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UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES-CEBU A Commentary on “Asian Practice of Security: Key Features and Explanations” Submitted


A Commentary on “Asian Practice of Security: Key Features and Explanations”

Submitted by:

Hansel Jake Pampilo

Submitted to:

Prof. Mae Claire Jabines


Mankiw, Greg. (2007). Principles of Economics. United States of America. Steve Momper. Levitt, D.S. & Dubner, S. J. (2009). Freakonomics. United States of America: HarperCollins Publishers

Alagappa, Muthiah. Asian Practice of Security: Key Features and Explanations. Stanford University Press

A Commentary on “Asian Practice of Security: Key Features and Explanations”

In the analysis of Asian security practices, Muthiah Alagappa has applied a multi- layered analysis; he interpreted factors in the unit level, systemic and global levels, which is very much useful in integrating ideational factors, social perceptions and in supplementing the material structure in explaining the security concerns of Asian states. An analysis of prevailing theories that seeks to explain Asian security practices shows weaknesses, and fails to explain the whole dynamics of Asian security arrangements, and so an integration of both material and ideational factors is necessary and to enforce views regarding the social factors, incentive theory would be supplementary. In the following paragraphs, the strengths or advantages of the methodology used by the author would be explained, which would then be followed by remarkable points pertaining to the content and substance of the study, in relation to the weaknesses aforementioned. There would also be elaboration on how an integration of incentive theory would be supplementary, and be used to strengthen arguments in the study.

According to Muthiah Alagappa, there is a need to combine material and ideational factors in explaining Asian security practices since ideational factors are critical in explaining internal security practices in Asian states, especially in threat perceptions and aspirations of state actors and decision-makers.

The strength in this kind of analysis is that, it would be possible to show consistencies of the actions vis-à-vis the ideational factors and the material ones. Also, the accuracy of understanding would increase since; leaving out a factor would be less likely due to the rigorous way of analysis. Through this multilayered analysis, it would also be possible to evade the trap of

a structural view of causation wherein only the international factors are considered without considering domestic and internal concerns which include the perceptions and ideas of the decision makers. The method of analysis is also a perfect fit for Asian states since most states in Asia are not cohesive in a sense that all the people have a unified sense of identity or perception of what really is a nation.

Another strong point is that, by providing the limitations of previous theories and working models of Asian security practices, the author was able to pinpoint what is lacking (integration of ideational and social factors) in the existing literature and was successful in addressing that gap to fully grasp the reality of Asian security practice. In addition, by not acknowledging the supremacy of one theory over the other (e.g. realism over constructivism), the author was able to synthesize the strong points of each theory thereby providing a detailed and coherent body of explanations and dynamics of Asian security practices. He was able to supplement the weaknesses of one theory using the strength of the other one.

However, I think an integration of incentive theory of economics would supplement the analysis of security practices of Asian states in the region since incentives comes not only in material form but also includes social ones, those not directly linked to power. (Levitt & Dubner 2009) Also, an incentive theory analysis would take into account the possible gains that have motivated the decision makers to adapt a certain norm or to participate in a cooperation or

association. It would also strengthen the study in a sense, that it was able to provide not only political explanations but also an economic analysis [although the separation is only disciplinal],

and would prove true to the economic principle that “people respond to incentives”. (Mankiw

2007)However, it would be very broad since it would cover not only the direct material gains but also of indirect social ones which include the domestic public opinion and the international

opinion of other states. It may appear redundant since these factors have been already been taken into consideration but it is a relevant complement to liberal theory’s concept of cooperation and absolute gain; and as we can see, it is an important feature of Asian security practices, that security need not always be a zero-sum game. It will also reinforce the idea of rational-choice theory, that decision makers, both state and non-state actors are rational beings that continues to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of an action.

In conclusion, there is an inadequacy of explanations when one tries to explain a social phenomenon in the lens of a single political theory, since no theory is universal and unchanging that can explain all events (only religion does that). To grasp a better understanding of the causal relationships and correlations of factors that may have contributed to the Asian security practices, it is better to look at the weaknesses of the current literature and theories and try to supplement them using the strength of other theories, even to the point of combining material and ideational factors. Also, a multilayered analysis which incorporates the unit level, nation and international level is essential in explaining the Asian security practice, because unlike the common conception of a state, some Asian states are not cohesive units and the region of Asia has a distinct political community development that cannot be taken similarly on the Western practices of security.