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ASEAN 10: The Political and Cultural Dimensions of Southeast Asian Unity

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In this essay, it is argued that the roots of regional cohesion in Southeast Asia have always been rather shallow, and driven primarily by pragmatic security concerns. The primary function of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been to strengthen and preserve the sovereignty of individual states, and not dissolve boundaries or fashion a supra-national identity. ASEAN's very success has nevertheless fostered more idealistic notions of regional identity, expressed as a form of collective nationalism. As ASEAN expands, this imagined Southeast Asian identity must compete with internal and external factors forcing the region apart as fast as it is coming together. And thus, while the world as a whole increasingly accepts the new habits of global civilization, another contradictory process is taking place: ancient traditions are reviving, different religions and cultures are awakening to new ways of being, seeking new room to exist and struggling with growing fervour to realize what is unique to them and makes them different from others (Vaclav Havel, 1995).

Affiliations: 1: Bangkok Bureau Chief Far Eastern Economic Review


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