The ASEAN Regional Security Partnership: Strengths and Limits of a Cooperative System.

AuthorNarine, Shaun
PositionAssociation of Southeast Asian Nations - Book review

The ASEAN Regional Security Partnership: Strengths and Limits of a Cooperative System. By Angela Pennisi di Floristella. Houndsmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. Hardcover: 212pp.

In The ASEAN Regional Security Partnership: Strengths and Limits of a Cooperative System, Angela Pennisi di Floristella contributes to the theoretical discussion of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by introducing and developing the concept of ASEAN as a "regional security partnership" (RSP). Floristella contrasts the RSP approach to the conventional theoretical approaches most often used to analyse ASEAN: realism (and varieties thereof) and constructivism. Realism, especially its neorealist variant, dismisses ASEAN as largely irrelevant, while constructivism focuses on ASEAN as the focal point of a regional effort to build a Southeast Asian identity that is in the process of altering how regional states interact.

RSP theory is a kind of institutionalism, derived from neoliberal institutionalism. RSPs are a form of cooperative security building, but they do not rise to the level of security communities. RSP theory acknowledges the importance of interests and power in shaping state action but rejects the idea of conflict as a permanent condition of the system. It asserts that multilateral cooperation is possible; indeed, states tend towards cooperation. States have an interest in developing regional cooperative institutions through which to regulate crises and manage common problems. They develop a sense of their interdependence and understand the advantages of a common response to transnational problems. Over time, states can develop a "flexible understanding of security" (p. 7). Floristella notes the similarities between the RSP approach and constructivism, but there are significant differences. RSP emphasizes norms as regulators of state action, whereas constructivism--at least as usually applied to Southeast Asia--focuses on norms as instruments of identity-building. The RSP does not require a strong sense of collective identity to explain state action, which fits well with the reality of Southeast Asia.

Floristella tests the theory by evaluating ASEAN's incremental approach to building cooperative security. She examines how well the organization performs the tasks of prevention (Chapter 3), protection (Chapter 4) and assurance (Chapter 5). She provides an excellent and detailed overview of ASEAN's various efforts in these areas, including...

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