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Volume 65 / Social Sciences

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: GENERAL


MARY K. MEYER McALEESE,, Professor of Political Science, Eckerd College

THE SCHOLARLY WORKS ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS for the period under review reveal notable common themes and intellectual trends. The predominant general theme is regionalism in the context of continuing globalization. Secondary themes concern the role of the state in steering the new regionalism, multilevel governance issues, and the effectiveness of existing inter-American machinery. Very few works focus specifically on foreign policy making, comparative foreign policy analysis, or the more formal aspects of US-Latin American relations outside of these main themes. Constructivist and poststructuralist approaches are successfully joining the established intellectual and theoretical orientations in the field (item #bi2009004646#), while Latin American and European voices are far more prevalent than North American ones in the study of the general international relations of the Americas.

Most scholars under review see regionalism as a practical consequence of globalization. However, writers differ in their estimation of the nature, scope, or depth of the regionalization that has occurred, of states' strategies or capabilities in pursuing different forms of regionalization, and of the presumed benefits of regionalization cum globalization. While there continue to be generally critical views of neoliberal globalization processes (items #bi2006003891#, #bi2009000718#, and #bi2005002754#) and their links to US free trade policies (items #bi2008002849# and #bi2005004325#) or transnational investment patterns (items #bi2005003238# and #bi2009000707#), most scholars are focused on the econometric details, practical challenges, and strategic alternatives that Latin American states face in dealing with globalization.

Several scholars explore the "new regionalism" that is unfolding in the Western Hemisphere. Processes of globalization are producing new geographies based on new regional centers of economic, political, and normative power (items #bi2009000706#, #bi2005003239#, #bi2007005138#, and #bi2008001584#). NAFTA encompasses a powerful North American center or "zone" dominated by the US; however, other counterhegemonic centers and subregions are emerging, particularly Mercosur/l in the southern zone and a semiperipheral Andean subregion. The Central American and Caribbean subregions constitute dependent peripheral spaces pivoting toward the Northern zone but are susceptible to counterhegemonic forces. The "newness" of these zones and subregions may be questioned; however, the contemporary economic and political processes that define them, and the emerging Braudelian and constructivist discourses about them, do seem to be new to the field.

Scholars are divided on whether this new regionalism constitutes an opportunity or a challenge to Latin American states and whether these states are merely reacting to larger processes or are successfully influencing them; but most see Latin American states as active agents in this process. Several states are seizing opportunities to pursue an assertive regionalist and/or subregionalist agenda with the goal of lessening dependency and promoting development. Examples of such strategies include not just Mercosur/l or the revived Comunidad Andina de Naciones (CAN), but also the more political Comunidad Sudamericana de Naciones, spearheaded by Brazil's Cardoso, and the Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas (ALBA), spearheaded by Venezuela's Chávez. These regional cooperation schemes represent significant counterhegemonic resistances to NAFTA, the US' "neo-pan-American" Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) project, and the neoliberal agenda of the "Washington Consensus" (items #bi2006000602#, #bi2008002849#, #bi2008001302#, #bi2005002766#, #bi2008002869#, #bi2007005138#, #bi2009000710#, #bi2008001307#, and #bi2005002649#). Despite such resistances, however, the hemispheric patchwork of free trade agreements cobbled together in the past decade signals a widespread practical recognition of the pressures to open regional and subregional trade and investment flows in the face of globalization.

Several studies examine the regional economic integration experiments recently undertaken by Latin American states, assessing their depth, breadth, and prospects for success compared to previous Latin American integration efforts or to the European Union (EU) model of regional integration (items #bi2006000602#, #bi2008001307#, #bi2005002649#, and #bi2005002950#). Sandoval Peña examines the functioning of NAFTA mechanisms (item #bi2005003600#). Economist José Antonio Ocampo presents an excellent edited volume comparing regional financial cooperation in different parts of the world, with especially interesting chapters on Mercosur and the Andean, Central American, and Caribbean subregions (item #bi2009000705#). Ocampo sees regional financial cooperation as a key step in promoting South-South cooperation and development and a key requirement in building a more representative global financial architecture.

As Latin American states pursue more intra- and sub-regional cooperation and integration schemes in navigating globalization, they are also participating in growing inter- and trans-regional ties spanning oceans. Numerous studies analyze Latin American states' bilateral or multilateral relations with the EU (items #bi2009000722#, #bi2009000721#, #bi2009000711#, #bi2009000716#, and #bi2005002373#). Several others focus on such relations with China or East Asia (items #bi2009000714#, #bi2007000326#, #bi2005002368#, #bi2008003477#, #bi2006000045#, and #bi2008001221#). Significantly, others study emergent transregional relations, such as Mercosur/l's relations with the EU (items #bi2006000740# and #bi2006002235#) or South Africa (item #bi2006002214#). A special issue of Chile's Revista de Estudios Internacionales explores Latin American relations with APEC and the Asia-Pacific Region (items #bi2005002404#, #bi2005002408#, #bi2005002405#, and #bi2005002402#). However, not all scholars are as optimistic about the prospects for successful economic integration and political cooperation among Latin American states or between Latin America and other regional organizations in other parts of the world (items #bi2005007970#, #bi2009000716#, and #bi2006002237#). Guadarrama González calls for a new, sui generis Latin American theory of regional integration (item #bi2005002754#).

A number of scholars question the salience of the state and state-centrism in the context of neoliberal globalization. Rivelois, Coronado, and Moloeznik contribute an edited volume that merits attention, both for its multilayered analysis of corruption and criminality (in drug trafficking) as the other side of the neoliberal coin and for its engaging call for strengthening the power and democratic accountability of the state (item #bi2009000720#). Several other writers study various aspects of local-global politics and local-transnational governance issues in light of neoliberal globalization, including gender violence at the US-Mexican border (item #bi2009004631#), the "paradiplomacy" of municipal governments (item #bi2009000715#), the domestic political effects of internationally funded NGOs (item #bi2008001421#), and the proliferation of translocal actors, flows and networks in the inter-American system that challenge our conventional thinking about power (item #bi2009000717#).

A few writers focus on the weaknesses of the formal inter-American machinery, particularly the OAS. They remain largely skeptical of the ability of the OAS to promote democratization (items #bi2008003343# and #bi2007000419#). Mace and Loiseau provide a helpful discussion of the emerging Summit of the Americas machinery compared to the existing OAS machinery while testing the concept of "cooperative hegemony" (item #bi2007000148#). It remains to be seen whether these parallel substructures of hemispheric institutions are competing with or complementing each other. Others remain hopeful about the role of inter-American institutions in promoting democratic norms (item #bi2005003602#), fighting corruption (item #bi2005003230#), and developing soft law in the areas of workers' rights and freedom of association (item #bi2005003605#) or indigenous peoples' rights (items #bi2005003606# and #bi2009000707#). However, Pevehouse's top-down statistical analysis of the role of regional organizations in promoting democracy among member states illustrates the pitfalls of quantitative approaches to IR without a strong grounding in comparative politics (item #bi2009000723#).

Some scholars bridge this inside/outside, second image versus third image (levels of analysis) problem through foreign or defense policy analysis. Faust demonstrates the value of careful second-image or state-level analysis in explaining how Chile gained a foreign policy advantage over other Latin American states in its economic and political relations with China/East Asia (item #bi2005002368#). Pion-Berlin and Trinkunas offer an interesting study of why Latin American politicians tend to ignore developing defense policy expertise of their own and instead focus on coup avoidance in managing domestic civil-military relations (item #bi2008001429#). Benítez provides a fascinating analysis of Latin American states' growing diplomatic and military participation in international peacekeeping missions, both in the circum-Caribbean region and around the world (item #bi2008002794#). He indicates that this new Latin American presence in the global security regime can partly be explained as a strategic move by civilian politicians in the 1990s to consolidate their countries' democratic transitions. Manzella illustrates this point by calling for a closer strategic partnership between Mercosur and South Africa(item #bi2006002214#). A collection of papers published by Spain's Centro Superior de Estudios de la Defensa Nacional discusses the opportunities for security cooperation between the EU and Latin American and includes a rare overview of Latin American defense industries in light of regional and global security regimes (item #bi2009000713#).

Very few scholarly studies of the formal aspects of US-Latin American relations appeared in the period under review. An important exception is Weeks' very solid undergraduate textbook on this topic, one of the better ones currently available (item #bi2009000704#). Nevertheless, there is an unusual silence of US-based scholars on such mainstay issues of US-Latin American relations as security policy, human rights, migration, or foreign aid. However, Laurienti asks whether the US military's human rights promotion efforts positively influenced Latin American militaries (item #bi2007005475#). Rosenblum investigates migration issues from the perspective of the elites in sending countries (item #bi2005004813#). Scholars like Leogrande and Prevost and Oliva Campo contribute very critical essays about recent US policies toward Latin America (items #bi2008001478#, #bi2009000703#, and #bi2009000719#). Taffet looks back 40 years to provide a critical historical assessment of the Alliance for Progress program (item #bi2009000724#). Meanwhile, Rodríguez Díaz presents a fresh Latin American perspective on Elihu Root's early 20th century travels and diplomatic writings on US-Latin American relations (item #bi2007004067#). Heredia goes back even further in his detailed diplomatic history of Latin America's international relations in the formative 1810–20 period (item #bi2009000725#).

The contours of the field are marked by disciplinary, theoretical, and geographical diversity even if its focal point is predominantly fixed on the "new regionalism" in the context of trade and neoliberal globalization. Largely missing from the field are studies on the regional aspects of such transnational issues as human trafficking, environment, public health, and human security, as well as studies on regional responses to such issues. It remains to be seen what direction the field will take in the wake of global recession and the advent of the Obama administration in the US.


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