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Towards Asian regional functional futures: bringing Mitrany back in?

Breslin, S. and Wilson, J.D. (2015) Towards Asian regional functional futures: bringing Mitrany back in? Australian Journal of International Affairs, 69 (2). pp. 126-143.

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In the early years of the twenty-first century, Asian regionalism is at a crossroads. While the region is home to a broad array of multilateral organisations, the record of these bodies in fostering effective and legitimate cooperation has been decidedly weak. Drawing on insights from the work of David Mitrany on international cooperation, this article contends that the key problem facing Asian regionalism is a predilection for ‘top-down’ rather than ‘bottom-up’ regionalism strategies. These top-down strategies have involved efforts to find a single institutional design for regional cooperation (similar to the experience of Europe), which has been hindered by geopolitical rivalries and a lack of shared consensus around what constitutes the ‘Asian region’. By considering the contours of interstate competition in Asia, the track record of its existing regionalism efforts and insights from comparative regional studies, it is instead argued that Asia's future is one of regions rather than a single region. As Mitrany suggests, the unique geopolitical context in Asia means that functionally discrete and variegated strategies are likely to provide a more effective basis for regional cooperation. Indeed, trends towards such a functional approach to regionalism are already becoming evident in Asia today.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: Asia Research Centre
Publisher: Routledge
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