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Globalisation and Economic Regionalism: A Survey and Critique of the Literature

Helen Nesadurai

CSGR Working Paper No. 108/02

November 2002


The relationship of regionalism to globalisation is modelled in the literature either as open regionalism aimed at integration with the global market or as a project of resistance to global market forces. While the model of open regionalism is underwritten by the liberal political economy perspective on IPE, the resistance model pays close attention to domestic politics. Although they offer considerable insights into the globalisation-regionalism relationship, the former model lacks a realistic notion of both the international and domestic political economies, while the latter adopts a somewhat Euro-centric view of dynamics at the domestic level based on the European welfare state. This paper argues that the economic realist perspective on IPE combined with an approach to domestic politics that pays especial attention to historical and political context offers additional insights into the globalisation-regionalism relationship. First, it makes it possible to (a) identify two variants of open regionalism (a neoliberal variant and an FDI model), and (b) to advance a fourth ideal-type model of the globalisation-regionalism relationship, namely developmental regionalism. The latter model, which also draws on strategic trade theory, involves making a conceptual distinction between foreign-owned and domestic-owned capital, a distinction that is presently missed in the literature and that may be relevant in settings where domestic-owned capital plays crucial political/social roles. Second, it suggests that it is primarily domestic political economic dynamics that determines which of these models emerges in response to globalisation, although the push to regionalism may have initially come from systemic forces. The domestic level is consequently a key level of analysis in explanations of regionalism.

Keywords: Globalisation; Open Regionalism; Developmental regionalism: Economic realism; Domestic politics; Domestic-owned capital.

Address for correspondence:

Dr Helen E S Nesadurai
Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
South Spine S4, Level B4, Nanyang Avenue, Singapore 639805

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