Dear readers, you may be glad to know that I've begun a new appointment at the London School of Economics after completing my PhD from the University of Birmingham. (Hence the sporadic posting the last few days.) I foreshadowed this eventuality when I wrote about visiting London for a job interview [1, 2]. As someone who's written in some detail about Southeast Asia, you shouldn't be surprised that I will be working on matters concerning ASEAN economic integration. As the Asia watchers among you know, ASEAN is scheduled to establish a single market by 2015. Long regarded as a "talk shop," it's an exciting time for a once-dormant grouping in economic terms.
ASEAN economic integration also attracts attention for the political-economic heterogeneity of the countries involved in the process. Whereas European Community countries generally share a history of democratic institutions and Christianity, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) ones British or French colonial histories, and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ones an Arabic lineage, the same cannot be said for ASEAN. You have Asia's only predominantly Catholic country (the Philippines), Islamic ones (Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei), and the other, mostly Buddhist countries. We have military juntas (Myanmar), Communist republics (Vietnam and Laos), fledgling democracies, and monarchies. All this mixed together with states at various stages of development--Singapore leads the pack and rivals Western countries in most indicators--and you have a very interesting project of gelling all these disparate interests.
I of course do not envision ASEAN integration being a mini-EU. That's out of the question given the political contingencies of the association's core principle of "non-intervention in the internal affairs" of other countries. Hillary Clinton suggesting that Myanmar be booted out of ASEAN is certainly viewed as a Yankee intrusion and I think it's she who's more likely to be booted out of Southeast Asia than anyone else. Moreover, a regional currency is certainly not in the cards until ASEAN+3 (including China, Japan, and South Korea) come into the mix. Certainly, there is much research fodder here in goods and services trade as well as investment. One of the things which certainly merits study is how the proliferation of bilateral trade deals in the region hasn't resulted in any substantial increase in the share of intraregional trade. Given the slowdown of traditional export markets in the West, this is no small beer.
Otherwise, I'm still adjusting to my new surroundings. The LSE itself needs no introduction from me. Wikipedia introduces it as the finest institution for studying the social sciences, and it regularly tops the league tables for these disciplines. They say that politics is showbiz for ugly people; perhaps academics is showbiz for brainy people (or those who would like to see themselves as such). Either way, there is no bigger stage than London--the world's capital IMHO despite all the subprime hullabaloo--and the LSE. I just hope that I can leverage my new appointment for greater things in the future.
Once more, I am something of the odd person out in my new post as most of the folks at LSE IDEAS are International Relations people while I am an IPE guy, obviously. At Birmingham, I was, despite my protestations, usually regarded as the token "neoliberal" guy among those into Marxist and neo-Gramscian theory who could debate endlessly about what really happened at the umpteenth Workingmans' International. Seriously, though, it's always good to be among those who do not share your worldview who can open you up to different perspectives. Oftentimes in academia, I've found that those who think most like you are not usually those must willing to help you out.
Before I end, a word of caution: I've found blogging to a be an absolute waste of time in finding a job in academia. This despite the IPE Zone getting decent attention for a blog in a disciple few are admittedly aware of. Either I've written something that's rubbed someone the wrong way--I don't follow simple categorizations--or blogging still doesn't carry much weight in academic circles. Who knows; it may be both. Nevertheless, I will continue to write at the IPE Zone to try and bring the discipline to a wider audience, my warped perspectives and all. I don't really understand my motivation sometimes as it neither earns me money or gets me work. However, the show must go on, albeit from fancier digs!
Regardless of what happens, my best to everyone and thank you for your continued patronage after all these years.