chapter  1
24 Pages

The Political Economy of Regionalism

From a strictly empiricist and positivist perspective, it might seem logical, before discussing regionalism, to define what is a region. Yet region, like the related concepts of state and nation, defies descriptive definition. It takes different forms in different places and refers to a variety of spatial levels. Moreover, in most states, the region is a contested area, both territorially and functionally. Spatially, it exists somewhere between the national and the local and is the scene of intervention by actors from all levels, national, local, regional and now supranational. Functionally, it is a space in which different types of agency interact and, since it is often weakly institutionalized itself, a terrain for competition among them. Definitions of regions are also value-laden, since they reflect different conceptions of their political character and potential. Some represent them as mere administrative divisions, to be defined in functional terms. Others see them as reflecting communities of interest; some regions define themselves as historic nations or harbour movements with nationalist aspirations.! Political entrepreneurs themselves seek to shape the definition of region to reflect their values and interests.