Essay on Critique Of ASEAN

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Following the failure at mitigating the 1997 economic crisis and other political turmoils within Asia, ASEAN’s credibility was challenged by political scholars. As non-state centric threats such as the economic crisis are becoming recurring issues within the region, it has come ever more important to assess how well the institution is at consolidating issues and strengthening Southeast Asia.


In the article “Does ASEAN Matter? International Relations Theories, Institutional Realism and ASEAN” the author, Kai He asserts that mainstream international relations theories that have assessed ASEAN overlook the value of the institution. He concludes that institutional realism best explains why ASEAN is still an important
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Neorealism is an international relations theory that posits that the international system is anarchic; hence cooperation among states is rare as they are concerned with absolute gains. He criticises neorealist scholars for presupposing that ASEAN plays a minor role in regional security because it is not a state, and claims for this reason that neorealism “cannot explain policy orientations of ASEAN states after the Cold War”.

Neoliberalism challenges realist theories by arguing that institutions are in fact valuable actors within the international arena. Neoliberals claim that in an anarchic international arena states that have power will choose to cooperate with each other through the use of norms and institutions. However, the author argues that there have been instances when ASEAN states have rallied against each other rather than pursuing absolute gains. As a result, neoliberal institutionalism is unable to fully explain the actions and importance of ASEAN.

In contrast, Constructivism is a theory that “emphasizes the role of ideas, norms, knowledge and identity in constituting state behaviour”. The way a state chooses to act in the international arena is characterized by the way they view the world. Constructivists maintain that the notion of a common identity within ASEAN has resulted in the institution overcoming security dilemmas. Nevertheless, following the Asian economic crisis of 1997 and the East Timor conflict, constructivism was unable

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