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The Constructivist Promise and Regional Integration:An Answer To ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Puzzles.

Claudia M. Fabbri

CSGR Working Paper No. 182/05

The revival of regionalism represents an important trend in world politics. In this light, scholars of ‘new’ regionalism have called for the adoption of the ‘new regionalism approach’ (NRA) in order to capture the multidimensionality of a phenomenon viewed as qualitatively different from ‘old’ regionalism, transcend dominant theories of regional integration, and provide an interdisciplinary approach. However, while contemporary regionalism may indeed display new characteristics, the adoption of the NRA to understand regionalism is unwarranted. This paper argues rather that scholars concerned with the study of regionalism should turn their attention to the insights of social constructivism. Indeed, constructivism can help us move beyond the artificial old/new dichotomy and understand the puzzles surrounding both the emergence and evolution of regionalism. Drawing on constructivist contributions from the European ‘laboratory’, the paper examines the analytical purchase of the constructivist proposition that ideational factors play a crucial role in the emergence and evolution of regional integration. It investigates the purchase of this proposition in the case of regional integration in South America, focusing on the Southern Common Market (Mercosur).


Keywords: Regional integration; new regionalism approach (NRA); constructivism; ideational factors; Southern Common Market (Mercosur)