Regionalism in theory and practice : the transformative potential of civil society in Southern Africa

Zajontz, Alexander Tim (2013-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Bibliography

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study seeks to analyse regionalism in theory as well as in practice with regard to the Southern African region. Its purpose is thereby twofold: Firstly, this work claims to make a contribution to critical and reflectivist theorising of regionalism. The study of regionalism remains highly dominated by rationalist theories focusing predominantly on states as regionalising actors as well as on formal inter-state frameworks and market-led processes of regional integration. The hegemonic status of these approaches reinforces a specific form of regionalism which is compatible with neoliberal practices in the world economy. In order to reveal shortcomings and normative tenets of conventional theories and to account for the complexity and multidimensionality of regional projects and processes, a combination of theoretical insights from Robert W. Cox’s Critical Theory (CCT) as well as from the New Regionalism(s) Approach (NRA) are proposed as the theoretical framework for the study. The second objective is to bring civil society as a regionalising actor into the debate. Focusing on the highly exclusive and elite-driven regional project pursued by the region’s most comprehensive inter-state framework, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the study addresses the question, as to what extent civil society at the regional level can act as a transformative force in terms of people-centred socio-economic development and social equity. After introducing crucial meta-theoretical, conceptual and methodological considerations, the major theoretical contributions to the study of regionalism are reviewed critically and a critical/reflectivist approach is proposed as an alternative to mainstream rationalist theorising. In a broad historical overview, the social, political, economic and cultural contexts which characterize the contemporary region of Southern Africa are discussed. Subsequently, four regional civil society organisations, namely the SADC Council of Non-governmental Organisations (CNGO), the Southern African Trade Union’s Co-ordination Council (SATUCC), the Economic Justice Network (EJN) of the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa (FOCCISA) and the Southern African People’s Solidarity Network (SAPSN), are scrutinized with the intention to assess their transformative potential within SADC. The research conducted for the study is based on an eclectic employment of a combination of mostly qualitative methods, among them field research interviews, participatory observations as well as the analysis of primary and secondary sources/data. Two important conclusions can be drawn from this work: Firstly, an explicitly anti-reductionist and critical theoretical approach is seen as essential to account for the myriad of multi-level structural as well as agency-related factors influencing regionalism and regionalisation in Southern Africa. Secondly, the impact of regional civil society actors investigated in this study with regard to a more socio-economically inclusive form of regionalism remains limited, because of institutional and structural constraints, limited representativeness and a lack of strategic coordination among civil society organisations. Nevertheless, recent developments within civil society at the regional level also provide some reasons for optimism that a broader societal movement might be evolving which, as a transformative alliance, could challenge SADC’s contemporary approach to regionalism.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die studie probeer om regionalisme teoreties en empiries te analiseer met as fokus die Suider-Afrikaanse streek. Derhalwe is die navorsingsdoelstelling tweevoudig, eerstens, is die navorsing daarop gemik om ’n bydrae te lewer tot die kritiese en reflektiewe teoretisering van regionalisme. Die bestudering van regionalisme word steeds oorweldigend oorheers deur rasionalistiese teorieë, en fokus primêr op state as die belangrikste streeks-akteurs, asook op formele inter-staat raamwerke en mark-verwante prosesse van streeksintegrasie. Die hegemoniese status van hierdie benaderinge bekragtig ’n spesifieke vorm van regionalisme wat saamhang met neoliberale praktyk in die wêreld-ekonomie. Ten einde die tekortkominge en normatiewe aannames van konvensionele teorieë uit te wys, asook om rekening te gee van die kompleksiteit en multi-dimensionaliteit van streeks-projekte en prosesse, word ’n kombinasie van teoretiese insigte gebruik uit Robert W. Cox se Kritiese Teorie (CCT), asook insigte uit die Nuwe Regionalisme-benadering (NRA) en aan die hand gedoen as teoretiese vertrekpunt vir die studie. Die tweede navorsingsdoelwit is om die burgerlike samelewing as streeks-akteur binne die analise te inkorporeer. Met as empiriese fokus, die hoogs eksklusiewe en elite-gedrewe streeks-projek wat bedryf word deur die mees omvattende inter-staat streeksinstelling, die Suider-Afrikaanse Ontwikkelingsgemeenskap (SAOG), evalueer en assesseer die studie die vraag tot watter mate die burgerlike samelewing op streeksvlak kan optree as ’n krag vir verandering binne die raamwerk van mensgesentreerde sosio-ekonomiese ontwikkeling en sosiale gelykberegtiging. Na die bekendstelling van ’n aantal meta-teoretiese, konseptuele en metodologiese oorweginge wat van kardinale belang is, word die hoofstroom teoretiese bydraes tot die bestudering van regionalisme krities beskou, en word ’n krities/reflektiewe benadering voorgestel as ’n alternatiewe benadering. Vervolgens word ’n breë historiese oorsig van die sosiale, politieke, ekonomiese en kulturele kontekste wat kenmerkende is van die teenswoordige Suider-Afrikaanse streek gelewer. Hierna word vier burgerlike samelewings-organisasies, naamlik, die SAOG Raad vir Nie-regeringsorganisasies (CNGO), die Suider-Afrikaanse Vakbonde Koördineringsraad (SATUCC), die Ekonomiese Regverdigheidsnetwerk (EJN) van die Gemeenskap van Christelike Rade in Suider-Afrika (FOCCISA) en die Suider-Afrikaanse Mense Solidariteitsnetwerk (SAPSN), onder die loep geneem ten einde hul veranderingspotensiaal binne SAOG te assesseer. Die navorsing wat hiervoor onderneem is, is gegrond binne ’n eklektiese vermenging van hoofsaaklik kwalitatiewe metodes, insluitende veldnavorsing-onderhoude, deelnemende waarneming, asook die analise van primêre en sekondêre bronne en data. Twee belangrike gevolgtrekking word, ten slotte, gemaak. Eerstens, ’n eksplisiete en anti-reduksionistiese, krities-teoretiese benadering word as essensieël beskou om rekenskap te kan gee vir die meervoudige en meervlakkige strukturele asook agent-verwante faktore wat regionalisme en regionalisasie in Suider-Afrika beïnvloed. Tweedens, die impak van die burgerlike samewelings-akteurs waarop hierdie studie gefokus het, om ’n meer sosio-ekonomiese inklusiewe vorm van regionalisme tot stand te bring, is beperk. Die redes hiervoor is van ’n institutionele en strukturele aard, beperkte verteenwoordiging en ’n gebrek aan strategiese koördinering tussen burgelike samelewings-organisasies in die streek. Nietemin, is daar redes vir optimisme wat voortspruit uit onlangse ontwikkelinge binne die streek se burgerlike samelewings organisasies. Hieruit is dit moontlik dat ’n breë sosiale beweging sou kon ontwikkel wat, in die vorm van ’n veranderings-gerigte alliansie, die SAOG se huidige benadering tot regionalisme kan uitdaag.

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