A few decades ago, many countries in the developing world saw collective self-reliance through regional cooperation as an important way of countering Western dominance. Regional autonomy and self-reliance became key norms of regional institutions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America (Acharya 1994, 1999b). But these norms took a back seat with the acceleration of neo-liberal economic globalization (a newer form of Western dominance) in the 1980s and 1990s. Instead of viewing regional institutions to reduce dependency, Third World elites employed them as devices to make their regions more adaptive to, and competitive within, the global economy. Moreover, domestic economic liberalization and transnational coalitions developed around it and became the basis of new regional political and security orders (Solingen 1991, 1998).
Yet, these neo-liberal regional orders also created their own problems of marginalization and repression, and masked powerful seeds of conflict and insecurity, both domestic and inter-state (Mittleman 2000). While offering nominally greater interstate security, they contributed to a narrowing of the regional public space (with regional public-policy issues decided by a small group of like-minded elites themselves constrained by the need to conform to market-friendly policies of the kind implied in the 'Washington consensus'). The economic crises in Asia and Latin America in the 1990s underscored the limitations and dangers of a decade of such market-dictated regional institution building. The important question now is: with faith in global institutions such as the IMF, undermined by the economic crisis of the late 1990s, would regional institutions themselves undergo changes and provide a site for addressing the dangers of globalization.
This chapter argues that pressure to expand the regional public space and accommodate new social forces demanding new public goods is challenging the goals and strategies of regional institutions in important sites of neo-liberalism, such as Asia Pacific and Latin America. The crisis of the so-called 'new region-