Thursday, December 22, 2011

Regionalism trumps globalisation as preferred paradigm

Just ask anyone about globalisation and they’ll tell you all about the “Global Village”. They will also tell you about the advances in technology which has revolutionised the way we travel, communicate and do business. But in reality, the rise of regionalism has been an unexpected part of the globalisation process. This process has been facilitated by governments and transnational organisations such as European Union and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), just to name a few.

As a basic introduction, both these institutions developed out of unique set of circumstances and reasons for integrating at a regional level.

For example, the EU was created during the post-war period and after experiencing the dictorships of Hitler and Mussolini.  After experiencing these two dictators, Italy and Germany wanted to make sure that they would never be in the same situation. As a result, the idea was to give up some of their national sovereignty to another level of governance in order to (hopefully) prevent an individual gaining more power from happening again.   

It is interesting to note that Britain was against joining such a supranational body, arguing that it was their Westminster style of Liberal Democracy, as well as belonging to a ‘Commonwealth of Nations’ already, had prevented a dictator ever holding such complete power.

Although the European continent is far from homogeneous, much of it had already had a ‘common market’ of sorts, such as the Roman Empire and Judaeo-Christian values (until recently); it is also geographically more compact than Southeast Asia.

The Association of South-East Asian Nations evolved from different circumstances. The wider region of Asia is extremely diverse in its culture, history and languages, but colonisation (British and Dutch) and its role in the early trade routes with Europe does provide a uniting history. Mark Beeson raises an interesting point when he states that Southeast Asia only became a geopolitical entity (as opposed to being part of the “Far-East”) after Britain’s conflict with Japan in World War II (2009). While security remains a central part of ASEAN, trade liberalisation of member states and commerce among each other as well as with the rest of the world has become of great importance for them.    

Returning to the question of what factors contribute to regionalism’s continued existence, it is important to remember that despite regionalism being on the rise, it seems that global integration is still considered to be the ultimate goal; despite the benefits that regionalism has to offer. 

As McCormick argues ‘regional integration is very much a global affair, and there are similar experiments under way on every continent. Levels of progress have been mixed, regional grouping do not always have the same levels of ambition and their integrative potential varies’ (1999, P.12). The fact that there are efforts to create regional organizations shows that Governments (and citizens) still seek regionalism rather than pure globalisation.

For example, some national governments (especially small and/or new industrialising economies, such as Cambodia, Vietnam or Thailand) are struggling to compete with larger and more industrial countries. Therefore coming together with others in the region provides opportunities to trade more locally at a regional level. 

Developing Countries, including many members of ASEAN, find it difficult to reconcile the trade liberalization strategies and their need to develop and establish their own economies.  As Brigid Gavin argues, ‘Developing countries are increasingly concerned about how to achieve coherence between development and multilateralism…..But their regionalism is part of a multilevel strategy which needs to be synchronized with their national development plans as well as their efforts to achieve development-friendly trade rules in the World Trade Organisation’ (2007, p. 59).

On the one hand national governments want to abide by World Trade Organisation rules to decrease trade barriers and to adhere to labour, intellectual property and environmental rules but on the other hand, these Governments are aware that they need to grow and strengthen their own national industries.

Griffith and O’Callaghan describe it well when they say ‘Regional cooperation may be promoted as a counterweight to an uneven globalisation of the world economy’ (2003, p.274-275). This demonstrates that regionalism has emerged as a tool in an attempt to provide equity in an economically unequal world.

This is especially true with some of the smaller and weaker Asian economies such as Thailand and Vietnam who see membership of ASEAN as a way of  not only improving trade with other nations in the same region, but of  benefiting from collective action when trading in the international trading system.

This is because newly industrial or developing nations, find it easier to trade with countries that are near rather than with distant ones, for the simple reason that cultural and business differences are fewer, transport costs are lower, and customers are more likely to be interested in products close to their own lifestyle. The counterweight argument globalisation is another example of why, in this age of globalisation, regional arrangements still emerge and continue to thrive. 

Regionalism also provides security benefits to smaller nations, especially the smaller countries in Southeast Asia. Individual countries may not have the sway to influence these two powerful countries but collectively, ASEAN does encourage peace and security in the region. Also, regional pressure on hostile neighbours outside the region would be better accepted from a body such as ASEAN or the EU.

While globalisation still seems to be the ultimate goal, regionalism has been chosen to as government’s preferred way to further their national interest and to ensure international security. Regional blocs are also a dynamic and ever changing system, which expands and transforms in response to the internal and external environment. Regionalism can coexist with globalisation because the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

List of References

Gavin, G (2007) “Reconciling Regionalism and Multilateralism: Towards Multilevel Trade Governance,” in Philippe De Lombaerde (ed). Multilateralism, Regionalism and Bilateralism in Trade and Investment. 2006 World Report on Regional Integration Springer, 59-72.

Griffith, M and O’Callaghan, T. (2003) International Relations: Key Concepts (Routledge: New York)

McCormick, J (1999) Understanding the European Union: a concise introduction (Basingstoke: Palgrave)

Murray, P. 2010. (2010) “Comparative regional integration in the EU and East Asia: Moving beyond integration snobbery.” International Politics, Vol. 47, 3/4, 1-16

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What are the main challenges encountered by lobbyists in the EU?

The rise of interest and business-groups in recent decades has been a worthwhile topic to study, especially in regards to how the interest-groups have adapted to a changing political environment.

Alongside the development of a European economic and political community, there has been the rise of interest-groups. One of the reasons is that the European Union has grown in its reach of governance, i.e. what is now under its control. For example, the EU is now covering areas such as transport, environmental and monetary policy, as well as  foreign policy, mutual recognition of high-school diplomas and exchange of criminal records (Griffith and O’Callaghan: 2003, p.99).

Long and Lorinczi say that ‘the growing army of EU lobbyists has not left the national battlefields void. It has simply doubled the amount of lobbying to take into account a multiple decision-making venues’ (2009, p. 169).  Consequently, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of groups wanting to have access to decision makers who develop policy at a regional level. This is creating challenges for interest-groups in terms of which part of the political process they should influence.

Since the European Union is the new level of government, these interest groups are attempting to understand the system and keep up with the changes that occur. Long and Lorinczi describe the EU-lobbying relationship as being a ‘multi-arena, multi-level decision-making system’ (ibid). In many ways this organisational structure gives Interest Groups more opportunities to represent the views and needs of their citizens; this multifaceted access poses logistical challenges for groups as they try to cover all levels.

Neill Nugent points out that ‘the long complex and multi-layered nature of the EU process provides many points of access for interest groups, and many opportunities for them to keep themselves informed about developments and press their cases with those who influence, make and implement decisions’ (2010, p.249). This shows that it is more than just about Interest Groups influencing EU policy; it is also keeping up-to-date about what is being negotiated in the political arena in Brussels. Long and Lorinczi go on to highlight where Interest Groups have been successful  when they say that ‘NGOs are generally regarded to be most effective in the first, second and fifth stages…..NGOs networking skills make consultation exercises in stage two particularly fruitful’ (2009, p.170).

Several stages have been identified in the EU policy development process. Each stage lends itself well to particular inputs from interest groups.   Long and Lorinczi do say, for example, that ‘the intense legislative activity in stage three is not always amenable to NGO lobbying’ (ibid).  This shows how complicated the system is. If Interest Groups do not have intricate knowledge about which stage they are at in their consultation, they are less likely to be successful as a lobby group.  

The main challenge to interest groups is understanding the complex EU political system and at which point is it best to focus their attention and resources.   However, it must be said that that their job is made much easier by the greater points of access to EU Officials as well as voter disinterest and political apathy.   
List of References

Nugent, N. (2010) The Government and Politics of the European Union (7th ed) (New York: Palgrave Macmillan)

Long, T and Lorinzi, T (2009) “NGOs as Gatekeepers: A Green Vision” in Coen, D and Richardon, J. (eds) Lobbying the European Union: Institutions, Actors and Issues. (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  

Griffith, M and O’Callaghan, T. (2003) International Relations: Key Concepts (New York: Routledge)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Doing breakfast Australian style

One of the benefits of living in a country that is blessed with good weather is the many opportunities that we have to go out for breakfast. Doing breakkie is now a national tradition where on any fine Saturday or Sunday, you will find many cafés full of families and friends catching up and enjoying great food alongside amazing coffee.
From ‘doing breakkie’ by the beach or in the city, there is always a wide range of options to get you started for the day as well as snacks for while you catch up with friends. While there are some fail the mark, it shouldn’t be too hard to find one that tempt your taste buds at an early hour.    

These are some of my favorites in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.

Any meal in Melbourne is a joy and but breakfast is especially wonderful. The choices are limitless and will have you jumping out of bed in anticipation. This is a city with many laneway where you could spend hours trying to decide where to go. But for a hot tip try Degraves Espresso down Degraves Lane or any down The Block.

My advice would be stay a while as Melbourne shouldn’t be rushed. Try somewhere different every day.
This is one of my Sydney favorites down the Marrickville Rd when I lived in Marrickville (sigh) and not because of its appearance (it is lacking in this regard) but because of its amazing breakfasts, coffee and vibe. I remember that at the every morning at the same time a group of elderly Greek Gentlemen would sit there and chat (in Greek of course) and this added to the charm. Plus, every time you visited, Sasha the Barista would always say hi, call you by name and chat about whatever. 

Marrickville Road Cafe on Urbanspoon

But don't get me started about Kelby's down the road which often seemed like heaven in a form of a cafe and very poplaur with mum and babies (lovely), plus Albo's team. 

Kelby's Cafe Marrickville on Urbanspoon

But there are many of other cafés in Sydney and especially along Bondi Beach and in Newtown. My favorite was one near Dendy Cinema on King Street (Newtown) which did a mega huge coffee in bowels that tasted like liquid gold and was an ideal companion to Aussie Vogue. But its perfect location would make it an ideal venue for a post movie gossip and discussion on the latest art house film.
Another Sydney favorite is Café Hernandez in Potts Point. It is everything that you want in a cafe, great coffee, small and intimate with a cool vibe, plus great opening hours. For more info check out

As for Perth, there are many places to go for breakfast. There is King Street which is in Perth’s “West End” that serves up a lovely breakfast but remember, kids are allowed here but they are not appreciated.
John Street Café (near Cottesloe beach) is one of my all time favorites. This was once a boarding house but is now a relaxed little joint that is nestled in a residential street near one of Perth’s most popular beaches. Be prepared to wait for a table because their breakfasts are popular with people who have just had a swim.

John Street Cafe on Urbanspoon
Nearby is Ven’s Café which is on Neapolitan Street in Cottesloe and while its breakfasts are to die for it is a bit further back from the beach.  

Atomic in South Perth is another popular for this first meal of the day. They have something to tempt everyone and great coffee to get you started. A word of warning, it does get very busy on the weekend!   
With the Aussie summer is approaching, going out for breakfast is an ideal start to any day and a perfect beginning to the weekend. There are many cafés around the country to suit every mood and taste, so go forth and enjoy!!!!  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Crouching Dragon on Safari – Chinese Diplomacy in Africa

China has seen phenomenal changes over recent decades, not only in its economic growth but also in the demographic of its population.  With the considerable development of their manufacturing sector and an ever growing population (including the exponential rise of a middle class) China has had to struggle to secure enough resources to meet the needs of their economy and citizens. This has resulted in China’s interest in the Africa region as a source of oil and other raw materials in order.

This blog is about China’s presence in the African region and what does it do there, why they do it. It is also about how China’s ties to Africa has the potential to improve the standard of living of the many Africans living in poverty but because of the Chinese Government's policy of not interfering in the domestic polices of other countries (a diplomatic way of saying that they will not take a stand on Human Rights violations, poor governance and lack of environmental standards) is actually doing real harm to this region.

Despite Africa’s abundance of natural resources many countries face difficulties in meeting the most basic needs of its citizens as well as to meet the Millennium Development Goals. These are 8 international developments goals created by United Nation members to raise the standard of those living in poverty and it could be argued that these goals were partly developed with Africa in mind.

Africa’s current food crisis highlights how much the continent struggles in meeting the most basic needs for its people. Although there has been millions of dollars of Aid poured into the region, the statistics are still shocking: 380 million people living on less than $1.25 a day for example, 70% of Democratic Republic of Congo Citizens exist below the poverty line (Raine, 2009). 

But Africa has been the focus of the international community for many hundreds of years and the MDGs are the latest chapter in external influence in this region.

While much of this involvement by the international community has had a negative impact on the region, the West’s tradition of linking aid money to progress in transparency, human rights and good governance can only be seen as a positive.   

What is China’s involvement in Africa?

Since China has been going through a period of immense expansion, it has required massive natural resources to support their growth. As Peter Goodman wrote in a Washington Post article, ‘Oil demand is exploding in China as people embrace automobiles, and as factories, apartment towers and office buildings proliferate’ (July 2005).

One way is to increase the supply to fuel this growth was to develop ties with oil rich region such as Africa.  Technically, this should also benefit the African economy and fund infrastructure projects and the provision of public services.

But this relationship is undermining the work that the international community (such as North America, the EU and other countries such as Australia) is doing to improve the living standards of the African people.
What China has done in Angola is a good example.

Angola is no stranger to civil war and to destructive governance. After a particularly bloody power struggle between the government and rebels, many western nations discontinued the provision of aid and the subsequent imposition of sanctions.

As a result of this period of unrest, as well as the regular draining off of oil by the Angolan elite, the country struggled to provide even the most basic of services for its citizens,  many of whom live on less than two dollars a day while the ruling class lived in luxury (Lee and Shalmon, 2008; Kurlantzick, 2007). 2002 saw truce and a resumption of development assistance by the international community, including the International Monitory Fund (IMF).

By 2005 an agreement appeared to near but at the last moment, China offered the Angolan Government what they thought was a far superior deal. This offer included ‘loans and credits for reconstruction that may be worth as much as $6 billion. The Chinese money came with no conditions for accountability – only an agreement to use Chinese firms for reconstruction’ (ibid). This highlights the difficulty that the international community has in dealing with the situations like this.

At more of an individual level, the Chinese focus on capacity-building may be counter-productive rather than actually ensuring that Africans young people are equipped with the skills necessary to make a difference in their country.

Many African Students are attending Chinese institutions in an attempt to build the capacity of African professionals but anecdotal evidence (Dan, 2010; Wong, 2009; and Zhu & Yong, 2011) suggests that China is more intent on developing an impressing large educational system than a quality one. While this sounds like an excellent idea, the process becomes a wasted exercise as the standards are so low, African students are denied a quality education and return home with a qualification that is worth little.

This is a real shame because Africa desperately needs skilled professionals that can facilitate change and improvement and not people who have survived the conveyor belt of Chinese  education in order to support Chinese growth.

It would be much better to see the Chinese fun African educational institutions to run programmes locally as a solution to local problems. But maybe I'm dreaming.  

In conclusion, this paper has shown how China’s massive economic expansion has required them to look for new sources of oil and other such resources. With its abundance of natural resources, Africa has met this need. It is a moot point whether China trade and investment really benefits the African region. The China in Angola example shows that their investment there does undermine the work that the international community is doing to improve good governance, transparency and human rights record in the region. It will be interesting to see the long term effect that China’s lack of requirements will have in Africa and hopefully Chinese investment and trade will trickle down and improve the living standards of the citizens of the continent.  

List of References
Goodman, P. S. (2005, July 13). Big Shift in China's Oil Policy. The Washington Post . Washington, DC, United States of America.
Kurlantzick, J. (2007). Charm Offensive: How China's soft power is transforming the world. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Lee, H. a. (2008). “Searching for oil: China's Oil Strategies in Africa”. In R. I. Rotberg, China into Africa: Trade, Aid and Influence. Washington D.C: Brookings Institution Press.
Raine, S. (2009). China's African Challenges. New York: Routledge.
Wong, S. (2009, November 25). In China, an easy route to academic glory. Retrieved August 28, 2011, from Asia Times:
Yu, G. T. (2010). “China's African Policy: South-South Unity and Cooperation”. In L. Dittmer’s China, the Developing World, and the New Global Dynamic. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
Zhu, L. & Yong. (2011, June 23). Is China producing too many PhDs? Retrieved August 28, 2011, from Nature International Weekly Journal of Science:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What are the challenges to African Regional Integration?

From issues of governance to providing for its citizens, the region of Africa has seen many challenges.  As a result of these challenges, the International Community (US, EU, IMF and World Bank) has encouraged Africa to move down a particular trajectory.

This trajectory involves, among other things, trade liberalisation and developing an African wide regional trading bloc so that trade between countries in this continent could be increased. As Marcike Meyan argues, ‘regional integration would enable individual countries to do business and to increase attractiveness of their markets by, for example, achieving greater economies of scale or by collaborating on infrastructure projects’ (2008, 518). Inter-country infrastructure is one of the big challenges that Africa faces.

For example, transport links between countries in the region is not as good as it should be and this not only limits the trade between countries but also makes it more difficult for land locked countries to transport their goods to ports to be shipped to other parts of the globe.      
Another problem that the region of Africa faces is the diversity of cultures, background and languages. As Meyan points out ‘it is very difficult to imagine how this “spaghetti bowel” of different sub-regional commitments could be knotted into two regional integrated groupings comprising all of Southern and East African countries’ (2008, 525). It would be incorrect to presume that the countries in the continent as big as Africa would automatically be able to integrate, especially if there is not the political will to undertake such as a difficult process.
However, while Colonisation did not encourage regional integration, Richard Gibbs argues that, ‘colonisation created an extremely fragmented state system which, combined with economic and political marginality, has encouraged the formation of a large number of intra-state organisations and institutions’ (2009, 703).  The involvement of multiple imperial powers in the past failed to provide a solid foundation on which African Governments could build an effective region that benefited its people.    

This leads to another challenge that Africa faces. As the guest lecture pointed out was the lack of political will to sacrifice the national interest for the common good. As Gibbs states, ‘perhaps why regionalism was so notably unsuccessful in southern Africa is not because the states are weak but, on the country, because the sates governing those states may not want regionalism to succeed’ (2009, 719). There is also the failure of governments to sign regional treaties and amend domestic legislation.

The problems that face Africa are many and varied but with generational change, it is hoped that the region will see an improved standard of living.

List of References 

Richard Gibb. 2009. “Regional Integration and Africa's Development Trajectory: meta-theories, expectations and reality,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 4, pp. 701-721.

M. Mareike. 2008 “Economic Partnership Agreements: A Historic Step towards a Partnership of Equals?”, Development Policy Review, Vol. 26, No.5, pp. 515-528, September 2008.

Can we reconcile regionalism with multilateralism?

With the end of my Comparative Regionalism unit in sight it is time to consider the future of regionalism and how compatible is it with pervious projects such as multilateralism.

As Griffith and O’Callaghan point out, ‘some observers worry that the multilateral system may be fracturing into discriminatory regional blocs. Others are hopeful that regional agreements will instead become building-blocs for further trade liberalization’ (2003. P. 275).  In my opinion, regionalism can be reconciled with multilateralism and that because of the complexity of the world trading system (in that there are vast differences in the development of national economies) the world has yet to reached a point of complete non-discriminatory trade as well as reciprocity and therefore regional trade agreements are good strategy to work towards trade liberalisation.

I would like to argue that multilateralism may be the ultimate aim and destination, the international economic community is still yet to reach this target. In this light, regional trade agreements can be a stepping stone towards the goal of multilateralism  

The reason for this is that the Developing Countries find it difficult to reconcile the trade liberalization strategies and their need to develop and establish their economies. As Brigid Gavin argues, Developing countries are increasingly concerned about how to achieve coherence between development and multilateralism…..….But their regionalism is part of a multilevel strategy which needs to be synchronized with their national development plans as well as their efforts to achieve development friendly trade rules in the World Trade Organisation’ (2007.p.59). On the one hand national governments want to abide by World Trade Organisation rules to decrease trade barriers and to adhere to labour, intellectual property and environmental rules but on the other hand, they are aware that they need to grow and strengthen their own national industries.

Gavin continues to argue that ‘Developing countries are increasingly turning to regionalism as a strategy for development.’ (2007. P.57). I presume that, when you are a developing or newly industrial nation, it is easier to trade with the countries nearest to you than with those who are further away as the transport costs are less and cultural and business differences would be less marked.  

Also, another reason why developing countries find regionalism so appealing is that Regional Trade Agreements are a good first step towards multilateralism as well as it is easier to develop trade links as a regional bloc (the saying ‘safety in numbers’ rings true here) with other nations and regions.  

In conclusion, regionalism can be reconciled with multilateralism as they both aim to reduce barriers to trade and increase trade liberalisation, it is just that regionalism is a good tool that could used to achieve this.   

List of References

Brigid Gavin. 2007. “Reconciling Regionalism and Multilateralism: Towards Multilevel Trade Governance,” in Philippe De Lombaerde (ed). Multilateralism, Regionalism and Bilateralism in Trade and Investment. 2006 World Report on Regional Integration Springer, 59-72.

Griffith, M and O’Callaghan, T. International Relations: Key Concepts (Routledge: New York, 2003)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Too many books, not enough time

Having to work full-time and study at uni on a part-time basis, I don't really get much time to read for pleasure but these are a few that I have managed to get through.

God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy) I don’t know what to make of this book. While it was amazingly written (although it does get a little poetic at times) its story seems quite unsatisfying.

On a few occasions I felt like the story was going somewhere but seem to stop before it got interesting. For example, the reunion of the twins as Adults and why the brother became a selective mute. But it is an amazing written story of forbidden love and disappointment through the generations.

Life of Pi (Yann Martel) is such a strange little story but so beautifully written. It is a story of an Indian Teenager that grows up in a zoo and while migrating to Canada gets shipwrecked and ends up on a boat with a bunch of random animals, including a Tiger called Richard Parker. While it had the potential to lose my interest, Yann Martel’s descriptive writing kept me reading right up to the last page and continued to offer up the unexpected. It is a completely unbelievable story that only question's its believability right at the end, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. I loved the character’s discussion of wild animals and how they confined by the natural hierarchy which means that they are never truly free.

Jasper Jones (Craig Silvery) after getting over my cultural cringe I couldn’t put down this amazing story about a small town in country Western Australia. This collective loss of innocence of this small town provides an unexpected story that has you turning the pages wondering what happens next and will come back to you as you go through your day.

Another Australian story that I kinda enjoyed was Joan London’s The Good Parents and while it revolves around a girl’s (Maya) disappearance from Australia’s cultural capital of Melbourne, a lot of the story is based in Perth and WA. This story has more to do with the lives of Maya’s family than her actual disappearance which I found a little disappointing since I wanted to know more about why felt the need to do that to her family. But having said that, the stories of her parents were cool and had me wanting to know what happened and one question I had, why does Perth seem more exciting in books than in real life??

Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol is his latest installment and one that is super easy to read which makes it ideal for reading as relief from the heavy uni books. In many ways it is very predictable and similar to the other books that Brown has written. As per usual the book’s main protagonist Robert Langdon, gets a random phone call at a strange hour which sends him off on a strange, strange journey that includes a mad man, signs/symbols, cutting edge science that no one gets and (of course) some hot girl. It is a good read all the same.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Nursing Assistant swaps the province of Perth for the big smoke

When you are not really thrilled about the thought about having to work a dead-end job (because it really is better than welfare, trust me) to pay the bills, you really do get excited about going on holidays. Plus, leaving Perth is always guaranteed to get the heart racing

Luckily, I managed to combine this city break with going to uni (because “I had to go”) and a couple of days of hanging out in the city that they call the cultural capital of Australia with a good friend.

Of course, there are only a few things that are mandatory when visiting this great city. Apart from shopping which I don’t particularly have the patience or the cash for (it is a dead end job thing) but eating, bar and café hopping, art and Australian Rules Football are all required activities.

After a long but totally cool day at university, H and I made our way down to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) to watch the Sydney Swans play the Hawks. Don’t ask me where they were from but they were the ones in brown and the ones that ended up winning. Since I had never watched a game of AFL before (I don’t care if that makes me “unAustralian” as that is so cool with me) it was cool to watch a game in person and especially at the “G”.

The following few days were a blur of eating and drinking many weird but wonderful beverages. The coffee was simply to die for.

All this was punctuated by visits to the art gallery to see some Viennese Art and Design as well as “King Tut” at the Museum and catching up with mates.

Thanks to all that made the trip so special.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Could the EU be replicated elsewhere?

Being back at uni there is lots of reading to be done and plenty of issues to get your head around. This week continued to be about Europe (obviously) but it looked at if it could replicated in other parts of the world.
In this week's reading I found Richard Baldwin’s article on the lessons that could be learnt from the EU really interesting. It clearly showed that the European Union is very much a product of its history and the EU model of integration could not really work elsewhere.

In Griffith and O’Callaghan (2008, page 99) entry for the European Union they describe its history, starting with the Treaty of Rome in 1958 to the Maastricht Treaty that formalised it into an institution that it is today with its own currency, court of law and Parliament.

But to get to that point and what makes it unique, is really what makes it interesting and shows that the formal structure of the EU could not be replicated to the EU.

The end of the Second World War saw a changing relationship between the government and the people who it was to represent. With the horrors of WWII still in their memories, Baldwin argues ‘Helpless in the face of Nazi occupation and the fact that liberation came only because it suited foreign powers led most citizens to question their own nation states – at least in the context of the European system of nation states that had existed in the first half of the 20th century’ (2008, page 8). What is really interesting is that a country’s experience during WWII influenced their response to the push for a more integrated Europe.

As Baldwin continues to points out, ‘Like the Germans, many Italians were happy to see their Government’s freedom of action constrained by a super national body like the EU’ (ibid) and this was in opposition to the British who strongly believed that their Westminster system of government (among others) was what cemented their place among the allies and not among the occupied.

Considering that it was in this geographical area that saw the development of the Peace of Westphalia that recognised state sovereignty, it seems strange that the European region should give birth to the international community’s first regional institution.

This shows that the institution of the European Union was a response to a unique set of circumstances and period in history. While there are some elements of the EU that could be transported to other parts of the world (such as its immigration system or common agricultural policy, for example), I doubt that we could see ASEAN develop their own currency, legal system and Parliament.

List of References

Baldwin, R.E. (2008) “Sequencing and Depth of Regional Economic Integration: Lessons for the Americas from Europe,” The World Economy. 31(1), 5-29

Griffith, M and O’Callaghan, T. (2008) International Relations: Key Concepts (Routledge: New York)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Feminist literature meets the Parisian life

One of life’s little joys is being part of a book club that address those relevant issues. Another joy is visiting Paris and when life doesn’t provide the time or money, reading books about the City of Light is the next best thing.   

not quite but almost!!
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir is my current Feminist Book Club read and a bit of a heavy one. The narrative of women as the ‘other’ reminded me of my undergrad days (sigh) in cultural/gender studies. I was interested by the history of the biology and gender debate that she provides, especially that in the seventeenth century female reproduction was seen as an extension of those of men and reminded readers to separate gender from biology. At 750 pages it will be a challenge to finish it before uni goes back and where the opportunity to read any other than the easiest of novels will be limited.

Paris, je t'aime
The previous book club read was from the Author of why French women don’t get fat, Parisienne Mireille Guiliano brings us Women, Work and the Art of Savoir Faire and it is aimed for young women who want to make it big in business and public sphere.

While a lot of her suggestions are common sense, it good to be remained of the importance of dressing well, the “thank you note” and business dinner etiquette, it doesn’t really challenge the barriers that prevent women from climbing the ladder.

It is as if she’s saying ‘this is how it is and this how you work the system’; it would have been great to have more analysis on how to challenge the system and to make real change and not just how to work within it. For example, in regards her discussion regarding appearance, it would have been great to have some advice on how to be known for more than how we look on the outside.

I found her discussion on the importance of mentoring interesting, especially how women are less likely to mentor than men. Why the reasons for this are many and varied but it reminded me of the EMILY’S List mantra – When Women support Women, Woman Win!!

Florence, I also love you
Ok, ok, Every Day in Tuscany is not Fem Lit or about Paris but would a great book to take with you on holiday or a source of escapism if you are (like me) unable to go on vocation at this precise moment in time. It is brought to us by the same author (Frances Mayes) who wrote Under the Tuscan Sun. A good reminder of the great things in life: food, family, friends and fun!!

Finally, La vie Parisienne by Janelle McCulloch is a beautifully written book about life in this great city. It is a fabulously nostalgic book of such a romantic city that brought a tear in my eye and it's lovely photos that made me want me to hop on the next flight.

There are many books about Paris (especially by Australian Journalists) and, alongside Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French, this has to be one of my favourites. Like Turnbull, she “gets” the city and tries to really understand what makes it tick and especially parts of the city’s iconography.

She writes in some detail about Paris’ obsession with looking chic and concludes that most humans have doubts (to varying degrees) about their existence and too much pressure is put on clothes to make us feel confident, different, sexy or professional. She argues that they have become the brunt of all our insecurities.

I could relate a little to what she calls the “Paris Syndrome”, where outsiders arrive expecting it to be an extension of their romantic ideals while being met by not so pleasant taxi drivers and shop keepers and been surprised by it. But Paris is an easy place to fall in love with and things get blown out of proportion when you get swept off your feet.

I loved the description of her apartment and who cares if it is the size of a post-it note? It maybe small and puny but it is in PARIS. It had a jazz club across the road, a cafe down stairs, and an English book shop around the corner; what more could you possibly want?




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