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150 Working Paper

Uneven Power and the Pursuit of Peace: How Regional Power Transitions Motivate Integration

2007 – Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni


This paper addresses two related puzzles confronting students of regional and international integration: Why do states willingly pool and delegate sovereignty within international institutions? What accounts for the timing and content of regional integration agreements? Most theories of integration suggest that states integrate in order to solve problems of incomplete information and reduce transaction costs and other barriers to economic growth. In contrast I argue that integration can serve to establish a credible commitment that rules out the risk of future conflict among states of unequal power. Specifically, I suggest that integration presents an alternative to preventive war as a means to preclude a rising revisionist power from establishing a regional hegemony. The implication is that it is not countries enjoying stable and peaceful relations that are most likely to pursue integration, but rather countries that find themselves caught in a regional security dilemma, which they hope to break out of by means of institutionalized cooperation. I evaluate this proposition against evidence from two historical cases of regional integration: the German Zollverein and the European Communities.*An abbreviated version of this paper is forthcoming in the Journal of Comparative European Politics, Volume 6, 2008.