Regionalism

d)  Constructivism: The constructivistperspective focuses on regional awareness and regional integrity. It talksabout the shared sense of belonging to a regional community.  This perspective elaborates on the idea of ‘cognitiveregionalism’. Constructivists assert that regional integration depends on asustained and durable sense of community, and on mutual responsiveness. Trustand cognitive interdependence are the most important tools of maintenance ofregional organizations (Hurrell,1995:352). There are two main branches that are relevant to thestudy of regionalism.

The first derives itself from Deutsch’s literature onintegration. It is the perspective of an evolving community which is restingtwo major things. The first one is inter-societal relations within a communitywhich need to be understood in terms of mutual sympathy, ‘we-ness’, loyalty,and a shared identity.

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This identity is based on shared principles, commonvalues, norms, and understanding. Expediency and short-term interests are notinvolved. The second element is the process through which a community emergesand compatibility between major societal values is developed.  Two major societal values being; liberaldemocracy and capitalism. These values give way to an increase in transactionsbetween societies and the process of social communication evolves. This conceptis also called ‘transactionalism’.

[cited in Hurrell, 1995).The second branch rejects the rigidity of the linkagein Deutsch’s work between transaction and identity. It drifts away from behavioralmethodologies. Instead, it solely focuses on understanding and studying theprocess of the emergence and sustenance of new communities. This branchincludes a few important ideas which must be considered. First, it calls forattention, no on the rational interests but how these interests and identitiesare created. We also need to study how they evolve over time to changingenvironments. The observation of changing material incentives and self-image ofcountries through interaction.

The role of language and discourse through whichan understanding is developed and communicated and how the actors interpret andunderstand ‘where they belong’ as a result of this identity and interaction.These interests and identities also emerge from a history and culture, whichinteracts with each other.  Constructivistsmove beyond just studying material incentives to studying shared knowledge,learning ideologies, and normative structures. They claim that understandingthe subjective structures allows us to study patterns in society from whereinterests and identities are produced and change over time. This results in thecreation of a new kind of cooperation and community (ibid.-353).

However, allthese arguments, rationalist or institutionalist, and those studying the natureof the international system, offer important insights into the creation, growthand functions of regional institutions. Some other ‘region specific’ theories,which include those that are designed to explain European integration, or thosethat take regional ideas and identities as a point of departure provide useful distinctionin explaining regional choices and differences.The SouthAmerican Case of Regionalism: ConstructivismTo study constructivism further and test itsrealities, we will study Mercosur, the most popular regional economicintegration attempt in Latin America. It came into place after the Treat of Asuncion. A free trade area, a commonexternal tariff, a common market, and a free flow of factors of production oflabour and capital. The full members include; Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, andUruguay.

There were some serious setbacks experienced by the countries inagreement because of the Asian financial crises and hyperinflation crises andthey had to resort to protectionist measures. This raised a lot of questions onthe creditability of the agreement. The agreement stayed and the countriescollectively took bilateral measures to counter the problems. The most interesting façade of this was that of relationsbetween Brazil and Argentina. These countries share a history of rivalry andwere also involved in an arms race to produce nuclear power and missiles. Beingthe tow most powerful states in the South America, there have been a series ofallegations they use to politically attack each other.The creation of a regional economic integration was aresult of democratic rule prevailing in both countries.

Once in agreement, theidentities of both counties were reshaped from two rival power entities inSouth America to two developing countries which were in crisis and werevulnerable. This change of identity has impacted the results of the agreementgreatly because economic integration works as a solution. Both countries beganto view the existing policies as detrimental for their development and realizedthat they had so much more in common. This change of heart in both countries implies that anevolution of perspective and meaning attached to countries, their roles, andtheir identities, can be an imperative factor in realizing the consequences ofa regional integration. While the Mercosur was there during authoritarianregimes too, it only made operations difficult for everyone. It was the changeof government to democracy along with the perspectives of their rulers thatenables the to reap the benefits of Mercosur and initiate a prosperity process.(Fabbri, 2005)

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