Regionalism

d)  Constructivism: The constructivist
perspective focuses on regional awareness and regional integrity. It talks
about the shared sense of belonging to a regional community.  This perspective elaborates on the idea of ‘cognitive
regionalism’. Constructivists assert that regional integration depends on a
sustained and durable sense of community, and on mutual responsiveness. Trust
and cognitive interdependence are the most important tools of maintenance of
regional organizations (Hurrell,1995:352).

There are two main branches that are relevant to the
study of regionalism. The first derives itself from Deutsch’s literature on
integration. It is the perspective of an evolving community which is resting
two major things. The first one is inter-societal relations within a community
which need to be understood in terms of mutual sympathy, ‘we-ness’, loyalty,
and a shared identity. This identity is based on shared principles, common
values, norms, and understanding. Expediency and short-term interests are not
involved. The second element is the process through which a community emerges
and compatibility between major societal values is developed.  Two major societal values being; liberal
democracy and capitalism. These values give way to an increase in transactions
between societies and the process of social communication evolves. This concept
is also called ‘transactionalism’. [cited in Hurrell, 1995).

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The second branch rejects the rigidity of the linkage
in Deutsch’s work between transaction and identity. It drifts away from behavioral
methodologies. Instead, it solely focuses on understanding and studying the
process of the emergence and sustenance of new communities. This branch
includes a few important ideas which must be considered. First, it calls for
attention, no on the rational interests but how these interests and identities
are created. We also need to study how they evolve over time to changing
environments. The observation of changing material incentives and self-image of
countries through interaction. The role of language and discourse through which
an understanding is developed and communicated and how the actors interpret and
understand ‘where they belong’ as a result of this identity and interaction.
These interests and identities also emerge from a history and culture, which
interacts with each other.  Constructivists
move beyond just studying material incentives to studying shared knowledge,
learning ideologies, and normative structures. They claim that understanding
the subjective structures allows us to study patterns in society from where
interests and identities are produced and change over time. This results in the
creation of a new kind of cooperation and community (ibid.-353). However, all
these arguments, rationalist or institutionalist, and those studying the nature
of the international system, offer important insights into the creation, growth
and functions of regional institutions. Some other ‘region specific’ theories,
which include those that are designed to explain European integration, or those
that take regional ideas and identities as a point of departure provide useful distinction
in explaining regional choices and differences.

The South
American Case of Regionalism: Constructivism

To study constructivism further and test its
realities, we will study Mercosur, the most popular regional economic
integration attempt in Latin America. It came into place after the

Treat of Asuncion. A free trade area, a common
external tariff, a common market, and a free flow of factors of production of
labour and capital. The full members include; Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and
Uruguay. There were some serious setbacks experienced by the countries in
agreement because of the Asian financial crises and hyperinflation crises and
they had to resort to protectionist measures. This raised a lot of questions on
the creditability of the agreement. The agreement stayed and the countries
collectively took bilateral measures to counter the problems.

The most interesting façade of this was that of relations
between Brazil and Argentina. These countries share a history of rivalry and
were also involved in an arms race to produce nuclear power and missiles. Being
the tow most powerful states in the South America, there have been a series of
allegations they use to politically attack each other.

The creation of a regional economic integration was a
result of democratic rule prevailing in both countries. Once in agreement, the
identities of both counties were reshaped from two rival power entities in
South America to two developing countries which were in crisis and were
vulnerable. This change of identity has impacted the results of the agreement
greatly because economic integration works as a solution. Both countries began
to view the existing policies as detrimental for their development and realized
that they had so much more in common.

This change of heart in both countries implies that an
evolution of perspective and meaning attached to countries, their roles, and
their identities, can be an imperative factor in realizing the consequences of
a regional integration. While the Mercosur was there during authoritarian
regimes too, it only made operations difficult for everyone. It was the change
of government to democracy along with the perspectives of their rulers that
enables the to reap the benefits of Mercosur and initiate a prosperity process.
(Fabbri, 2005)

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