Unpacking the politics of regionalism: What to expect from a socio-political economy of regionalism?

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Sage Journal
International Relations


LOPEZ LUCIA, Elisa (2019): "Unpacking the politics of regionalism: What to expect from a socio-political economy of regionalism?" in International Relations Journal, Volume 33 - issue 4, December 2019. DOI: 10.1177/0047117819885161d

Abstract: Regionalism projects are major sites of governance, cooperation, and conflicts today. Beyond trade agreements, they also concern development, security and political issues. Some projects have developed what scholars call a high level of ‘regionness’, an agency to act on, and influence world politics as autonomous actors. This development of ‘regionness’ is significant in two main ways. At the global level, as regionalism interacts with processes of globalisation, it emerges from region-builders’ multiple strategies to mediate, shape, profit, or shield themselves from globalisation. At the national level, ‘regionness’ is also a process of state transformation through which coalitions of actors relocate ‘the governance of particular issues beyond the scope of national governance and politics’. Regionalism has thus become a major form of political rule in international politics, and studying interactions that occur both within and between regions, as well as between regions and the international system is crucial to understand how the world works today.

Despite the prominence of regionalism, there has been a relative neglect of its study by IPS and, to some lesser extent, by IPE. There has also been a limited conversation between analyses of political and security regionalism and studies of its economic aspect. This contribution thus examines the analytical insights that can be drawn from putting in dialogue IPS and IPE to study the politics of regionalism. It argues that engaging with a socio-political economy of regionalism, echoing the socio-political economy of the globe advocated in this forum, enables a more holistic understanding of regionalism; one which is sensitive to the social conditions and processes of regionalism, while retaining the importance of the economy in all its dimensions, and acknowledging its embeddedness in the global economy.