In brief: The Origins of Mercosur

The Origins of Mercosur: Democracy and Regionalization in South America
Gian Luca Gardini
2010, Palgrave Macmillan
267 pages, hardback

THIS IS just how an academic book should be, embracing unabashedly the interview as a central technique of research. There are researchers whose social skills steer them away from human contact, but Gardini is clearly not one of them, and the result is a novel and enlightening revisionist study of the political processes behind integration in the Southern Cone as well as a terrific read that legitimizes the use of oral history and places human agency at the centre of analysis. The author’s objective is to explore the rather neglected coincidence between regionalization and democratisation in the sub-region between 1985-91 and to mount an investigative foray into what, if anything, was behind this – that is, what role democracy played in the rise of Mercosur. Gardini argues persuasively from a thorough examination of diplomatic relations between two neighbours who, at times, were clearly not the best of friends, that democracy was clearly a factor in integration in this case. As he suggests, the extent to which democracy was placed at the centre of integrationist discourse was itself significant, and colours positively one of Latin America’s great modern political achievements. Democracy both conferred legitimacy and room for manoeuvre on both negotiating presidents and informed the guiding principles of the emergent foreign policies. The long-term outcome has been to entrench this guiding principle at the heart of Latin American integration – and unity – a thoroughly optimistic outlook for a region now demonstrating just how far political will can take us. This work makes a valuable contribution to scholarship on democracy, integration and the consequences of regime change on international relations, and should become an essential work on courses about Latin American politics, diplomatic history and international relations. – GO’T

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