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The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Regionalism

The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Regionalism, edited by Tanja A. Börzel and Thomas Risse, starts with questioning the need for “another handbook” dedicated to comparative regionalism


The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Regionalism, edited by Tanja A. Börzel and Thomas Risse, starts with questioning the need for “another handbook” (p. 3) dedicated to comparative regionalism. While answering this question with increasing occurrence of the concepts of European integration and regional integration in Google Books since 1950 (p. 4), 38 authors with distinguished expertise in various fields of international politics contribute to the volume. The volume, particularly addressing regional integration beyond Europe, sets to provide a comprehensive outlook for regionalism, regionalisation and regional governance in a comparative perspective.The volume is structured in four parts besides an introductory part and a conclusion part. “Introduction part involves two chapters. Chapter one, by Börzel and Risse, sets the stage for readers by re-conceptualising the framework for regionalism studies. Region, regionalism, regionalization, regional order, regional governance are discussed under a novel insight. Chapter two, by Fredrik Söderbaum, provides essentials for understanding the intellectual and scholarly development of the field in historical perspective through the phases of early, old, new and beyond new regionalism. “Part I” examines the approaches to comparative regionalism throughout four chapters. Chapter three, by Tanja A. Börzel, gives a solid theoretical background for regionalism by showing how mainstream theories of regional cooperation and integration relate to “quantity and quality of regionalism” (p. 41). Etel Solingen and Joshua Malnight, in chapter four, clarify the interlinkages between globalization, domestic politics and regional orders. In chapter five, Thomas Risse looks into diffusion mechanisms (indirect and direct) of regionalism throughout the world. Amitav Acharya takes regionalism debate beyond European Union centrism in chapter six.

“Part II” involves seven chapters exemplifying regional orders around the world. Francesco Duina focuses on North America and the transatlantic area in chapter seven. In chapter eight, Andrea C. Bianculli takes readers to regionalism case of Latin America. Chapter nine, by Frank Schimmelfennig, elaborates on the pioneering case of European regional integration. Chapter ten, by Kathleen J. Hancock and Alexander Libman, deals with the regionalism in Eurasia. While Anja Jetschke and Saori N. Katada present the case of Asian regionalism in chapter 11, Morten Valbjørn introduces readers to the regionalist experience in North Africa and the Middle East in chapter 12 by highlighting the barriers and limited impacts. Christof Hartman concludes Part II by explaining the regionalism process Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Part III” concentrates on regional governance with a broadened view. Chapter 14, by Arie M. Kacowicz and Galia Press-Barnathan, put spotlight on the security governance in terms of emergence, institutional design and effects of regional security organisations. Soo Yeon Kim, Edward D. Mansfield and Helen V. Milner take readers’ attention to trade governance in chapter 15, while in chapter 16, Kathleen R. McNamara draws attention to monetary and financial aspects of regional governance. Chapter 17, by Lazslo Bruszt and Stefano Palestini, discovers the contending interrelationship between development and regionalism. Chapter 18, by Anna van der Vleuten, focuses on the emerging topics of social and gender governance. Peter M. Haas, in chapter 19, evaluates oft-debated issue of environmental governance within a novel perspective of regionalism. Sandra Lavenex, Flavia Jurje, Terri E. Givens and Ross Buchanan, provide a timely contribution by bringing a contentious topic of migration governance into regionalism discussion in chapter 20. The last chapter of Part III, chapter 21 by Jon Pevehouse, is dedicated to human rights and democracy governance in different regions.

Having discussed different dimensions of regional governance in Part III, the readers are engaged to comparison of regional institutions in “Part IV.” Chapter 22, by Tobias Lenz and Gary Marks, provide insight to institutional design of regional organizations through theoretical lens. Chapter 23, by Karen J. Alter and Liesbet Hooghe, centres on the issue of regional dispute settlement. Jeffrey T. Checkel, in chapter 24, brings identity and community into comparative regionalism debates. In chapter 25, Berthold Rittberger and Philipp Schroeder unpack the issue of legitimacy regarding regional institutions. Chapter 26, by Andrea Ribeiro Hoffman, addresses the phenomena of inter- and transregionalism. The concluding chapter, by Börzel and Risse, puts the debates throughout the volume into an insightful framework, identifies main challenges and proposes new research agendas.

The great merits of the volume lie in its comprehensive intra-regional, cross-regional and inter-regional approach to regionalism by offering novel ways of thinking and researching. Vastly enriching the social science research on regionalism which is recently on the rise, the volume offers a timely collection of contributions from the key scholars in the field. Another strength of the volume is its sophisticated combination of theoretical and empirical analysis to understand the dynamics of an ever-evolving field. Each chapter ends with a conclusion giving insight for further research.

Regarding its scope and depth, this is thought-provoking book for graduate students and researchers not only in political science but also other disciplines of social sciences. As a scholar specialised in European integration, this volume makes me think of the complicated nature of comparative regionalism both in and beyond Europe and the theoretical and methodological challenges awaiting scholars in this regard. To deepen the debate on regional integration with a non-Eurocentric approach, this book is a must-read and a useful desk reference in that it not only provides a refined review of literature regarding region, regionalism, regionalisation and regional order but also guides scholars to the new avenues of research in this vibrant research field at the juncture of comparative politics, international relations and area studies.

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