2005 p. 1.

[5] Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, Verso Press, London, New York, p. 6.

[6] Ibid, p. 140.

[7] Ibid, Wojciech, p. 22.

[8] Ibid, Ostergren, pp. 2-5

[9] Samuel P. Huntington, Clash of Civilizations and The Remaking of World Order, Simon & Schuster Press, 1996, pp. 125-139.

[10] Ibid, Huntington, p. 129-135

[11] Toynbee, A. J. (1957). A Study of History. Abridgement of Volumes VII–X. by D.C. Somervell. Oxford et al.: Oxford University Press, p. 239 & Lewis, M. W. and Wigen, K. E. (1997). The Myth of Continents. A Critique of Metageography. Berkeley at al.: University of California Press. p. 21.

[12] Arif Dirlik, Spectres of the Third World: Global Modernity and The End of the Three Worlds, Carfax Publishing, Third World Quarterly Vol. 25, No. 1, pp. 131-139.

[13] Richard E. Baldwin, The Causes of Regionalism, Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 1997, p. 865

[14] Ibid, Ostergren, Ewa Budzyńska, Regionalism – Identity – Pro Social Attitude, p. 34-35.

[15] Atilla Arda Beşen, Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace Theory and Its Practice In Case of United Nations, History Economics and Politics Research Association, p. 9.

[16] Ernst B. Haas, “International Integration: The European and the Universal Process,” International Organization, Volume 15, No.3, 1961, pp. 366-392; Ernst B. Haas, Beyond the Nation-State: Functionalism and International Organizaton, Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 1964.

[17] Björn Hettne, Theories of the Rising of Regionness, Contribution to New Political Economy, Vol 5, No 3 (December), p. 3.

[18] Louise Fawcett, Exploring Regional Domains: A Comparative History of Regionalism, International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), Vol. 80, No. 3, Regionalism and the Changing International Order in Central Eurasia (May, 2004), pp. 430.

[19] Björn Hettne, The Europeanisation of Europe: Endogenous and Exogenous, Dimensions.’ European Integration 24 (S4), pp. 23-24.

[20] Nadine Godehardt, The Chinese Constitution of Central Asia, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, p. 27.

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