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A region-building approach to Northern Europe*

  • Iver B. Neumann

This article argues the case for a new approach to the analysis of regions. It highlights how a region is constantly being denned and redefined by its members in a permanent discourse with each member attempting to identify itself at the core of the region. The core is defined in both territorial and functional terms and this definition necessarily involves a manipulation of knowledge and power. This region building approach utilizes the literature on nation-building and the genealogical writings of anti-foundationalists. It does not, however, attempt to place the study of regions in international relations on a new footing or replace what are arguably the two dominant approaches in the existing literature: an ‘inside-out’ approach focusing on cultural integration and an ‘outside-in’ approach focusing on geopolitics. Rather, it aims to extend the ongoing debate by asking questions about how and why the existence of a given region was postulated in the first place, who perpetuates its existence and with what intentions, and how students of regions, by including or excluding certain areas and peoples, help to perpetuate or transform a given region. After sketching the divergent approaches used to analyze regions, the second part of the article identifies how the two dominant approaches have comprehended Northern Europe, and it then uses the region-building approach to criticize and supplement their findings.

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1 Russet, Bruce M., International Regions and the International System (Chicago, 1967), p. 182.

2 Deutsch, Karl W., Political Community and the North Atlantic Area (Princeton, 1957).

3 Etzioni, Amitai, Political Unification. A Comparative Study of Leaders and Forces (New York, 1965), on pp. 220–1.

4 Sundelius begins to amalgamate ‘inside–out’ and ‘outside–in’ approaches by indirectly introducing external factors; ‘The Nordic Model of Neighborly Cooperation’, in Sundelius, Bengt (ed.), Foreign Policies of Northern Europe (Boulder, 1982), pp. 177–96, on pp. 186–187.

5 Brundtland, Arne Olav, ‘The Nordic Balance. Past and Present’, Cooperation and Conflict, 1, 1 (1966), pp. 3063, on p. 30.

6 Wiberg, Hakan and Waever, Ole, ‘Norden in the Cold War Reality’, in Oberg, Jan, Nordic Security in the 1990s. Options in the Changing Europe (London, 1992), pp. 1334, on p. 24.

7 Cantori, Louis J. and Spiegal, Steven L., The International Politics of Regions. A Comparative Framework (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1970), p. 20 (de–emphasized).

8 Buzan, Barry, People, States and Fear. An Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post–Cold War Era, 2nd edn (Hemel Hempstead, 1991), p. 189.

9 Buzan, People, States and Fear, p. 190. Buzan again follows Cantori and Spiegal by characterizing ‘the Nordic area’ as a ‘distinct sub–region’, cf. pp. 199–200, and Deutsch in labelling it a security community, cf. p. 218.

10 One notable exception concerns economic theories of regions, where outside pressures of capital accumulation and innovation are often held to be met not only or perhaps not even primarily by states, but also by firms. In the literature on the Nordic region, however, a focus on the size of the home market and the subsequent enhanced ability to compete, so familiar e.g. in the literature on the European region, has largely been absent. This fact, as well as the failure of the Nordic countries to forge a customs union during the Cold War period may be taken to support the view that Northern Europe is a subregion of Europe, as this very way of denoting it indeed suggests.

11 Hoist, Johan Jorgen, ‘Five Roads to Nordic Security’ in Hoist, Johan Jorgen (ed.), Five Roads to Nordic Security (Oslo, 1973), pp. 15, on p. 1.

12 Bingen, Jon, ‘Norden, Europa og nordisk samarbeide i et historisk perspektiv’ (Oslo, 1991), p. 1. One notes the geopolitical ancestry of the term ‘Eurasia’.

13 Public Record Office, CAB 17/59, ‘The threatened dissolution of the Union between Norway and Sweden (Naval aspects of the question)’, 12 May 1905. I thank Mats Berdal for directing me to this source.

14 Wight, Martin, International Theory. The Three Traditions, Wight, Gabriele and Porter, Brian (eds.), (Leicester, 1991), p. 259.

15 This critique is a reading of People, States and Fear, 2nd edn, pp. 186–229, which declares itself the most authoritative statement of the theory; cf. p. 228, note 9.

16 Buzan, People, Slates and Fear, p. 191.

17 Buzan, People, States and Fear, pp. 191–192. Still, it is admitted that the delineation of the complex itself ‘may be a matter of controversy’.

18 Buzan, People, States and Fears, p. 190.

19 Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London, 1983).

20 The Geopolitics of Geopolitical Space: Toward a Critical Social Theory of International Polities’, Alternatives, 12, 14 (1987), pp. 403–34, on pp. 409–10; also Foucault, Michel, ‘Nietzsche, Genealogy, History’, in Language, Counter–Memory, Practice. Selected Essays and Interviews ed. Bouchard, David (Oxford, 1977), pp. 137–64.

21 The editors of the journal Herodote interviewing Michel Foucault, ‘Questions of Geography’, in Michel Foucault, Power I Knowledge. Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972–1977, ed. Colin Gordon (Brighton, 1980), pp. 61–77.

22 Shapiro, Michael J., Language and Political Understanding. The Politics of Discursive Practice (New Haven, 1981).

23 Nye, Joseph S. (ed.) International Regionalism (Boston, 1968), pp. vivii; cf. also Banks, Michael, ‘Systems Analysis and the Study of Regions, International Studies Quarterly, 4, (1969), pp. 335–60, on p. 338: ‘Regions are what politicians and people want them to be’.

24 Wsver, Ole, ‘Three Competing Europes: German, French, Russian’, International Affairs, 66, 3 (1990), but especially an important forthcoming book; Ole Waever, Ulla Holm and Henrik Larsen, The Struggle for ‘Europe’: French and German Concepts of State, Nation and European Union (Cambridge).

25 van Ron, Ger, ‘Great Britain and the Oslo States’, Journal of Contemporary History, 24, 4 (1989), pp. 657–64.

26 ‘Nordisme kan forenes med et EF–medlemskap’ (Nordism compatible with EC membership), Dagbladet (Oslo), 11 September 1991.

27 Landquist, Ake and Lundgren, NilsIntegrationen i Vasteuropa (Stockholm, 1974), p. 79.

28 Cf. Nielsson, Gunnar, ‘The Parallel National Action Process’, in Taylor, Paul and Groom, A. J. P. (eds.), Frameworks for International Cooperation (London, 1989), pp. 78108.

29 Andren, Nils, ‘Norden and a New European Security Order’, in Huldt, Bo and Herlof, Gunilla (eds.), Towards a New Security Order. The 1990–91 Yearbook (Stockholm, 1991), pp. 279–92, on p. 291.

30 E.g. Gleditsch, Nils Petter, Moller, BjØrn, Wiberg, Hakan and Waiver, Ole, Svaner pa vildveie? Nordens sikkerhed mellem supermagtsflader og europaisk opbrud (Copenhagen, 1990), ch. 1.

31 Jervell, Sverre, ‘Elementer i en ny nordisk arkitektur’, Norden i del nye Europa. En rapport fra de fire nordiske utenrikspoiitiske instituttene og universiletet i Reykjavik (Oslo, 1991), pp. 185222, on p. 194. The quote bears on the present situation as well.

32 Borresen, Beate, ‘Enhetstanken i Norden-fra Kalmar–unionen til Napoleonskrigene’ (Oslo, 1991); compare e.g. with the essays in Deletant, Dennis and Hanak, Harry (eds.), Historians as Nation–Builders. Central and South–East Europe (London, 1988).

33 Excerpts of Lars Heyer's La Scandinavie (Paris, 1865) are most easily available in Charles Zorgbibe, Les Etats–Unis Scandinaves (Paris, 1968).

34 Tonnesson, Stein, ‘History and National Identity in Scandinavia: The Contemporary Debate’, first lecture presented at the University of Oslo, in partial fulfilment of the degree of Doctor Philosophiae, 25 October 1991, p. 24.

35 Erik Magnus Stael von Holstein cited in Beate Berresen, ‘Enhetstanken’, p. 14.

36 There was, moreover, hardly any discussion of the matter, cf. Agrell, Wilhelm, Alliansfrihel och atombomber. Kontinuitet och fordndring i den svenska forsvarsdoktrinen 1945–1982 (Stockholm, 1985), esp. pp. 192226. The fact that the Swedes during the immediate postwar years possessed one of the largest European aircraft fleets seems to illustrate the same point.

37 Stein Tonnesson, ‘History and National Identity’. ‘I am convinced’, Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt exclaimed to the National Press Club in Washington in February 1992, ‘that one of the most prominent features of the European decade that the 1990s will be a revival of the importance of the Northern European region. And in this revival Sweden, as the largest and most centrally located of the Nordic countries, will play a pivotal role’.

38 PRO, CAB 17/59.

39 Quoted in Berner, Orjan, Soviet Policies Toward the Nordic Countries (Lanham, MD, 1986), p. 2. In his Murmansk speech of 1987, Gorbachev also came close to availing himself of this move.

40 Wsver, Ole, ‘Culture and Identity in the Baltic Sea Region’ in Joenniemi, Pertti (ed.), Co–operation in the Baltic Sea Region; Needs and Prospects (Tampere, 1991), pp. 79111, on p. 102.

41 Joenniemi, Pertti ‘A Blueprint for Baltic Sea Region Polities’, paper delivered to a workshop at the END Convention, Moscow, 15 August 1991, on p. 3.

42 Kabin, Toomas quoted in Dagens Nyheter (Stockholm), 16 September 1991.

43 Jensen, Vagn quoted in ‘Banana Boom for Baltic’, The Baltic Independent (Tallinn), 27 July 1991, p. 3. Incidentally, in the interwar period, Swedish foreign trade with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania made up approximately one per cent of total foreign trade.

45 The circumstances which allow Engholm's use of the pronoun ‘we’ are, first, that the quote is from a Danish article and, secondly, that Engholm is an easily recognizable Danish name. Here quoted from Wind, Marlene, ‘Eksisterer Europa? Refleksioner over forsvar, identitet og borgerdyd i et nyt Europa’ in Serensen, Christen (ed.), Europa. Nation–union–efter Minsk og Maastricht (Copenhagen, 1992), pp. 2381, on p. 53.

46 Conversation with Andrey Fedorov, Moscow, 15 June 1991. Excerpts printed in Ny Tid (Helsinki), 7 November 1991.

47 Yag'ya, V. S. ‘Baltiyskiy region i Sankt–Peterburg v novom izmerenii’, paper presented to the second parliamentary conference on cooperation in the Baltic Sea Area, Oslo, 22–24 April 1992, p. 5.

48 Yag'ya, ‘Baltiyskiy region, p. 5, p. 1.

49 Knothe, Thomas, ‘Polen och Ostersjosamarbetet’, Nordisk komakt, 37 (1992), pp. 3536.

50 Cf. Jarve, Priit, ‘The Soviet Union and the Prospects of Baltic Cooperation: An Estonian View’, in Iivonen, Jyrki (ed.), The Changing Soviet Union in the New Europe (Aldershot, 1991), pp. 211–24.

51 He also points out that the designation of Lithuania as a ‘Baltic’ country only dates back to the 1920s. Rebas, Hain, ‘“Baltic Regionalism”??’, Journal of Baltic Studies, 19, 2 (1988), pp. 101–16, p. 101 and p. 113, but cf. also Bungs, Dzintra, ‘Joint Political Initiatives by Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians as Reflected in Samizdat Materials 1969–1987’, Journal of Baltic Studies, 19, 3 (1988), pp. 267–71.

52 Norden i del nye Europa, p. 204, n. 6 (see n. 31 above).

53 von Bonsdorff, Goran, ‘Ostersjoregionens framtid’ in Carlsson, Marianne et al. (eds.), All vdlja vag. Finlands roll i Europa (Helsinki, 1991), pp. 103, on p. 105.

54 Hoist, Johan Jorgen, ‘Foreword’ in Heisler, Martin O., The Nordic Region: Changing Perspectives in International Relations (Newbury Park, CA, 1990), pp. 815, on p. 15.

55 Quoted in Dagens Nceringsliv (Oslo), 21 September 1991, p. 6.

56 Sverre Jervell, ‘Elementer’, p. 193 (see n. 31 above).

57 Cf. Sverre Jervell, ‘Organizing Europe's Northern Periphery. The Nordic Countries Facing the New Europe’. Informal draft paper submitted to the conference ‘The Baltic Sea Region: Cooperation or Conflict? ’, Kiel, 6–8 December 1991.

58 Speech to a seminar organized by the Storting's Nordic secretariat and the Nordic Association, Oslo, 4 April 1992.

59 Brundtland, Arne Olav, ‘Ostersjopolitikk sett fra Norge’, Nordisk kontakt, 37 (1992), pp. 4447.

60 E.g. interview with Einar Karl Haraldsson ‘Vi vill ha stark nordisk karna’, Nordisk kontakt, 36.

61 ‘There is only one principal that can be defended under all circumstances and in all stages of human development. It is the principle: everything goes’.; Feyerabend, Paul, Against Method, 2nd edn (London, 1988), p. 19.

* The article is a distant relative of papers presented to conferences on ‘A Region in the Making? ’ (The Estonian Academy of Sciences and the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, Tallinn, 1—2 June 1991), ‘Scandinavia in a Future European Security Arrangement’ (The European Programme, Oslo, 22 November 1991) and ‘The Baltic Sea Region: Cooperation or Conflict? ’ (The Peace Research Unit at the University of Kiel and the Tampere Peace Research Institute, Kiel, 6-8 December 1991). I would like to thank Clive Archer, Mats Berdal, Arne Olav Brundtland, Nils Butenschøn, Jan Dietz, Espen Barth Eide, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Louise Fawcett, Kristian Gerner, Andreas Gaarder, Andrew Hurrell, Sverre Jervell, Pertti Joenniemi, Mare Kukk, Richard Little, Roman Popinski, Thomas Ries, Adam Roberts, John Kristen Skogan, Martin Sæter, Ola Tunander, Johan Vibe, Jennifer Welsh, Marlene Wind, Geoffrey Wiseman, Ole Wœver and Øyvind Østerud for constructive comments.

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Review of International Studies
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