Theoretical Issues That Remains Unresolved In Thinking about Political Economy of Region

Theoretical Issues That Remains Unresolved In Thinking about Political Economy of Region

According to Hemmer and Katzenstein (2002), regional groupings and effects are often made in geographical terms, but are political creations which are not fixed by geography. The United States after the aftermath of World War II organized and created a Southeast Asian and North Atlantic region using a differing regional grouping. With its Southeast Asian region, the United States preferred bilateral basis which is in contrast to the North Atlantic where they preferred to operate multilaterally. The perception of collective identity which was shaped by political, cultural, historical, and racial factors played an underappreciated role in making this decision. The policymakers of the US saw their prospective European allies as equal members in a shared community which is in contrast to their view to Southeast Asian allies who were viewed as an alien and inferior community.

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Therefore, the power of a state or a country makes it classified in its region. According to Shahar (2013), Middle East is one of the least economic integrated region because long ago, economies were state driven and at the time, the Arab socialist regimes were regarded as focused on the need to be self-sufficient, domestically and in central planning due to the international politics anarchic nature. Therefore, regions do not exist as the world’s material objects and geography is not the destiny. Hence, regions are cognitive and social constructs, that strike actors less or more plausible.

Another issue that remained unresolved is that the U.S. policymakers believed that a bipolar world would be less stable than a multipolar one. This is the reason that the U.S. promoted multilateralism in Europe to facilitate the emergence of an independent power center which would usher in a more peaceful multi-polarity period. Great power status is another issue, according to Hemmer and Katzenstein (2002), which is portrayed by the discrepancy between the power of the United States and its Asian allies. This is the reason, according to Hemmer and Katzenstein (2002), the SEATO was not formed along the NATO lines, due to the relative weakness of the SEATO regional members. In NATO, the obligations and powers are shared equally while in SEATO there is a disparity between small and great powers. Thus, great power status mattered to the U.S. policymakers as they believed that despite the existing capabilities disparities of Europe after World War II, its European allies would reconstruct their strength soon while Asians would remain permanently weak.

Another theoretical issue is the efficient response to threat which is why the U.S. failed to engage multilateralism in Asia due to the differential threats faced in Europe and Asia and the most institutionally competent response to the threat. Hemmer and Katzenstein (2002) explain that the civilian and military leaders in the U.S. believed that Southeast Asia was less threatened and less important than Europe which made the Asian threat to be more of national insurgencies instead of a cross border war. The above differences may be the reason for the different institutional countermeasures of Asia and Europe. 

The last theoretical issue is region identification and institutional form. According to Hemmer and Katzenstein (2002), a boarder is not a geographical fact which has sociological magnitudes, but is a sociological fact taking a geographic form, because neither the Southeast Asia nor the North Atlantic existed as geographical facts as both were constructed politically. Regional identity influences this because a hegemon maximizes its bargaining leverage through counterfeiting a chain of bilateral deals with its allies instead of trying the multilateral framework. 


Hemmer, C. & Katzenstein, P. (2002). Why is There No NATO in Asia? Collective Identity, Regionalism, and the Origins of Multilateralism (1st ed., pp. 575-607). The IO Foundation and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved from

Shahar,. (2013). “Theorising regions through changes in statehood: rethinking the theory and method of comparative regionalism.”. Review Of International Studies, 02(39), 313-335. Retrieved from

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