What Is Missing in the Western IR Theories: Space as a Core Dimension in World Regional Studies

Theoretical-Applied Aspects within the IR Regional Dimension

One of the most prolific macro-theoretical approaches to regional segments of International Relations (IR) is the systemic/structural approach. Some argue that it is too general. Some appraise it for its comprehensiveness because it absorbs the bulk of events and phenomena that take place in other approaches discretely. Yet, principally it allows us to figure out the regional tier consisting of regional complexes and regional subsystems as self-sustained analytical research objects (Thompson 1973; Buzan and Wxver 2003). Apart from that, this approach serves both theoretical and quite practical applied goals: it helps to single out and compare the key macro-regions of the world, and afterwards, on the regional level, it allows us to scrutinize how common (universal) tendencies are adapted to the macro-regional and regional geographic/historical/historical-cul- tural/civilizational entities, various regional organizations that are larger than national states, as well as those pertaining to the intrastate regions. Separation of the regional tier of analysis as a theoretical and practical issue makes it possible to come down to the issue of the region/area/ country specificity more appropriately and concisely at once, as it puts the latter into the context of regional trends—i.e., modified with respect to a specific group of objects bound by certain common grounds, rather than © The Author(s) 2017

A.D. Voskressenski, Non-Western Theories of International Relations, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-33738-8_5

intuitive informal historiosophic ratiocinations that are cross-cultural in nature.

The regional and sub-regional subsystem issues are debated by the global scholarly communities. These discussions include up-to-date trends in contemporary international affairs—globalization, regionalization and fragmentation, as well as the very notion of the region itself and particular regional decomposition of the world. What the world will look like in the nearest future depends, ultimately, on the practical outcomes of these discussions, as the range of the regional tier issues directly correlates with the practical experience in international relations and diplomacy. There are two types of factors at play here: objective and subjective. Objective factors include things like insufficient funds to run education centers in compliance with global standards, financial restraints and visa revocations, impeding science-analytical activity and fruitless in-depth research into a paternalist state of a resource type. Subjective factors include the absence of demand for scientific prognostications that may perform the role of predictions, archaism and low quality science and educational systems, irrelevance of the pluralistically educated people in power structures in certain countries, removal from discussions, etc. The outcome of this discourse decreases or increases the price on future formatting to a certain country because it calls for using other approaches, at times much more expensive, or alternatively, deprives a country from participation in its self-sustained future layout in general, coercing it to import or borrow concepts because its own end up useless and uncompetitive.

When the world was viewed from a bipolar interaction angle, the subordinate nature of the regional and sub-regional subsystem issues did not raise doubts because it had been explained by the global systemic issues of bipolar stand-off logic. Following collapse of the bipolar relations structure, the situation was exacerbated further and numerous questions cropped up, which still cannot be answered unequivocally.

If the bipolar system had vanished and afterwards was replaced by a polycentric world, then is it correct to claim that the world got broken down into relatively close-knit territorial-economic regions and subregions, corresponding to any center of the international system. Does this mean that there are no and will be no common/global tendencies— only a combination of mega-regional or sub-regional levels of coopera- tion/competition? Or are we able to assert a completely new quality of regional processes that influence the global relations? If the latter is true, then what exactly is this completely new nature of regional influence on the global level of relations?

What are the criteria for the differentiation/segmentation of the global space under this new environment and do we need this? And if we do, then what are the ways that could assist in tracing a link between internal structures of national states and their behavior in the world arena?

In this sense, more specific questions arise:

How is it methodologically correct to discern boundaries between a region (and a regional subsystem) and sub-regions (sub-regional subsystems)?

What are the interrelationships among the macro-regions from the perspective of emerging regional subsystems and sub-regional intercourses and stand-offs, rather than in a geographic sense? Consider areas such as the Asia-Pacific region and Eastern, Southern, Northeastern and Southeastern Asia, or inside the Pan-American relations subsystem between the Latin American and North American regional complexes. What is the link between the common vector of domestic politics in the macro-regions and their foreign-economic/foreign-political conduct?

What are the expansion principles and how far do the frontiers of the macro-regions stretch? Consider the EU or Greater Europe, Greater Eastern Asia, Greater Middle East or Greater Central Asia.

Do borders of macro-regions align with the regional subsystems?

How do the regional subsystems/civilizational worlds/civilizations and social access types correlate conceptually and geographically? Or, how do systems of international-regional, cultural-anthropological and social- political differentiation match up?

What is the ratio between globalization and regionalization, and does the regionalization process reflect the fact that the global international system broke down into macro-regional subsystems with intricate interaction between each other—each one a virtually independent system? Or, is it merely a subsystem—are there modifications of commonalities relating to the political-geographic, historical-economic and cultural-civilizational specific traits?

Or is fragmentation a side effect and shaded area of globalization and regionalization? Conversely, does it facilitate retraction of the dropped- out fragments if not into the global, then at least into regional constellations, improving their competitive power?

How should fragmentation of the world or its parts in the adjacent territories be addressed? How should a country be prevented from falling out of world development on objective or subjective accounts?

These issues spark lively discussions because the macro-regionalization and transregionalism trends in the Eastern Hemisphere (Dent and Dosch 2012), unlike in the Western one, are still in their youth. How they will affect global evolution is not completely clear. These concerns have both theoretical and applied implications and, simultaneously, highlight a need for political analysis of the regional processes precisely in the East. Nevertheless, they require their theoretical conceptualization in general, rather than in light of a necessity for a particular non-Western theories elaboration.

After the collapse of the bipolar model amid the evolving world order apart, and aside from the Western coalition of states (NATO and the EU-USA Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) (Rosecrance 2013), the new centers of power and influence started to emerge: China, India and Russia returned to world politics through an informal alliance. Later, the more formalized one was launched—BRIC—which later on grew into BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) (Pimentel 2013). The impact of these new power centers, the New Great Powers, and their unions or competition on the contemporary IR system is evident (Emmott 2009), but their ideology, in the new world and/or regional order context, is still vague (Yoshihara and Sylva 2012). Their social order type is also unclear though the interim character of it is obvious. This will eventually be established in some of these states with each one endeavoring to modernize themselves to an extent, first and foremost on an individual basis.

Depending on foreign and domestic factors, these states may place emphasis on both military brinksmanship—fraught with a new twist of the world military stand-off—and cross-border cooperation within BRICS—depending on which trend is prevalent or will subjectively seem to them as dominant in the world. South Africa and Brazil, as new emerging states, are unlikely to have their own vision of reconstructing the old and building up a new world order, but are crucial new nascent centers of power in the context of redesigning the old and building up a new cooperation model that would guide the world order. This is because they have progressed farther than the other BRICS nations (except for India) in creating the open social access system.

The contours of the new regional configuration models of political- economic space and new world order have begun evolving. They have not been given their finishing touches yet. Against this background in the USA, a contentious political discourse on the US position in the world, its policy with regards to China, Russia, the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East has been raging. Similar discussions have been taking place in Russia, China and India, because the global space has been de facto differentiated—split up into macro-regions, regional sub-systems and evolving global regions of the world—macro-regional segments and regional subsystems with competing regional models and their prevalent ways of social-political access, having preserved the equilibrium in the global relations system. The new global regions of the world are as follows:

  • • The macro-regional subsystem and evolving global region known as the West or North. That is, in political-economic terms, —open-type market economies with democratic rule. In military-political terms, this refers to NATO, and structurally, this refers to states with an open social access system. That is, a strongly integrated coalition of states, consisting of two regional segments like the EU and NAFTA and states adjacent to them unified by common values, a single system of an open-type social order and tight political-economic interaction;
  • • Loosely integrated Latin American regional subsystem of states with predominantly natural social access and also open-type social access, with the social system of a conglomerated, hybrid, transitional and open type combined with the two macro-integrational projects: twined by the USA and the weaker but gradually burgeoning Latin American integrational project itself, advanced by the Latin American states that are powerful in economic and military-political terms;
  • • The Greater Middle East, torn apart by political controversies and economically heterogeneous, bound up by the confessional-civ- ilizational unity and the geographic factor of being a go-between among Europe, Russia, up-and-coming China and India along with Sub-Saharan Africa. This macro-region incorporates states with the traditional, archaized social access and states with the natural social- political access at different historical stages of its development;
  • • The Greater Eastern Asia, being geographically tighter than the Asian-Pacific region, and playing the role of the chief geopolitical region in the world and, at the same time, the main industrial and, possibly, technological development region in the world for decades to come. This macro-regional subsystem consists of states with natu?ral social-political access, as well as open-type social-political access or that are going through a transitional phase of their development.

In terms of the pace of integration and globalization, the West has stepped farther and carried out deeper initiatives. However, global integration and globalization rates depend more on to what extent and how these global tendencies will encompass the world and, in particular, Russia and the Eastern countries. These nations are sending out impetuses of partially stiff resistance to these processes, though they vary through time. The systemic-structural approach combined with the other approaches empowers a researcher with a rich theoretical and methodological apparatus, so as to search for appropriate responses to these concerns from the perspective of deepening and extending the theoretical foundation for understanding international affairs. It does not necessarily call for devising special, non-Western theories of IR.

The systemic/structural approach has been gaining momentum since the mid-1950s. Also, the majority of provisions in the theory of IR, which do not pertain to the systemic approach, were elaborated previously. However, systemic ideas became especially widespread after the publication of the classic works by the political scientists Talkott Parsons (1951) and David Easton (1953, 1965, 1990). They viewed the political system as a systemic totality of relations, being in uninterrupted intercourse with its outer environment via the “ins” and “outs” mechanisms in compliance with the basic ideas of cybernetics. According to this philosophy, domestic politics were not given much consideration. Internal politics mechanisms were handled as a “black box.” This approach at once revealed the methodological narrowness of its implementation. Simultaneously, scholars pointed out that international relations had its own specific traits: first and foremost, they are social relations in their essence, thus, international systems (Buzan 2000) and subsystems belong to the social systems type. This means that they should be regarded as complex, adapting systems, and not equivalent to the mechanical systems models. This circumstance provided a theoretical opportunity for viewing what is going on inside “the black box” from the angle of how these processes are influencing foreign policies.

The IR systems, as a rule, belong to the open and loosely organized type systems that develop through history (Buzan 2000). In such systems, it is arduous to draw a distinct line and therefore scrutinize the system in isolation from the environment, and, vice versa. The spatial limits of such systems have a conditional nature. Although the subsystems (for example, the EU or the Asia-Pacific region) differ in the nature of their relations with their environment, not only do they really exist, but they also have some spatial limits. Frequently these limits change and overlap one another and are conditional. To an extent, this touches upon all the regional systems and subsystems. They feature particular and complex networks between the existing social communities, interaction whereof has the definite signs of systemic-spatial organization, the internal structure of which should influence their foreign-relations system as well, rather than several analytical objects.

Another distinct trait of the IR system and components of its regional subsystems relates to the fact that their fundamental constituents are represented by social entities (including individuals). They are social systems of a particular type with a low degree of elements integration alongside significant elements autonomy. The next characteristic manifests itself in the circumstance that international affairs are basically political relations, the principal elements whereof are interstate relations. Even if the number of actors expands, relations between them and a state will mainly retain political or political-economic nature, whereas in order of influence strategic issues a state as a political institution remains the clear winner in comparison to the other actors.

In Social Sciences there are various approaches to International Relations as a system (in this sense, we intentionally said that the systemic approach appears to be absorbing the main contents of what is often interpreted in other approaches), the most known whereof are:

  • traditional-historical, the international system features diplomatic relations between states within a historical period;
  • historical-sociological, promoting the idea of social determinateness of a specific historical IR system;
  • structural-historical, historical systems within the IR system are figured out, whereby they rely on the differences of a historically predetermined structure;
  • world-political, various historical types of regional and world systems, as well as historical types of structurally different world orders are highlighted;
  • empirical-regional or socio-natural, certain geographical regions act as (sub)systems within international economic, political and other relations;
  • structural-diplomatic, understanding presumptions, skills, forms of response, rules, norms and procedures, drawn up, accepted and used by actors while achieving their various individual goals within concerted diplomatic endeavors;
  • realist, different balance of power models or power balance—the presence of an international system without the political subsystems and consisting of two to five players, as well as clear sets of rules, to which these actors abide;
  • idealist or structurally cooperative, different models of regional subsystems, interaction and integration, identified by the complex structural analysis of a regional profile of international relations and the macro-regional tier of world politics.

The most important in all of these approaches is the extraction of the global international relations system. In other words, a kind of a selfsustained systemic world political totality, allowing the description and analysis of international relations in general, but at the same time, defining rational division principles into certain sub-systemic segments, enrooted in the spatial-regional and functional structure of global links, internal organization whereof exerts pressure on foreign interaction (Thompson 1973; Buzan and Wxver 2003).

In the 1990s, several IR academics proclaimed the compelling need for distinguishing between general/universal and particular/specific challenges in the IR systems and singling out the regional tier of international relations as a self-sufficient analysis level. This was because of nascent tendencies towards globalization, on the one hand, and regionalization, on the other. Scholars asserted that a range of international interactions, outside of the global tier interactions, enjoy sufficient autonomy and need to be given conceptualized explanations. They paid attention to the fact that there are instant tendencies, attributed to the specificity of the international system constituents’ performance (spatial-temporal, spatial-geographic, territorial-economic, cultural-civilizational, ethno-psychological, ethno-confessional, etc.). These narrower (particular) trends depict the performance of regional and sub-regional systems—aggregations of specific international interactions, at the heart of which lies common geographic and cultural-civilizational, or spatial and temporal (in a broad sense) affiliation (Harrison and Huntington 2000; Stout 2004). Trends of the recent decades have allowed the claims that:

  • • At present, a drastically new essence of regional processes is emerging that influences the global tier of international affairs;
  • • The global agenda is being reformatted and realized in different ways within various subsystems and respective regional complexes;
  • • The regional processes may claim to be global or alternative to global ones or the regional processes may exert sway or rearrange the global ones;
  • • The hierarchy of global concerns and challenges varies across different regional subsystems;
  • • Different elements in the regional subsystems or various combinations of the regional tier actors influence the global tier following no single pattern: they may bolster the global order, facilitate its radical breakdown, or participate in its evolutional transformation;
  • • Relative separation of the international relations regional tier (regionalization) makes it feasible to raise a question on the readjustment of the reigning theoretical approaches to international affairs, fitting out the general theory with due account for the regional tier (more radical suggestion) or building up a non-Western IR theory (more precisely, probably—non-West-centric) in concordance with the particular patterns of the largest segments within the macro-regional level;
  • • Relative separation of the international relations regional tier (regionalization) helped to restore an analytical salience of the space category in the international political-economic analysis and is leading to the emergence of sub-disciplinary fields at the confluence of International Relations/World Politics and Political Science: Interna tional/Comprehensive/World Regional Studies, Comparative World Politics and Critical Geopolitics, in which the space-time category is becoming central, whereas internal interaction processes are changing the nature of foreign relations.
  • • A decisive influence is played by the regional power redistribution processes, new configurations of macro-regional unions and blocs, which will eventually shape contours of a new regional order of the second quarter of the twenty-first century.
  • • The world system transformation involving internal political-economic processes in the new integrated elements of world politics—the global regions. It must be noted in this connection that nowadays, these innate political-economic processes are more similar than the network and/or transregional cooperation, as they ultimately do shape contours of a new regional order, as well as regional / transregional links types. That is, to render it possible to practice international-political analysis and forecasting.
  • • Present debates on the conceptual-philosophical foundations of the contemporary world order are directly associated with the set of issues at the regional tier, where colligation of internal processes, their implications and nature of foreign interactions is possible. This happens because of the new non-Western world powers taking off, Asia’s rising, discussion of the West’s role and the East’s positioning, ways of transforming the global leadership and re-interpretation of the pillars of Western civilization, the aftermath of power redistribution among the regions of the world, a likelihood of the non-Western world order nascence and the non-Western theory substantiating this world order, a role for Islamic, Chinese, and Indian factors in world politics, a role for BRICS, opportunities for the onset of the non-Western forms of democracy, and others.
  • • Incorrect or inappropriate analysis of the global or regional tendencies and ventures originates from too many inadequacies, including incommensurate interpretation of the domestic policy transformations and inaptitude to properly conceptualize the competitive regional model of modernization and development, adjusted according to the global patterns, albeit successfully adapted to the regional specificity. All this augments price on the foreign political miscalculation, exacerbates backwardness of the countries and regions, and brings on partial fragmentation of the global space and emergence of failed, underprivileged, stagnating or autarchic states and depressive regions. Furthermore, exit from this state of affairs via a catching- up development strategy and/or mobilizational leaps only becomes more arduous and less feasible.

In the 2000s, an attempt was undertaken to substantiate the systemic approach by introducing the notion of the network interaction. However, the weak theoretical conceptualization of the network approach, as well as basing it on the logical-intuitive interpretation of international environment, eventually stopped the trend towards the addition of the systemic approach by means of structural allotment (systemic-structural approach). An opportunity for using up network interaction more precisely explains the additional, previously unknown or non-existing mechanisms of centripetal constringency of the regional subsystems into the global system. This process is turning the macro-regions that are unified by geospatial commonality into global regions—new highly integrated glocal actors in world politics that format the regional tier and at the same time influence the processes on a global level.

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