How does regionalism unfold? Discussing the relationships of constitution and causation between identity and institutions

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Germán Camilo Prieto

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Constructivist approaches to regionalism underscore the role of identity and institutions in explaining the unfolding of regionalist projects. Constructivism emphasizes relationships of mutual reinforcement between collective identity and regional institutions once these institutions are created. Identity and institutions are often seen as mutually constituted and caused, but constructivist analyses of regionalism conceptualize these relationships in different manners. Through revising the ontological differentiation between relationships of constitution and causation, this paper shows that constructivism faces serious challenges in providing explanations for the unfolding of regionalism. This paper reviews a number of constructivist approaches that conceptualize in different ways the relationships of constitution and causation between collective identity and regional institutions. While some approaches suggest that regional institutions can be caused by a pre-existing collective identity, some others assert that collective identity can be caused by the creation of regional institutions, where the causes of such creation remain open to other factors. The aim of this paper is to reflect on the capability of constructivism to simultaneously provide constitutive and causal explanations for the unfolding of regionalism. The paper shows that constructivist approaches to regionalism tend to be confusing in the differentiation between constitution and causation, and the consequence is that constructivism usually falls into ‘under-explanation’ or ‘under-specification’ in meeting the end of ‘explaining’ why and how regionalism unfolds. In turn, the paper suggests that constructivism needs to broaden and specify more deeply the conceptualization of causal relationships in this case in order to provide better explanations for the ways in which regionalism develops.

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