Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How does inter-regionality evolve?

Given that internationalism has been an evident feature of global politics for a century, how does global change work?

That's a more-accessible question than one might expect. In March 2014, Robert O. Keohane (Professor of International Politics at Princeton) published an essay which implicitly, but definitely, serves the question: How does internationalism—or inter-regionality—evolve? His article is entitled “Contested Multilateralism.” The tediousness of his discussion (typified by his abstract below) implicitly dramatizes the state of play in international studies.

Generally, I want to understand internationalism relative to a notion of inter-regionality, though that’s not Keohane's aim. Thinking intra-nationally is thinking inter-regionally. Thinking continentally is thinking inter-regionally. The nation (as such) is a modern notion based in ethnic regionality. An inter-ethnically valid notion is regional: shared ground on which “We” make lives together and advance community. The ecology of humanity is always less than and more than territorial borders.

But that’s less and more than specially international thinking. Sometime later I’ll work more with those distinctions. I note Keohane’s essay because I'm very interested in up-to-date conceptions of how social evolution may be modeled to work at large-scale levels.

By the way, change is not the same as evolving. Evolving is a matter of progressive change. Keohane's essay is about change, not progress as such. That's analogous with ecological change, which is not as such evolutionary. Change doesn't, as such, imply an increase in flexibility and repertoire of efficacy—living complexity—of flourishing. Yet, models of change are necessary for understanding progressivity.

Here's the abstract of his essay:
‘Contested multilateralism' describes the situation that results from the pursuit of strategies by states, multilateral organizations, and non-state actors to use multilateral institutions, existing or newly created, to challenge the rules, practices, or missions of existing multilateral institutions. It occurs when coalitions dissatisfied with existing institutions combine threats of exit, voice, and the creation of alternative institutions to pursue policies and practices different from those of existing institutions. Contested multilateralism takes two principal forms: regime shifting and competitive regime creation. It can be observed across issue areas. It shapes patterns of international cooperation and discord on key security concerns such as combating terrorist financing, halting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and banning certain conventional weapons. It is also evident on economic issues involving intellectual property, on environmental and energy issues, and in the realm of global public health. The sources of dissatisfaction are primarily exogenous, and the institutions used to challenge the status quo range from traditional treaties or intergovernmental organizations to informal networks, some of which include non-state actors. Some institutions are winners from the process of contested multilateralism; others may lose authority or status. Although we do not propose an explanatory theory of contested multilateralism, we do suggest that this concept provides a useful framework for understanding changes in regime complexes and the strategies that generate such changes.

This posting is associated with the “being in Time” area of