The Meaning of Regional Integration: Introducing Positioning Theory in Regional Integration Studies

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UNU Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies
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UNU-CRIS Working Papers
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This paper proposes a constructionist and discursive approach and methodology for studyingregional integration and related issues, such as cooperation between states, the formation oftransnational regions as actors in governance, and identity and social cohesion. First, the paperpresents an alternative ontology for social science. Positioning theory is then introduced as ananalytical framework that highlights the meanings attributed to spaces, to persons seen asrepresenting those spaces, as well as the social tasks accomplished through theircommunications and interactions. This social-psychological perspective is of theoretical andpractical use, as it illuminates possibilities for change in conception and action. A brief discussionof validity and reliability criteria for the new framework is offered, and Foresight is suggested asa congruent methodology due to its participatory, prospective, and active orientation. Finally,some broader implications of the approach are explored, and future research directions aresuggested.