Regional Integration

| March 16, 2020


Please answer the following question and use the following resources and information to answer the paragraph.

Scholars of international relations disagree about the reasons that lead states to pursue regional integration arrangements. What theory best explains the creation of ASEAN? Why? Given the theoretical approaches that we have read, do you believe that the members of ASEAN are likely to pursue deeper integration in the future? Why, or why not?


Regional Integration

Disagreements among scholars regarding the reasons for the pursuit of regional integration arrangements arises from the fact that regionalism has taken on different patterns in different countries. For example, the American continent has traditionally been characterized by competing manifestations of regionalism (Best and Christiansen430. In another example, regionalism in Europe has been promoted primarily to avoid the recurrence of another world war and also to check Russia’s political strength (Rosato 83). In contrast, African countries established the Organization of African Unity to end colonialism. Southeast Asian countries established the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967 not because of a shared regional identity but because of the need to prevent external intervention in the event of a conflict within the region. The aim of this paper is to discuss the theoretical basis for the creation of ASEAN and its future prospects.


The theory that best explains the creation of ASEAN is the theory of institutions. The theory of institutions is applicable to the case of ASEAN because this regional institution promotes not just cooperation but also integration. This theory is typically applied in situations where states are faced with the threat of a common, very powerful adversarial state (Mansfield and Milner 594). This theory posits that the choice between cooperation and integration depends on whether the member states are as powerful as the adversarial state. If the member states are as powerful as the adversarial state, cooperation is likely to be forged; in case these states are less powerful, integration is promoted.

In ASEAN, the core objective of member states is integration. The states realize that to avoid the threat of external intervention in domestic conflicts, they must adopt integration, whereby they undertake most of their socio-economic and political activities as a single institution. This means that the regional bloc must be developed into a large, highly efficient institution.

In 1998, Asian countries were hit by a serious financial crisis. This crisis compelled ASEAN member states to adapt their economic arrangements to emerging realities. According to Jones and Smith, this adaptation process has greatly contributed to the emergence of a shared regional identity in Southeast Asia (156). Efforts towards deeper integration went a notch higher following the adoption of an extended institutional arrangement by the name ASEAN Plus Three. This evolving regional body exhibits the characteristics of an institution, completes with the dynamics that are typical institutional arrangements such as rigid bureaucracy and intergovernmental interaction.

An analysis of the various theoretical approaches being used to explain regional cooperation and integration shows that member states of the ASEAN will most likely pursue deeper integration in the foreseeable future. This is because potent threats by the name of more powerful nations continue to exist. At the same time, globalization has led to the emergence of new dynamics that create an environment of socio-economic and political volatility that may be used by powerful nations to establish hegemonic influence in weaker ASEAN member states. In fact, renewed integration efforts in the ASEAN may be viewed as a reaction towards the dynamics of globalization.


In conclusion, disagreements among scholars regarding the reasons for regional integration arrangements will continue to exist as long as different states are confronted by different realities in terms of political circumstances and shared identity. To account for these variations, different theories will continue to be used in discussions on integration agreements being promoted in different parts of the world. The theory of institutions best explains the formation of the ASEAN because the resulting regional bloc exhibits numerous characteristics of an institution, such as bureaucracy and intergovernmental interaction. In a globalized environment characterized by powerful external political adversaries, one may expect ASEAN member states to continue pursuing deeper integration.

Works Cited

Best, Edward and Christiansen, Thomas. “Regionalism in international affairs”. In: The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, eds. Baylis, John, Steve Smith, and Patricia Owens, 428-444. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.

Jones, David, and Smith, Michael. “Making Process, Not progress: ASEAN and the Evolving East Asian Regional Order”. International Security, 32.1 (2007):148-184.

Mansfield, Edward, and Milner, Helen. “The New Wave of Regionalism”.International Organization, 53.3 (1999): 589-627.

Rosato, Sebastian. “Europe’s Troubles: Power Politics and the State of the European Project”. International Security, 35.4 (2011): 45-86.

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