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Regionalization and Security in Southern Africa. Nana Poku. London: Palgrave, 2001. 164 Pp.
Security and Development in Southern Africa. Nana Poku. Westport: Praeger, 2001. 166 Pp.
As southern Africa enters the new millennium, its prospects for peace and development (however defined) reflect an intriguing mix of pessimism and hope. Angola (as I write) seems to be tentatively groping towards a cessation of military hostilities, while the peace talks between Congolese protagonists lurches from one conference to another. But at least some of the combatants are talking. On the other hand, Zimbabwe continues its downward political and economic spiral while nearly four million people in the region are in desperate need of food aid. In May 2002, the Food and Agriculture Organization warned that harvests in southern Africa had fallen by up to 25 percent in 2001 and that people in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe were at particular risk as stocks of maize were extremely low and market prices were rising way beyond the reach of many people. Meanwhile, the regional hegemon, South Africa, continues to advance market-based solutions as the panacea for the region while at the same time advancing its own neo-liberal economic program at home (Taylor, 2001). The region is in a mess, contrary to what many analysts, politicians, activists, etc. had hoped for in a post-apartheid dispensation. The two books under review seek to answer why this is so.
The two books are most interesting primarily because they critically interrogate exactly what is meant by security in the context of southern Africa. Questions surrounding what is meant by security have been omnipresent in International Relations (IR): during the Cold War it was invariably connected to the defense of the state, usually through military means. In the post-Cold War era, there has been an awakening of interest in what constitutes security. The importance of rhetoric and dominant discourse surrounding security has been investigated, as has the stripping away of common sense notions that have appealed to science and claimed a spurious objectivist epistemology. In a recent article, two theorists made this quite explicit when they asserted that the definition of the primary security referent is not a value-free, objective matter of describing the world as it isas it has been falsely characterised in traditional realist theory. It is a profoundly political act. Whatever definition emerges has enormous implications for the theory and practice of regional security, and not least in terms of identifying threats (Booth and Vale, 1997: 335).
However, dominant approaches to security in IR have on the main ratified the position of the state as the primary unit of analysis, posturing this as objective truth. This in itself reflects the dominant school of thought within IRneo-realismthat privileges the state and the supposed anarchic international system in which states must compete and battle for survivalto secure their securityin a Hobbesian environment. This choice of the state as ontologically privilegedand it is a choiceserves to concretise existing insecurity. In such accounts, the states security is deemed a priority, even if this is over and above the well-being of its citizens. This fetishisation of the state not only acts as an act of disempowerment vis--vis the ordinary person, it also neatly serves the interests of the powerful and privileged. This at times may be in direct conflict with the wishes and aspirations of the majority of the states citizens. As Ken Booth asserts, in such circumstances state security is hostile to human security; it becomes a code-word for the privileging of the security of the countrys political regime and social elite (Booth, 1994:4). This understanding calls for a movement away from traditional approaches to security and towards non-orthodox positions that are capable of a more inclusive theoretical complexity. Pokus books move us toward a more theoretically nuanced position, focussing on issues such as globalization, education, HIV/AIDS, poverty, population etc.
The advantage of the analyses crafted in the two books is the position that there is a need to reconfigure our basic assumptions regarding security. Non-traditional approaches to security reject the type of notions that separates us from them and which erects boundaries between citizen and non-citizen, friend and foe etc. (cf. Walker, 1988). The question of identity what makes us believe we are the same and them differentis inseparable from security, an important point to make in a region that exhibits hideous levels of xenophobia and racism (Booth, 1997:6). The broadening of traditional notions of security allows the two works to cast security as an open-ended process that cannot be enclosed within any one event, such as the end of apartheid. Rather, security is something that must be continually strived for and can, as we witness every day in southern Africa, be imperilled by a host of threats and agendas.
Thus far, it has been regional elites, with their own particular understanding of what globalisation is, that have largely set the agenda regarding security, often in response to perceived outside pressures. In Africa, the debate has been advanced by specific African leaders who have sought to craft a relationship with the North and promote a developmental agenda, which is based largely along neo-liberal lines. The leaders of Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa have been at the forefront of this and their agenda was crystallized in Abuja, Nigeria, on October 23, 2001, when the New Partnership for Africas Development (NEPAD) was launched. It is unfortunate that the two books were published after this seminal event in contemporary African politics. The message communicated by the NEPAD fits within the orthodox neo-liberal discourse and avoids blaming particular policies or global trade structures on Africas marginalization but rather, if pushed, simply passes off the blame on globalization. But even here, the document sees globalization as providing glowing opportunities, with a statement arguing that: The world has entered a new millennium in the midst of an economic revolution. This revolution could provide the context and means for Africas rejuvenation. While globalization has increased the cost of Africas ability to compete, we hold that the advantages of an effectively managed integration present the best prospects for future economic prosperity and poverty reduction. (ibid., p. 8).
The NEPAD itself fits snugly with the policy aims of South African president Thabo Mbekis African Renaissance, which has underpinned post-apartheid South Africas foreign policy, particularly since Mandela stepped down (Taylor and Williams, 2001). Yet this Renaissance has been seen as being under undue influence from the dominant neo-liberal orthodoxy (Vale and Maseko, 1998: 279). The implications of such a stance for security in southern Africa, particularly in the light of a concretised NEPAD which has been critiqued as being largely of South African origin, is profound (Keet, 2002). Indeed, the policy options currently being pursued, as crystallised in the NEPAD, seeks to press for increased access to the global market. Far from critically engaging with globalisation or even remotely interrogating it, the regional leaders promoting the NEPAD are actually pushing for greater integration into the global capitalist order, but on re-negotiated terms that favour externally oriented elites. The actual neo-liberal underpinnings of the global market are presumed to be sacrosanct.
The common sense approach to globalisation is reflected in the way in which regionalisation is assumed to be of major importance. Yet the form of regionalisation being currently promoted in southern Africa is premised on an unquestioning belief that integration of their territories into the global economy is absolutely crucial and inevitable. The structural limitations of this are never probed as, it is apparent, there is no alternative. The desire amongst regional elites to locate a regional connectivity and regional identity appears of profound significance in siting tactical responses to globalisation. But, regionalization should not be seen as a counter-reaction in the direction of regional autarkies. Instead, it stakes out a consolidation of politico-economic spaces contesting with one another within the capitalist global economy. It is clear that there are no natural regions, and that regions have to be constructed. That existing regionalist projects reflect the impulses of a neo-liberal world order is of a consequence of the environment within which regional elites find themselves and perceive themselves to be in. In this regard, the two books have largely neglected inserting the region and the beliefs of the regional elites within the broader global political economy and the hegemony of neo-liberalism.This is rather crucial as the new forms of regionalisms currently invigorating southern Africa are very much connected to processes associated both with globalization, whose discourse and advocates ceaselessly push for a reconfiguration along the lines of its own ideal type of socioeconomic governance. Local and global processes are inter-linked, since any particular process of regionalisation in any part of the world has systemic repercussions on other regions, thus shaping the way in which the new world order is being organized (Hettne, 1996).
The use of the work of Hettne and the New Regionalism approach however is appreciated. Regionalism refers to the general phenomenon as well as the ideology of regionalism, that is, the urge for a regionalist order, either in a particular geographical area or as a type of world order. There may thus be many regionalisms. The broad New Regionalism approach seeks to understand why and how pluralistic and multidimensional regionalization processes enfold (Hettne and Sderbaum, 1998; Hettne, 1999; Schulz et al, 2001). The New Regionalism literature, which both books under review utilize more or less, essentially locates the new wave of regionalization processes within the ongoing transformation of the global political economy. In contrast to older regionalization projects, which were often imposed from outside either directly or indirectly, in correspondence with the Cold War milieu, the new forms of regionalisms are more often emerging from within the regions themselves and are extroverted rather than introverted (Schulz et al, 2001: 4). At the same time, such processes cannot be understood only from the perspective of the discrete region, but only from within a globalized viewpoint.
Ongoing processes imply a qualitative change of a region from comparative heterogeneity to expanded homogeneity. This takes place across a number of dimensions, most notable of which are culture, economic policies and indeed, political management. Confluence that brings these dimensions together may, it is possible, be natural but more often than not are politically directed and involve a combination of bottom-up and top-down processes (Hettne and Sderbaum, 1998). In a situation whereby the hegemony of neo-liberalism underpins the logic of formal contemporary regionalisation processes, the complex mixes and contradictions that this engenders is of the utmost importance, particularly if we are to speak of non-traditional security issues. Because of their scale, macro-regions are most likely to generate the greatest tensions and contradictions, and are least susceptible to the construction of any coherent form of regionness, which is, broadly, a sort of qualitative measurement of the cohesiveness and distinctiveness of what stage the regionalization process is in. In this sense, regionness can both increase or decrease toward greater regional cohesiveness and identity. Regionness thus implies that a region can be a region more or less (Hettne and Sderbaum, 2000: 461). The importance of the two books under review is that the regionness of southern Africa, in contrast to the aspirations that the region embarked upon with the formation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have been largely frustrated. Indeed, any reconfiguration of the region along the lines promoted by the regional elites is, at present, essentially an agenda grounded on neo-liberalism. It is this actuality that at once enjoys the enthusiastic support of capital on the one hand, while posing severe problems for notions of security as defined by the two books. Unraveling the implications of this is obviously vital and these two works are valuable contributions to the effort.
Booth, K. (1994) A Security Regime in Southern Africa: Theoretical Considerations Southern African Perspectives, no. 30 Belville, CSAS, University of Western Cape.
Booth, K. (1997) Security and Self: Reflections of a Fallen Realist in Krause and Wiliams (eds.).
Booth, K. and P. Vale (1997) Critical Security Studies and Regional Insecurity: The Case of Southern Africa in Krause, K. and M. Williams (eds.) (1997) Critical Security Studies:Concepts and Cases London: UCL Press.
Hettne, B. (1996) Globalization, the New Regionalism and East Asia, paper delivered at the United Nations University Global Seminar 96 Shonan Session, Hayama, Japan, September 2-6, available at http://www.unu.edu/unupress/globalism.html#Globalization
Hettne, B. (1999) Globalisation and the New Regionalism: The Second Great Transformation, in Hettne, B., Inotai, A., and Sunkel, O. (eds.) Globalism and the New Regionalism Basingstoke: Macmillan.
Hettne, B. and Sderbaum, F. (1998) The New Regionalism Approach, Politeia, vol. 17, no. 3.
Hettne, B. and Sderbaum, F. (2000) Theorising the Rise of Regionness, New Political Economy, vol. 5, no. 3.
Keet, D. (2002) Perceptions and Perspectives in the New Partnership for Africas Development (NEPAD) on Regional/Continental and/or Global Integration of Africa, paper presented at CODESRIA/TWN-Africa conference, Africa and the Development Challenges of the New Millennium, Accra, Ghana, April 23-26, 2002.
NEPAD (2001) The New Partnership for Africas Development (NEPAD), October 2001, http://www.dfa.gov.za/events/nepad.pdf
Poku, N. (2001) Regionalisation and Security in Southern Africa London: Palgrave
Poku, N. (ed.) (2001) Security and Development in Southern Africa Westport: Praeger.
Schulz, M., F. Sderbaum and J. Ojendal (eds.) (2001) Regionalisation in a Globalising World: A Comparative Perspective on Forms, Actors and Processes London: Zed Books.
Taylor, I. (2001) Stuck in Middle GEAR: South Africas Post-Apartheid Foreign Relations Westport: Praeger.
Taylor, I. and P. Williams (2001) South African Foreign Policy and the Great Lakes Crisis: African Renaissance Meets Vagabondage Politique?, African Affairs vol. 100, issue 399.
Vale, P. and S. Maseko (1998) South Africa and the African Renaissance International Affairs, vol. 74, no. 2.
Walker, R. (1988) One World, Many Worlds: Struggles for a Just World Peace Boulder: Lynne Rienner.
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