Whose Ideas Matter?

Whose Ideas Matter?: Agency and Power in Asian Regionalism

Amitav Acharya
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 200
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Whose Ideas Matter?
    Book Description:

    Asia is a crucial battleground for power and influence in the international system. It is also a theater of new experiments in regional cooperation that could redefine global order. Whose Ideas Matter? is the first book to explore the diffusion of ideas and norms in the international system from the perspective of local actors, with Asian regional institutions as its main focus.

    There's no Asian equivalent of the EU or of NATO. Why has Asia, and in particular Southeast Asia, avoided such multilateral institutions? Most accounts focus on U.S. interests and perceptions or intraregional rivalries to explain the design and effectiveness of regional institutions in Asia such as SEATO, ASEAN, and the ASEAN Regional Forum. Amitav Acharya instead foregrounds the ideas of Asian policymakers, including their response to the global norms of sovereignty and nonintervention. Asian regional institutions are shaped by contestations and compromises involving emerging global norms and the preexisting beliefs and practices of local actors.

    Acharya terms this perspective "constitutive localization" and argues that international politics is not all about Western ideas and norms forcing their way into non-Western societies while the latter remain passive recipients. Rather, ideas are conditioned and accepted by local agents who shape the diffusion of ideas and norms in the international system. Acharya sketches a normative trajectory of Asian regionalism that constitutes an important contribution to the global sovereignty regime and explains a remarkable continuity in the design and functions of Asian regional institutions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5975-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. 1 Why Study the Norm Dynamics of Asian Regionalism?
    (pp. 1-8)

    Why didn’t a regional multilateral security organization take root in Asia in the aftermath of World War II?¹ Why do Asia’s regional institutions remain “soft,” and resist demands for reform and change since the end of the Cold War? As Peter Katzenstein observes, while “Europe is undergoing fundamental institutional change, with far-reaching efforts to redefine state prerogatives . . . Asia is characterized by marginal adjustments, insistence on state sovereignty and a preference for bilateralism.”²

    This book investigates these two puzzles about Asia’s post-war regional institutional architecture, which have attracted growing interest from academics (table 1.1) and policymakers.³ Realists seeking...

  6. 2 Perspectives on Norm Diffusion
    (pp. 9-30)

    Why do some ideas and norms find acceptance in a particular locale and others do not? For some time, rationalists and constructivists have debated the causal and transformative impact of ideas and norms. However, questions about normative change in world politics are not only about whether ideas matter, but also whose ideas matter.

    The “first wave” of norm scholarship in the constructivist literature can be termed as a “moral cosmopolitanism” perspective with four distinctive features. First, the norms that are being propagated are cosmopolitan, or universal, such as campaigns against land mines, bans on chemical weapons, the protection of endangered...

    (pp. 31-68)

    This chapter addresses the first puzzle investigated in this book—why post-war Asia “failed” to develop a multilateral security institution, especially of the collective defense variety. Using the constitutive localization framework, I explain this outcome in terms of a regional contestation staged in post-war Asia over two prominent global security ideas of the period: non-intervention and collective defense. I argue that responses to these ideas from the Asian regionalist actors were shaped by their prior normative beliefs and practices, namely anti-colonialism and nationalism, and led to differing outcomes: collective defense was delegitimized whereas non-intervention was amplified.

    As Stephen Krasner pointed...

  8. 4 Constructing Asia’s Cognitive Prior
    (pp. 69-111)

    This chapter traces the emergence and development of a regionalist cognitive prior in Asia from the 1947 Asian Relations Conference through the 1955 Bandung Conference and beyond. These interactions led to the acceptance of non-intervention and rejection of collective defense. The framework of constitutive localization suggests that the outcome of localizing an external norm could lead to its enhancement in the local context and the amplification of local beliefs and practices at the international level. These outcomes of localization are expressed by the creation of new institutions or modification of existing ones. This is precisely what happened to the non-intervention...

    (pp. 112-143)

    In the 1990s, Asia faced two sets of ideas about regional cooperation, which challenged its existing institutional architecture that had come into place during the Cold War. The first was the idea of “common security.” Originating in Cold War Europe, this norm was framed (prelocalized) in Asia- Pacific discourses as “cooperative security.” The second idea concerned the role of regional cooperation, especially that of ASEAN, in addressing transnational problems that would require it to go beyond its traditional adherence to the norm of non-intervention.¹ This effort had its normative roots in the post–Cold War notion of collective (including humanitarian)...

  10. 6 Conclusions, Extensions, and Extrapolations
    (pp. 144-170)

    In the conclusion, I review the book’s findings on the two puzzles about Asian regionalism identified at the outset: Why Asia did not develop a multilateral security institution in the immediate post-war period? and Why Asian regionalism remains underinstitutionalized? My broader goal is to link these findings with some general observations about the current state and future direction of Asian regionalism and the effects of the design features of Asian institutions on regional order. I then extend the argument to other issue areas and regions on the basis that the constitutive localization perspective has a theoretical and empirical relevance beyond...

    (pp. 171-178)
  12. Bibliography of Primary Sources
    (pp. 179-182)
  13. Index
    (pp. 183-190)