In Second World Parag Khanna declared early in the Introduction - “Big is Back.” Now as I pointed out earlier, this reference was to a main element of his analysis that three ‘Empires’ - the United States, the EU and China now concentrate power in the world. As Khanna suggests, “These two [China and the EU] are the world’s three natural empires: each geographically unified and militarily, economically, and demographically strong enough to expand.” I’ve already noted that Parag’s choice of Empire is unfortunate and raises images and imples motivation and behaviors that are inapt, though Parag makes clear military power is less relevant in international relations. Early in the book he states, “In fact precisely because all great powers now have nuclear weapns, economic power is more important than military power.” Thus globalization permits, indeed encourages ‘Big.’
But the concept of ‘Big’ is a key concept in understanding the global architecture not so much from the Parag perspective of Empire but from international subsytem perspective including regionalism. Quite clearly, Europe - through the European Union - represents ‘Big.’ The EU has expanded its economic and political horizons and now encompass not only the ‘original’ 15 but now encompass 27 countries with a combined GDP of $14 trillion, slightly larger than the United States. Indeed, on the economic-political continuum we have a variety of Big - for the moment let’s call them international subsystems. The structures extend from tight federalist (where soverignty has been ceded to the collective national instrument) - today’s United States (but just remember it was not always so. For any devotee of the current HBO miniseries series, John Adams, the Second President of the United States, the early years remind us how under the first American constitution - the Articles of Confederation - politicans and foreign leaders saw a world of thirteen almost separate colonies - and the national authority struggling to define a confederal unity that was barely extant.). Further along the continuum the structures move from federal to a strong confederal structure, the EU the obvious example, where each state remains sovereign but elements of sovereignty have been pooled in some significant areas. Even further along still more traditonal regional agreements - both economic and security - exist where little sovereignty has been ceded or shared from the traditional states that make up the international subsystem.
The BRICSAM has one such identified confederal or regional state entity - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). These regional, or international susbsystems have become new actors in the architecture of global governance or at least in regional governance. There is here at CIGI, and I daresay, in broader economic circles, a continuing debate over how to understand these regional entities and how to fit them into global governance behavior. Thus, for example, in our work on the Heiligendamm Process (HP) and examination of the BRICSAM should we focus on ASEAN or should we examine Indonesia as representative of the ASEAN - including the ‘big’ 4 or 5 or the entire 10. There is no doubt a focus on the ASEAN rather than Indonesia complicates the analysis. As just noted do we focus on the 4 - Indonesia - The Phillipines, Thailand and Malaysia or add Singapore to create the 5 or add the remaining 5 and if we do, do we then look to the ASEAN Secretariat or the individual country representatives or both ( I’ll tackle Paul Bowles and his chapter in the future who wrote on the HP and ASEAN process). The point is regional structures play a significant economic role but increasingly not insubstantial political and security role.
But back to ‘Big’ for a moment. It would seem that globalization has, with some dissent, raised the prospect of larger units to take advantage of large markets and economic growth. Globalization and large ‘entities’ were raised in Richard Rosecrance and Arthur Stein’s edited book, No More States? Globalization, National Self-determination, and Terrorism (cite below) (self interest leads me to acknowledge that I have a chapter in this book). The volume suggested that the international system might well lean against the emergence of new states. More recently Jerry Muller has written in Foreign Affairs (March/April 2008) in his article entitled, “Us and Them: The Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationailsm.” Muller states, “Whether politically correct or not, ethnonationalism will continue to shape the world in the twenty-first century.” New communities will strive and achieve partition, with agreement of the internagtional communtiy, into the future. A delicate balance - globalization versus ethnonationalism. Big versus… We’ll explore it some more - soon.
Richard N. Rosecrance and Arthur A. Stein, eds., No More States? Globalization, National Self-determination, and Terrorism, (Boulder,CO,: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2006)