Weak States, Vulnerable Governments, and Regional Cooperation : An ASEAN Case Study book cover
1st Edition

Weak States, Vulnerable Governments, and Regional Cooperation
An ASEAN Case Study

ISBN 9781138499195
Published November 1, 2021 by Routledge
244 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations

FREE Standard Shipping
SAVE $32.00
was $160.00
USD $128.00

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

War, famine, poverty, organized crime, environmental catastrophes, refugees, epidemics and pandemics, modern slavery – all these affect people in the non-Western world to an increasingly disproportionate extent. It is also where wealthy governments wield economic leverage and military force to renegotiate existing norms of international relations. Under these circumstances, it is difficult to overestimate the importance and urgency of comprehending the mechanisms and motivations driving these phenomena.

This book is the outcome of a decade-long effort to advance both theoretical and empirical understanding of what motivates non-Western governments’ decisions to cooperate/not cooperate regionally. It starts by acknowledging the Western-centrism of prevailing international relations theories, abandoning deeply entrenched assumptions regarding the nature and roles of states, and redefining state weakness. The inquiry continues by elaborating this new concept and applying it to Southeast Asian polities while positing that it creates governments vulnerable to internal and external threats, in line with Joel S. Migdal’s well-known findings on the topic. A set of regional cooperation strategies is then inferred, based on the survival needs of insecure governing elites and its empirical validity is tested against the experience of regional organizations in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

The second part of the book provides an in-depth examination of how Southeast Asian governments’ shared security needs and interests shaped the emergence of the identified regional cooperation pattern and its evolution over 50 years of cooperation within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Overall, this book is a call to international relations scholars to do our part in understanding non-Western experiences and making a substantive contribution to addressing humanity’s most intractable security threats.

Table of Contents

Part One: State Weakness, Government Vulnerability, and Regional Cooperation


2.How Weak States Make for Vulnerable Leaders

3.Weak States, Vulnerable Governments, and Regional Cooperation

Part Two: Government Survival and Cooperation within ASEAN

4.Government Survival and the Meaning and Role of Sovereignty

5.ASEAN’s Decision-making Process

6.Enforcement-related Measures in ASEAN Legal Instruments

7.ASEAN’s Human Rights Regime


View More



Atena Ştefania Feraru is a postdoctoral research fellow at the International Graduate Program in Politics of East China Normal University (Shanghai). She obtained her Ph.D. in International Politics in early 2017 from National Chung Hsing University (Taichung, Taiwan) and this book centres on her doctoral research. Atena published articles in the International Studies Review journal and the Asian Development Policy Review and her research interests include state-society relations, international relations theory, Southeast Asian politics, and non-Western regional organizations.


“Weak States, Vulnerable Governments, and Regional Cooperation: An ASEAN Case Study is a compelling and detailed examination of critical theoretical and empirical questions essential to the study of regional organizations. Feraru engages the increasingly important issue of the applicability of mainstream international relations theory—which is virtually defined by American and British scholars—to the wider world. She uses Migdal’s concept of the ‘politics of survival’ to explore how regional organizations in the developing world are shaped and limited by the interests of the member state regimes concerned for their own survival. The book compares ASEAN, the OAU/AU and the OAS to show the many similarities between these regional actors. The bulk of the book is a detailed historical examination of ASEAN, supplemented by original analysis into how ASEAN’s member states have managed the organization’s newer institutional expansions.

Feraru demonstrates decisively that ASEAN is deliberately and necessarily limited in how far it can impinge on the sovereign interests of its member states. As the book demonstrates, this is an element of ASEAN’s operations that has continued for more than 50 years and is unlikely to change soon. The book is an important and convincing entry into the ongoing scholarly debate about ASEAN’s purposes and efficacy as a regional organization.”

Shaun Narine, Professor of International Relations, St. Thomas University, Fredericton Canada

“This timely book steps out of the shadow of mainstream IR theorising by allowing non-western empirical cases to speak ‘from the ground up’, in a three-step process. Extending but reworking Migdal’s concept of regime security to identify four key strategies of regional cooperation that vary along the control-legitimacy nexus, by analysing these strategies against the broad experiences of key regional organisations in Asia, Africa and the Americas, and by using in-depth empirical analysis of the ASEAN case, Feraru is able to theorise and explain the evolution of the structure and practices of regional cooperation outside the western world on its own terms.”

Helen Nesadurai, Professor of International Political Economy, Monash University Malaysia, Selangor Malaysia