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Carmen Gebhard, Conclusions on the Theoretical Incorporation of Baltic Sea Regionalism in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 218 - 222

Regionalism and European Integration Revisited

1. Edition 2008, ISBN print: 978-3-8329-4084-3, ISBN online: 978-3-8452-1239-5 https://doi.org/10.5771/9783845212395

Series: Nomos Universitätsschriften - Politik, vol. 164

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218 The high level of abstraction of these models might be both an asset and a weakness of comparative theorising. On the one hand, it opens the analytical perspective for new ways of structuring empirical events and phenomena and allows for a broad, universal and flexible application to (apparently) very different research objects; on the other hand, it also bears the risk of turning the analytical process into an auto-dynamic act of ‘thinking it to the end’, and thereby, of loosing track of the empirical relevance or even compliance and legitimacy. Parsons has been criticised for mingling theoretical ‘truth’ with empirical evidence in the course generating inferential conclusions, and for using both in an instrumentalist and in a selective way in order to achieve a consistent line of argumentation. A similar criticism could and should certainly be raised against the preceding trial application of his model. Hence, keeping the intrinsic shortfalls of ‘globalist’ models of explanation in mind, this ‘short ride into the field of Comparative Theory’ will not conclude with a set of rigid analytical claims but rather leave the floor to a concluding statement on the theoretical incorporation of Baltic Sea Regionalism and its connection to nation state regional policy. F. Conclusions on the Theoretical Incorporation of Baltic Sea Regionalism This chapter will seek to gather the insights that the foregoing discussion of various different theoretical camps has brought about. The issue raised at the very beginning of this study about the ‘(non)sense of theorisation’ shall build the overall point of reference for this conclusion of the theoretical section. The search for an appropriate theoretical foundation for the research problems addressed in this study has led us through three different strands in political theory. The first, and in respect to the topic of the study, the most obvious step in this process was to consult the bulk of (European) Integration superficial compliance integrative attitude second intent selective engagement normative reproduction of exceptionalism Sweden EU as either a group of member states or a supernational entity (EU) normative incorportation of Sweden’s role in the EU for example Figure 21: Swedish regionalist activism in relation to the EU framework 219 Theory (EIT). Despite the clear correlation between integration theory and the analysis of a ‘Northern Perspective’ of European Integration, it appeared important and useful to raise the question of whether and to what extent EIT does actually address the issue of ‘regionness.’ European integration may be seen as an instance of regional integration or regionalism. However, the analysis has shown that still only few of the theoretical approaches consider or intentionally focus on ‘regionality’ in the widest sense, including independent variables such as geographical proximity or geostrategic remoteness. Instead of tracing the “regionalist” elements in every single approach, the study first set out to apply the different traditional EIT models of explanation directly to the Baltic Sea case. This methodological choice built on the assumption that the Baltic Sea may equally be seen and treated as an instance of regional integration and that the main theoretical claims of each approach may therefore be transferred ‘downwards’ from the macro European case to the ‘sub’-regional case. The analytical implementation of this so-called ‘application pattern I’ was expected to result in a set of conclusions about the explanatory value of EIT for the purpose of direct application. Three major weaknesses could be identified in this context: – The inherent state-centricness of most traditional approaches to European integration constitutes a major obstacle to fruitful theoretical incorporation of the subregional puzzle; – A similar effect may be ascribed to the inherent EU-centricness of European EIT. Certain approaches start from distinctly European or EU-specific assumptions, overtly limiting their analytical focus on the specificities of the European case; – Another weakness results from the above-mentioned intentional and systematic consideration of ‘regionality’; while for the Baltic Sea case elements like proximity, remoteness, cohesion, bordering and rebordering play a central role, many EIT approaches do simply not regard these factors as significant for the pursued line of argumentation. These conclusions again show which analytical factors are particularly relevant for the composition of a comprehensive model for the ‘Baltic Sea Conundrum’. Suitable approaches should – be based on a differentiated understanding of actorness and consider various different types of actors (non-state, non-official actors; individuals and collectives); – build on a comprehensive concept of integration that allows application to any (or more than one specific) instance of regionalism; – provide appropriate room for the consideration of spatial factors and questions of regionness and regionality. Given the modest results that the discussion of EIT theories in the context of application pattern I has brought about, the study turned to the expectedly more complex and problematic question of relative applicability. Application pattern II sought to address the question of how the alleged macro entity, the EU, relates to the meso-level entity, the BSR as a European region. The analytical conclusions drawn in respect to the first pattern served as an important point of reference. Instead of re-considering every single approach in line with the analytical demands of application pattern II, the study rather aimed at identifying the elements that could prove problematic or even exclutionary in 220 that context. To what extent would EIT be suitable for the analysis or explanation of the interrelational complex? What could hinder the establishment of a clear-cut model of explanation that builds on EIT informed presumptions? The most significant (and in fact, decisive) drawback appeared to be the inherent inexactness or indifference of most EIT approaches concerning the relationship between different levels of action. Most theoretical approaches to European integration (with multilevel governance models as an obvious exception) draw a sharp line between macro-level and sub-level action. Instead of seeking to identify and analyse the linkages between the two (or more) levels, the respective political processes are largely treated as two different and distinct political phenomena. The Baltic Sea conundrum in turn seems to be substantially determined by these very cross-level interactions. Another, from the perspective of this study, unfavourable tendency in EIT results from the missing accuracy when it comes to the consideration of cross-level countervailing forces. (Sub)regionalism and macro-level (European) integration are hardly ever viewed from this angle. This habitus in EIT is reproduced in every day political parlance and interpretation, where regionalist tendencies are mostly seen as a positive side-effect (or at least, a concurrent inoffensive dynamic) of Europeanisation and post-nationalist development. This study in turn sought to consider the potential negative effects of regionalist side action and to identify the various different ways of bottom-up and topdown interaction across the entire positive-negative spectrum. This analytical postulation of a more comprehensive theoretical framework led to the consultation of traditional International Relations Theory (IRT). This step in the working process was expected to provide important input about further analytical requirements that would eventually contribute to the construction of (rudiments of) a holistic model of explanation. The specific asset of IRT was seen in its relative universality, meaning that classic IRT does per definitionem not exclusively focus on one single case but rather address systemic research puzzles with a more ample focus. Given the wide spectrum of theoretical approaches available in this field and the disparity of different types of argumentation, the focus was directed to a selected IRT model, the Security Community Approach by Karl Deutsch, including its critical neoand neo-neo-versions. Due to the extensive amount of preliminary work, meaning security community studies focussing on the Baltic Sea example, the study largely focussed on the critical evaluation of the purported analytical results of these studies. Deutsch himself has produced a seminal study in this respect, which, thanks to the broad reception of his work, happened to establish the ‘Nordic case’ as some sort of prototype security community. What could be derived from this section on a more abstract level and in context of the overall methodological objective of the exercise was that IRT could add a wide range of assets to the traditional study of (European) integration. The universality of the analytical categories employed (such as ‘systemic entities,’ elements of ‘overlay’ and ‘subordination’ and ‘selective interaction’) could be seen as both boon and bane. While the ‘boon’ obviously lies in the broad applicability of the models to very different cases, the ‘bane’ results from the empirical fuzziness and problem of consistent operationalisation. Given that the SCA was selected to cover application pattern I, the incorporation of application pattern II by way of IRT-specific models constituted the next step in the working process. This is exactly where the genuine added value of IRT could unfold, its system-oriented, totally comprehensive and global perspective. In this context, it was 221 tried to employ the most traditional tool in IRT, the use of abstracting models, diagrams and flowcharts for the delineation of complex research puzzles. This exercise proved to provide the utmost explanatory value, since the graphing of system-oriented schemes stimulated and structured the reflection of different possible scenarios of interaction between the macro and the meso level. Even though at this level of abstraction, the deduction of direct analytical claims becomes difficult, this working step appeared to be very significant in the general course of theoretical incorporation. In order to complete the picture, eventually, the study turned to the camp of Comparative Theory. This methodological choice was rather an inferential and logic continuation of the first two steps than a strategic move with clear analytical intentions or expected theoretical benefits. The title of the respective chapter indicates the indeterminateness (and to a certain extent, arbitrariness) of this endmost analytical action. The specific choice of Parsons’ model in turn has been far less arbitrary. Earlier dealings with his analytical construct have been highly formative in the sense that the elaborateness of his theoretical accomplishments proved to be highly instructive and meaningful in many, very different analytical contexts. Moreover, it has raised sustained awareness about the factual complexity and intricacy of any social problem as multifaceted as the ones arising from this highly networked region. Positioning the ‘short ride into the field of Comparative Theory’ in the broader analytical working process, it can be said, that the insights gained from this exercise, retrospectively, have not least also relativised the value of the theoretical solutions offered by the other, nowadays more established theoretical camps, namely EIT and IRT. By way of conclusion, I would like to try to draw one last overall picture of the theoretical outcomes produced in this section. The overall analytical objective of this study has been to ‘elaborate a comprehensive model of explanation’ that helps to grasp the ‘complex virtual links between the different analytical factors at stake’ (that is, the region, its European surrounding, and the specific case of Sweden and Finland). However, what has apparently been produced is an enormous bulk of theoretical considerations that might seem difficult to handle at first. I suggest the following raster for an advanced internalisation of this section. The various theoretical contributions from the different camps may be perceived as parts of a mosaic of explanatory models, in which each approach – is concerned with another aspect about the research puzzle (e.g. small state foreign policy or regionalist discourse) and – assumes a different function in the course of the analytical process. Depending on its argumentative orientation and analytical perspective, each approach may assume the function of either – explaining the research puzzle (in parts), – describing, structuring and conceptualising the subject or – suggesting normative interventions and raising critical awareness. Together, the various different models should be seen to produce a complex yet consistent body of analytical arguments. Every single element in the complex is supposed to contribute to an ever more faceted and nuanced picture of the Baltic Sea Conundrum. To the disappointment of some readers, this analytical process may not have led to the development of one single macro model or ‘Grand Theory of Baltic Sea 222 Regionalism.’ However, by having sought on the one hand, to avoid the isolation of certain approaches, and on the other, to combine various theory camps in the context of one specific research puzzle, this contribution has increased its potential to serve as a reference point for future investigation and research in the field. This practical approach was based on a vision that is similar to what Marker and Stoke described as follows: The key challenge [in political theorising] is not to launch a campaign for unity but to argue for diversity to be combined with dialogue. […] The discipline should avoid constructing itself into an uneasy collection of separate sects. There is a pluralism of method and approach out there that should not be denied, but it should not be ‘isolative’ but rather interactive. It should be eclectic and synergistic. That is what is meant by our claim to celebrate diversity. We argue that political science is enriched by the variety of approaches that are adopted within the discipline. Each has something of considerable value to offer. But each benefits from its interaction with other approaches.748 I would like to close this chapter with a statement by A. Moravcsik, which obviously seeks to score with false modesty, but however, is in a way inarguably true. It is always prudent to remember that the world contains more complexity than any single theory can encompass.749 748 MARSH David/ STOKER Gerry: Introduction. In: Idd. (eds): Theory and Methods in Political Science. London 2001, pp. 1-16, here p. 4. 749 MORAVCSIK Andrew: ‘Is Something Rotten in the State of Denmark?’ Constructivism and European Integration. In: Journal of European Public Policy 6:4, Special Issue 1999, pp. 669-681, here p. 672.

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Zusammenfassung

Seit 1989 ist es im Ostseeraum zu einer explosionsartigen Entstehung einer Vielzahl von regionalen Initiativen und Zusammenschlüssen gekommen. Der Ostseeraum weist bis heute eine europaweit einzigartig hohe Konzentration an kooperativen regionalen Strukturen auf. Diese bilden gemeinsam ein enges Netzwerk von Vereinigungen, die unter dem Überbegriff der "Ostseezusammenarbeit’ interagieren.

Diese Studie analysiert die Hintergründe dieses regionalen Phänomens oder so genannten „Ostsee-Rätsels“ auf Basis eines Vergleichs zwischen den Regionalpolitiken zweier staatlicher Schlüsselakteure, Schweden und Finnland, wobei der europäische Integrationsprozess als übergeordneter Bezugsrahmen für die Untersuchung dient.