Southeast Asian Regionalism and Global Governance: "Multilateral Utility" or "Hedging Utility"?
- Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs
- ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
- Volume 33, Number 1, April 2011
- pp. 83-112
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Regional organizations are widely regarded as building blocks of a multilateral order. But this view ignores the fact that regional organizations vary in their contribution to multilateralism. This article therefore adds to Dent's established concept of "multilateral utility" the concept of "hedging utility" which I claim better captures the behaviour of many non-Western regional organizations including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In the theory-guided part the article develops six indicators to distinguish the two types of regional organizations: level of institutionalization, governance costs, nesting, agenda-setting, norm entrepreneurship and mode of interaction. Based on these categories, the article examines ASEAN's role as a contributor to a multilateral order. The findings illustrate that indeed "hedging utility" rather than "multilateral utility" better describes ASEAN's agency in shaping international order. The hedging concept resonates well with elite notions of Southeast Asian political culture and also captures the institutional balancing dimension of ASEAN's (security) policies.