Rethinking Hegemonic Stability Theory: Some Reflections from the Regional Integration Experience in the Developing World

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Petropoulos Sotirios1 First Draft


Phd Candidate at Harokopion University, department of Geography, Researcher at

the Institute of International Economic Relations

The paper examines the ability of the hegemonic stability theory to interpret the creation and development of regional integration schemes in the developing world. More specifically, this paper aims at testing the theory through a comparative analysis of three important and long-lasting regional integration schemes in the developing world: the Southern Africa Development Community in Sub-Saharan Africa, the ASEAN in South-eastern Asia and the Mercosur in South America. The analysis shows that the hegemonic stability theory can offer useful interpretations for specific decisions and developments, but it also presents some weaknesses in forming a complete and systematic explanation – or even a forecast - for the course and the development of the above regional organizations. Consequently, the structure and the content of regional organizations and their impact in shaping the local, regional and global environment remains to a large extent dependent from other variables that prevent - if they do not exclude - a common interpretation.

This paper is based on research which is partially founded by the State Scholarships Foundation in Greece.


Introduction In this paper it is going to be tested whether the theoretical framework of the Hegemonic Stability Theory can provide useful interpretations of regional cooperation schemes that take place in the developing world. In the first section of this paper the importance of regionalism in today’s world politics is assessed, then the theoretical framework to be used is analyzed while some theoretical conditions to be met by the selected empirical cases are being set. Going further the selected representatives of regionalism in the developing world are being presented. After a brief historical analysis of all three regional cooperation schemes, the following sections analyze the empirical cases through the theoretical framework introduced in the previous sections and the conditions imposed by the theory. The paper closes with some conclusions and a summarizing table concerning the theoretical framework and the selected empirical cases.

The importance of regionalism The foundation of the European Economic Community in the 1950’s created a new trend in international politics, the integration of mainly neighboring states into a regional organization (regionalism). All previous forms of interstate cooperation were based on the principal of maintaining national sovereignty within each state. They were mainly security pacts aiming at the creation of a level of balance of power in a certain area in order to promote regional peace. The creation of the European Economic Community by France, West Germany, Holland, Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg in 1957 will alter the usual patterns of interstate cooperation as the cooperation between these European states will start from the economic and trade sector. Moreover, these six states will accept a gradual transfer of national sovereignty to the regional level. This European initiative will be copied all around the world. This wave of regionalism, which for most researchers is the first one, was based into two fundamental foundations: the XXIV article of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the dynamics of the European Economic Community in the first years of its creation. 2

The period after World War II was marked by the adoption, by at least the countries of the western world, of the principles of free trade, a trend that was institutionalized by the signing of the GATT. Aiming at the gradual liberalization of world trade, GATT and later on the WTO lead to the decrease of the average level of tariffs all around the world....
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