Fannrini, Sergio. (2009) European Regionalism in comparative perspective: features and limits of the new medievalism approach to world order. Jean Monnet/Robert Schuman Paper Series Vol. 9, No. 8, May 2009. [Working Paper]
Several interpretations (or paradigms) have been elaborated for understanding the post-Cold War developments of the international system. Two in particular deserve to be considered. On the one hand, the 'new' regionalism interpretation (very influential in the 1990s) has hearkened back to Hedley Bull’s analysis (Bull 1995) of a 'New Medievalism' to replace the existing system of states (Gamble 2001; 1993). The European Union (EU) and other experiences of regional integration such as the Association of Southern Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Mercado Comun del Sur (MERCOSUR) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have been interpreted as new forms of international power in company with a panoply of different types of inter-governmental organizations. Their very existence has strengthened claims that the Westphalian system of states is being supplanted by a fragmented post-Westphalian order with no clear locus of power. On the other hand, the 'empire' interpretation (very influential in the first half of the 2000s) has hearkened back to the old view of a homogeneous world controlled by only one country (Ferguson 2003), in this case the only super-power remained in town after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the United States (US). In many regards, the two interpretations have competed for establishing the predominant paradigm not only within the disciplines of international studies but also in the larger attentive public. The first has advanced the rationale of a post-modern understanding of the world, the second has re-affirmed the hard reality of modernity. International developments of the 2000s have brought the empire paradigm to its end. However, it is the aim of this paper to show that also the other paradigm is much below its interpretative ambitions.
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