Teses Defendidas

The architecture of peace in South America: regionalism and the transnational historical bloc

Fernando Ludwig

Data de Defesa
11 de Setembro de 2015
Programa de Doutoramento
International Politics and Conflict Resolution
Maria Raquel Freire
This project problematizes peace in South America through a neogramscian perspective of regionalism, applying the concept of a transnational historical bloc, with the goal of analyzing the operationalization's role of this concept in the maintenance or consolidation of peace. The existence of long periods of peace (here understood as the absence of direct state violent conflict in South America) brought up to discussion whether this region follows a natural course of history (that is, a region marked by non violent state conflict) or, on the contrary, is an anomalous region regarding conflicts and conflict resolution. In this project it is argued that regionalism provides the basis for such peace to occur, which leads to its understanding as an anomaly across peace studies. This relation between regionalism and peace is far from innovative. The very creation of the European Union was underpinned by this idea. Nevertheless, the innovation of this project is to question this relationship through the analysis of the role of the transnational historical bloc in South America. In this way, the research question addressed seeks to understand the role of the transnational historical bloc in the creation/consolidation of southern American peace through regionalism.
Even though it is not possible to establish a causal nexus between peace and economic development (via regional integration), it would, at least, be prudent to say that these two concepts are mutually interdependent. The importance of this approach to peace studies is that it is normally seen as being one of the most quoted aspects of South American regionalism, particularly among Mercosur's member states, as being a hold back in terms of deepening integration. What is important to stress in here is the fact that security and economic development are an ever-present issue for political elites and civil society in South America .
In spite of the role played by the relationship between economic development and security in South America, this project looks at a still not well-researched element of peace in South America: the transnational historical bloc. In order to apprehend this notion, a previous step is needed, the understanding of the notion of historical bloc. For a historical bloc to exist there must be a dominant or hegemonic social class, e.g. political and economic elites (Cox, 1983; Leysens, 2008), in conjunction with other elements, which include the channels of influence used by this dominant social class (political party, religious group or movement, military establishment, educational system, etc.) (Sassoon, 1987). For Gramsci (Gramsci, 1971: 12), civil society means socio-political forces that interact with each institutions in order to form their political identities; these are manifested by private institutions such as religion, schools, associations, and political parties. Closely connected with the concept of civil society is the concept of political society, or the state, which is part of the superstructure, and it is at this state level that civil society struggles occur. By definition, states embrace both the use of legitimate violence (military and police forces) and bureaucracies (legal system, education, public services, the press, means of communication) (Bocock, 1986); in short, they represent what Lenin called the "dictatorship of the proletariat", meaning that it is through these channels of domination that the dominant class exerts its influence so as to maintain (or form) consensus. Hegemony thus permitted Gramsci to enlarge the concept of state, leading to a broader and a more complex formulation that would include the major support of political structures in civil society (Cox, 1983: 51). Transposing such idea to the international sphere, one could see for example formation of regional institutions.
This idea follows Cox's operationalization of Gramsci's thought into a globalized world order, where he advocates that international organizations are a mechanism of consensus and therefore hegemony formation. Here, one can clearly see the transposition of Gramsci's concept to the international arena. Recovering the understanding that the formation of a hegemonic notion is precluded by the formation of a historical bloc, at this point Cox leaves us with the possibility of the formation of historical bloc at the regional/international level (Cox, 1983: 171-173) as has been argued in this project. At the same time that Leysens criticizes the "controversial jump" from the national to the international level made by Cox's interpretation of Gramsci concepts, he argues that "The world order is, therefore, made up out of and can be described in terms of social forces, as well as in terms of the interactions between states. The latter are at the interface (in a permeable sense) between transnational and domestic compositions of social forces in a specific country" (Leysens, 2008: 53). This reinforces the idea of Gramsci's thought applicability at the present world order.

This project has been structured to fulfill its ontological objective, that is, to ascertain whether there is a transnational historical bloc in South America today that contributes to the maintenance of a peculiar peace in the region, bearing in mind the creation and development of Mercosur. When it was created, one of Mercosur's main goals was to coordinate macro-economic policies among its members (Martins and Carcanholo, 2005). Thus, the Treaty of Assunción announces the establishment of a common market proposing: (a) the free movement of goods, services and factors of production; (b) a common external tariff, and (c) the adoption of a common trade policy in relation to third states or groups of states (MERCOSUL, 1991: Article I). Mercosur's trajectory after its creation involved successive attempts at consolidation. For example, the Protocol of Ouro Preto, in 1994, gave the bloc "international legal personality" and elevated it from a free trade area to a customs union; the Protocol of Brasilia, which redefined the mechanisms for resolving controversies, a change that provided member states with a political arena to solve their disputes, seeking to avoid the resort to armed conflict. Furthermore, the Protocol of Ushuaia, signed in 1998, added to the mechanisms agreed previously by establishing the democratic clause for its participants, which had been fundamental to standardize its member in terms of internal structure across member states and also reinforce the specific nature of conflict resolution regionally. Here, as always, it is necessary to bear in mind the regional and international context in order to better understand the pros and cons of regional integration in South America, mostly due to the high dependence on external factors in economic and cohesion terms.
In the early years of its existence, and especially after the 1994 signing of the Protocol of Ouro Preto, Mercosur achieved an impressive degree of integration and intra-bloc convergence, growing about 400% up to 1998 in terms of economic trade (Drummond, 2003: 88). The Asian financial crisis of 1997 had an impact on South America in mid-1998 to early 1999, which resulted in serious disagreements among Mercosur's member states and led Brazil to take the most significant action related to the integration process in this period: the devaluation of its currency. International financial crises continued to drag South American countries into recession and instability, and in 2001 the economic collapse of Argentina weakened the integration process still further. In a way, these two crises made it possible for Brazil and Argentina to bring their economies closer together. These events were followed by an attempt to re-launch the very basis of economic integration (2002 onwards), with the Protocol of Olivos (2002) which marked the re-launch of Mercosur's integration vis-à-vis the previous crises and the stagnation that resulted from these and, consequently, at the same time, expand it to other strata, such as civil societies and political structures among member states, to create cohesion.
Albeit the argument presented in this project, the application of a gramscian and neogramscian perspective within peace studies to analyze UN peacebuilding, the role of civil society, liberal peace has been done in others contexts (Belloni, 2001; Bouillon, 2004; Paul, 2007; Taylor, 2010), highlighting how these factors are taken in consideration in order to achieve a certain degree of peace. However, such interpretations do not consider both South America peace and the analysis of a transnational historical bloc through regionalism, which reinforces the originality of this project. Additionally, none of them analyzes the maintenance of a peculiar peace in South America through the investigation of the role of the South American transnational historical bloc in this maintenance. This fact clearly reinforces the originality of this project.

Literature review

Focusing on the nature of the armed conflicts within the field of peace studies and conflict resolution, the South America region is often characterized as being an "anomaly" in terms of the occurrence of inter-state conflicts (Mares, 2001). But this fact does not mean that South America should be regarded as a peaceful region. In fact, disputes and grievances normally arising from territorial disputes, plus asymmetries between South American countries, explain why this region is termed a "zone of relative peace" rather than a "peaceful zone" (Holsti, 1996: 161), and so it is marked by a "negative peace" (Galtung, 1969), characteristic that configures the singular architecture of peace in that region, that is the absence of direct armed conflicts between states.
Considering this specific peace, it is important to explore the conditions of war in order to stress the fact that such region has been characterized by peace albeit its particularities proxy to conflict. Boulding (1978) has differentiated stable peace from unstable peace. Whereas the former is based on the concept of security communities, that necessarily need a certain degree of integration among groups, the latter, on the contrary, relies on understanding why countries with latent conflicts of interests are able to coexist peacefully, concluding that there are at least four hypothesis that determine such condition (Boulding, 1978). As he pointed out,
"Hypothesis 1: A state of peace is most likely to emerge among states that are heterogeneous in the exercise of national power. Hypothesis 2: A state of peace is most likely to emerge among states that are heterogeneous in their economic activities. Hypothesis 3: A state of peace is most likely to emerge among states that are homogeneous in their societal attributes. Hypothesis 4: Even if the exercise of power, economic activities, and societal attributes favor pacific relations, some catalytic event may be required to set the process of reconciliation in motion. The most probable candidate for this role is an acute crisis between the two states" (Boulding, 1978: 12-17)

The literature on regionalism, from the point of view of a cohesive definition of regionalism within IR theories has not been much developed and, consequently, there is no consensus regarding a solid definition. Nonetheless, the rise of regions, instead of a worldwide cohesive block, has been the subject of analysis by scholars in different areas (Bach, 2005; Das, 2004; Pomfret, 2007; Wunderlich, 2007). Yet, it is still fundamental to distinguish between regions, regionalism and regionalization. Fawcett points out that regions are units based on shared characteristics, which might be permanent or institutionalized; regionalism thus implies a harmonization of common interests in order to achieve regional cohesion in one or more areas; finally, regionalization is essentially a process that concentrates activities at the regional level (Fawcett, 2005: 23-27).
However, the rupture between regionalism and the so-called "new regionalism" is represented by new forms of socio-political relationship between states based on the notion of territory, rather than administrative and legal structures (Albrechts et al., 2003). As Scott pointed out "[New] Regionalism - understood as a paradigm - integrates notions of economic dynamism, administrative efficiency, community-empowerment, civil society, responsive governance within a spatial framework, the region." (Scottt, 2009: 4). This new-regionalism reflects also conflict resolution mechanisms, which helped member states to reach cohesion and consensus in all spheres (social, political and economic).
Apart from sporadic cases , conflict resolution in South America has most often followed negotiation and diplomacy in the settlement of disputes, which makes it useful to think of solidification of peace in regional, rather than global, terms. It is somewhat well-known the South American notion that 'South American issues must be dealt with by South American countries'. In fact, there are some advantages to studying peace and peace formation from a regional rather than a global perspective. For instance, Diehl pointed out that the creation of consensus among regional organizations' member states is better than in global organizations (Diehl, 2007). It is associated with a clear definition of the interests of member states, thus enabling proper engagement to seek alternative solutions to possible armed conflicts (Lake and Morgan, 1997). Furthermore, Pevehouse noted that, apart from the economic links - and their inherent effects - between regional organizations' members states, the democratic element widely found in South American regionalism (Mercosur and Andean Community) has a fundamental role in armed conflict prevention (Pevehouse, 2005). Furthermore, it is easier to reach consensus and/or disputes resolution when less states are involved in.
In order to understand the role of regionalism and its relation with the transnational historical bloc to consolidate South America's peace, it is important to stress out the formation of what Gramsci called historical bloc. The combination of all levels of society - i.e. political, civil and economic - forms what Gramsci called the blocco storico (historical bloc). Using a Marxist language, the historical bloc is formed by the interaction between the structure and the superstructure (Gramsci, 1971; Gruppi, 1978; Portelli, 1977). This concept of historical bloc relies necessarily on the notion of hegemony, which simultaneously should involve all levels of society (Gruppi, 1978) as well. So, for a revolutionary event to happen it is crucial that the elites of the political and civil societies organize themselves with a view to replacing the previously pre-established order. Cox affirms that "a new bloc is formed when a subordinate class (e.g., the workers) establishes its hegemony over other subordinate groups (e.g., small farmers, marginals)" (Cox, 1983: 57).
Concerning the institutionalization of power, in his book Promoting Polyarchy, Robinson (1996) argues that the central dynamic of the world system is measured by states' ability to accumulate capital, relying on the capitalist means of production. The dynamics of political, social and economic relations between the centre (interested in maintaining or improving its sphere of influence and its capital accumulation) and the periphery (ultimately interested in changing the status quo) is marked by a paradoxical alternation of conflict and cooperation, where regionalism inhere plays an important role as an arena to solve controversies. According to Robinson, transnational elites are the product of a cluster of organized groups with common interests, using the logic of global accumulation of capital. In his conceptualization, they are also divided into "junior partners" from the South and "senior partners" from the North; the former would cover the local or regional elites' interests, while the latter would be involved in a broad-spectrum of capitalist interests. Furthermore, the transnational elite is endowed with a neo-liberal project to allow the optimal mobility of transnational capital (economic project), resulting in the progressive erosion of national borders (Robinson, 1996: 35).
This project seeks thus to identify whether such South American elites constitute a South American historical bloc and, additionally, to understand its role through regionalism, in this case Mercosur, over the formation/solidification of South America's peace. The transposing of a, at least in its initial conceptualization, primary historical bloc that rules within the national border to the regional/international sphere, will be pursued following on Cox's (1983) understanding of the relevance of international organizations as instruments of consensus formation. In fact, and following on Portelli (1977), the concept of historical bloc and hegemony are mutually interdependent: the former concept uses the latter to explain social and, in this case, regional formation of power.

Conceptual proposal

This project aims at re-reading neogramscian literature regarding regionalism and peace, in particular in the South-American context, looking at the particularities associated to the maintenance and/or achievement of peace. In this way, it seeks to analyze how the concept of transnational historical bloc influences the maintenance of peace in the South American context, through regionalism, and more specifically in the context of Mercosur and its member states' actions.
South-American peace is more the result of the transnational historical bloc cohesion than from the absence of armed conflicts throughout its history or, as Martín (Martín, 2006a) pointed out, the natural course of history. In sum, one of the main goals of this project is to understand why South American actors have, until now, resorted to mechanisms of pacific conflict resolution rather than those of armed violence, even in contexts where it could have happened. It is argued that the option for regionalism has strengthened this position. Therefore, one of the goals of this project is to investigate the existence of what I call a "transnational historical bloc", represented by the regional institution Mercosur, as a regional/transnational historical bloc. The density of this approach relies on the proximity of this concept to social class (re)organization, predominantly attached to the national level, but, in this case, transposed to the international/regional level.
There are at least two proposals regarding the possibility of transposing the national historical bloc formation to the international relations sphere and, consequently, of forming a possible "transnational historical bloc" through regionalism. The first one consists of a juxtaposition of member states' historical blocs whose international interests converge to maintain or improve both the domestic and international hegemonic status quo. In this case, the "transnational historical bloc" is formed by the national (domestic) historical blocs of a certain regional organization. Bearing in mind that this latter is the combination of the dominant modes of production (structure) and the political and civil societies (superstructure), it is valid to affirm that the choice of integration serves the purposes and interests of hegemonic groups within national borders. Another possible transnational historical bloc results from the convergence between transnational relations of production (structures) interests, which, in a more integrated and globalised world, transcend state borders and are merged into regional organization commitments (legal and political norms).
In both cases, the concept of transnational historical bloc relies on a collective interest shared by the dominant classes. Even though Carnevali (Carnevali, 2005: 45) stresses the inapplicability of the Gramscian concept of historical bloc to the international arena, due to its close connection with social class, it is fundamental to mention the importance of an emergent transnational class, based on shared capitalist interests. Under this conceptualization, part of this "transnationalization" of historical blocs will follow the course of a transnational capitalist class (see Robinson and Harris, 2000; Sklair, 2001; Sklair, 2002).
Ultimately, the transnational capitalist class would embrace the neo-liberal order as one of its major premises, insofar as an elite-driven hegemonic project would be undertaken by certain capitalist groups whose intentions are reflected in an enlargement of their sphere of influence through a neo-liberal order.
One fundamental aspect concerning the relevance of this project relates to the analysis of the transnational historical bloc and of the complementary transnational class that is associated to it. However, there is an important handicap concerning the concept of transnational class that should be taken into account, which is its major focus on capitalist/economic classes across borders (Arrighi, 1993; Pijl, 1998; Robinson, 2005, 2006; Robinson and Harris, 2000). In order to overcome this limitation, this project makes use of the 'transnational historical bloc' notion, which includes not only the economic capitalist classes, as already mentioned, but also its relationship with other spheres (civil, political and economic) within and across national borders. This allows for a broader and more complete understanding of South American reality regarding its architecture of peace.
Thus, in terms of regional security we seek to problematize the specificity of peace in this region and the consequences arising from regional integration. So, might regionalism be seen as an instrument of peace? Even though it is not possible to establish a causal nexus between security and economic development, via regional integration, in South America, it would at least be prudent to say that these two concepts are mutually interdependent. We intend to show how the paradoxical nature of conflict in South America is the source of both economic stability and instability, causing political disputes. The importance of such relation regarding economic stability and the absence of direct conflicts between states is that it is normally seen as being one of the most quoted constraints on South American regionalism, particularly among Mercosur's member states.
Meanwhile, the path towards economic integration taken by South American countries in the 1990s has had relevant impacts over the architecture of peace regionally. One outcome is appeasement or preventing the escalation of conflict arising from domestic and/or diplomatic disputes to the level of armed conflict. It is worth stressing in relation to this that Mercosur is essentially the product of national elites' interactions. According to Robinson's argument, Mercosur would be classified as a "junior" (located in the South) partner of a capitalist world system that is simultaneously defending regional and global elites' interests. This could be interpreted as being the two sides of the same coin: on the one hand, as part of a regional independence project, the intention is to allocate Mercosur a better position within the international system, and on the other hand, as part of the transnational class originally from the North and, therefore, part of the United States of America (and its allies') hegemonic project at the region. It is evident that these issues are closely linked with the definition of state.
This project takes the extended conception of state, which includes the Gramscian perspective of civil society and the state (part of the political society) that underlies the basis of the global structure. Identifying social groups or hegemonic strata is beyond the scope of this study, however. But the importance of the South American elites to the formation of Mercosur should be noted, mostly through coercive supremacy at the regional level by direct (political and economic) and indirect (ideological) power.
During its lifetime, so far, Mercosur has been an easy target for criticism of all kinds (political, institutional, economic, social, etc.) driven by specific international actors (states, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, private sector leaders, etc.). The major questions related to regionalism in South America nowadays allude to the constraints and flaws of Mercosur and its role in the most recent agreement for the possible merger of Mercosur and the Andean Community, creating the Union of South America Nations (UNASUR), launched in 2007, in Caracas, and culminating with the signature of its constitutive treaty in May 2008, in Brasilia. This event evinces the willingness of a deepening in the relationship of the South American transnational bloc. Moreover, this can be understood as an enlarging of Mercosur's transnational historical bloc, namely Andean Community, and therefore an effort to make the region more stable and hence a more peaceful one. That could be understood as showing elites cohesion from the South American transnational historical bloc, at the regional level, in terms of regionalism, and its importance to explain the consolidation of South American peace.
The relative success of Mercosur trade and economic achievements in its early years was probably the main cause of a collective lack of interest in consolidating and improving the organization. Mechan (2003) pointed out the most relevant issues that became constraints on Mercosur's development, preventing it to fulfill its objective, which is essentially the region development (social, political and economic). First, Mercosur has a political problem of leadership, with Brazil, Argentina and, in process of adhesion, Venezuela vying to be the dominant power in the region. The antagonistic behaviour of these countries, even the most radical of them - Venezuela - involves becoming the leader without effectively endowing the organization with any supranational power, that is the case of Brazil according to Lafer (Lafer, 2007). Consequently, any proposal of shared sovereignty would be automatically removed from the organization's agenda. In spite of this, it is worth mentioning Carranza's (2003) argument about the survival of Mercosur and its impact on world politics. Using the example of Brazil and Argentina's "trade wars", he asserts that Mercosur was able to survive the above crises, and, furthermore, for the first time these two countries were able to discuss their macroeconomic policy disputes face to face, in order to converging their policies (2003: 70). The immediate result of the decision to settle disputes was the signature of the Protocol of Olivos for Disputes Settlement, in 2002. However, the fragility of Argentina since its crisis in 2001 also affected Mercosur as a whole, as Carranza put it: "a weak Argentina means a weaker Mercosur" (Carranza, 2003: 94).
Another controversial factor in South American regionalism is the lack of solid institutions able to resolve controversies. But, as Mecham points out, Mercosur suffers from "politically driven malfunctions" (2003: 385), where controversies are normally solved by ad hoc meetings. In addition, the lack of judicial development and an effective legal framework that could harmonize internal and external legal systems in member states makes it difficult to form an effective apolitical legal body within South American regionalism (Mecham, 2003).
One last factor that could be interpreted as a constraint to Mercosur's development, especially for the purpose of this work, is the fact that the group is still a product of political elites (as mentioned above). Despite the attempt to bring civil society into crucial aspects of Mercosur's decisions, its full insertion is far from being a reality in member states. Although, similarly to the European integration process, where civil society participation only appeared after political society's consolidation, Mercosur has been trying to introduce some sectors of civil society into political decisions and the integration process. The establishment of 'Mercosur social', in 2001, is one example, and the declaration and regulation of workers' rights in 1998 is another. But these examples are still very hesitant, when it comes to giving South American civil society the crucial role over the formation of a transnational historical bloc consciousness, as foreseen by Gramsci.
In sum, South American regionalism contributes, albeit visible flaws, to harmony among Mercosur's state members concerning their policies. Moreover, this attitude contributes to the absence of inter-state conflicts in the region, in other words, contributes to the solidification of South America's peace. The proximity caused the deepening of such policies at the Mercosur state members level also have been influenced by the willing of the transnational historical bloc, which formed by organic relation of the structure and the superstructure, that means an interdependent relation. In addition, it is aimed to analyze how the political and ideological discourse (superstructure), along with the economic element (structure), among Mercosur' member states, legitimize the formation of such peace in South America.


In order to fulfill its ontological and epistemological purpose, this project shall resort to primary and secondary sources, including official documents and discourses as well as scientific articles and manuscripts on the topics under analysis. Additionally, this research envisages the conduct of interviews to relevant actors, aiming at better informing the study. Qualitative interviews will be conducted with regional political elites, academics and government authorities with a view to understanding the existing linkages between national and transnational elites' interests. Semi-structured interviews, allowing for a comparison pattern, and following the snow-ball technique, that might enhance the number and quality of interviews to be made, are planned.
This study includes also as a relevant part of the illustration of the argument developed, the analysis of a case study. The reason for including it is that it will allow for a clarification of this thesis main argument and better explain how the variables under analysis relate in the transnational historical class conceptualization and practice. The case-study will focus primarily on Mercosur as a regional organization, and therefore incarnating regionalism as envisaged by this analysis, as eventually constituting a mechanism for reinforcing peace in South America, as well as a look at Mercosur's member states, as previously mentioned. The case study aims, therefore, at demonstrating how the transnational historical bloc has influenced or changed the architecture of peace, regionally and within the international system.

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