Leslie Elliott Armijo, a visiting scholar at Portland State University has, as guest editor of Vol 31, Number 4 (Winter 2007) produced a very interesting volume for Asian Perspective.* A special issue on the BRICs, this volume and its individual author chapters on the BRICs are well worth spending some focused time. Let me at this moment just comment on Armijo’s opening piece, “The BRICs Countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) as Analytical Category: Mirage or Insight?” pp. 7-42.
As noted earlier, this search for a single analytic category is a key inquiry. Are we look at a group of countries that individually, partially, or collectively can or will be able to influence the course of international politics and global governanace? In summing up her examintaion, Armijo writes, “This article has asked whether the term “BRICs countries” is a viable analytical category. The four do not share domestic political institutions, international goals, or economic structures and challenges. If the category, nonetheless, provides insight, it must be because this set of countries holds similar implications for the larger system—the international political economy—within which it is embedded.”
For a good part of the chapter she examines - from three distinct perspctives - liberal economic, realist and liberal institutionalist - whether there is an analytic category - the BRICs. She brings useful quantitative examination and especially in the examination of power from a realist perspective, the review ranges beyond the usual national capabilites to more interesting FDI and foreign exchange measures. Nevertheless, the result is still a conclusion that what gives rise potentially to influence is not built on ‘power’ alone of the four.
Armijo concludes with an examination of liberal institutionalism and the consequence of ‘hard’ and ’soft power’ and the use of organizations and institutions to shape and influence international relations. Driven by the liberal institutionalist logic, influnce is a product of, “not only what
material capabilities the BRICs possess, but also what they and their leaders want.” As a result she finds that the BRIC 4 are divided into to subcategories” those that are authoritarian - China and Russia, and those democratic - India and Brazil. While the former may well promote economic development and prosperity, might well tackle the environment, it would only be the latter that might have an interest in the future in promoting universal rights and democratic progress and possibly a developmental approach to address the wide economic divergences of the global economy. Though Armijo rejects the single analytic concept of the BRICs she remains attracted to examining how these 4 may well have an influence on future global governance.
* Asian Perspective is joint product of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies, Kyungnam University, Seoul South Korea and the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University