Where Europe stands on the global stage

September 18, 2008

European Union and New Regionalism: Regional Actors and Global Governance in a Post-Hegemonic Era

Editor: Mario Telo

Edition: Second

Publisher: Ashgate

Pages: 428

Price: £.50

ISBN 9780754649915

There is hardly a dearth of academic literature dealing with the European Union. On the contrary, the constant flow of new publications borders on the overwhelming. Nevertheless, this book manages to fill some important gaps. For one thing - and in stark contrast to a prevailing trend towards ever more narrowness and specialisation - the authors focus squarely on the big picture. For another, they provide a much-needed set of comparative reflections on the nature, place and role of the EU and other regional arrangements in world politics.

The result is a highly stimulating collection of essays that address a number of interesting questions. Do regional groupings of states represent an effective response to the pressures of globalisation? Do they promote free trade, potentially providing the basis for meaningful progress towards some kind of "global governance", or do they, rather, raise the prospect of a world divided both politically and economically into competing blocs based on mercantilist approaches to interregional trade?

Five chapters also undertake systematic comparisons of the EU with other regional arrangements. The North American Free Trade Association, South American grouping Mercusor, and regional arrangements in both Africa and South-East Asia are all compared with the EU. Certainly the analyses are far from exhaustive and many questions necessarily remain unanswered in a single volume. Yet such relatively minor shortcomings should be set against the dearth of such systematic comparative work. Under such circumstances, any contribution would be welcome, and contributions of this quality are doubly so.

Perhaps most importantly, the book represents an invaluable point of departure for all those interested - as more people really should be - in comparative analyses of international organisations. Rather than assuming the EU to be either unique or some kind of proto-state, the authors provide a series of fascinating comparative insights into the nature, role and functioning of international organisations that shed new light on the EU itself.

In summary, this is an original and highly interesting set of essays. Of course, one could bemoan those shortcomings common to many edited collections: the lack of a clear theoretical framework that all the contributors test empirically in their respective chapters might offend some readers. Nor is it at all clear how the book qualifies as a "textbook". If nothing else, the essays are far too sophisticated to be subsumed under this label. Yet graduate students as well as academics do stand to benefit from a careful reading of chapters that present an original contribution, casting new light on the relationship between Europe, regionalism and world politics.

Who is it for? Sold as a textbook, but really a book for advanced undergraduates and graduate students.

Presentation: A dense, lengthy, edited volume that is well worth the effort.

Would you recommend it? Yes, to all those interested in the EU and in comparative international organisations and their role in, and impact on, world politics.

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