The end of the Cold War and the initial period of globalisation witnessed the latest wave of new regionalism and the mushrooming of new or renewed regional integration organisations all over the world. This phenomenon is puzzling because many new regionalisms emerged in the less developed global South where structural preconditions were less favourable compared to the northern hemisphere - at least according to mainstream integration theories. Moreover, there is evidence that several regional cooperation projects in southern regions are comparatively unstable and not entirely under control of the regional actors. Against this background, the paper addresses the following research questions: What explains the emergence, institutional design and performance of these regionalisms? By taking reference to cooperation theory and the situation-structural approach, this paper elaborates an innovative theoretical framework for the analysis of regionalism which considers the meaning of extra-regional interdependence and takes the influence of external actors explicitly into account. The author argues that patterns of strong and asymmetric interdependence between regional and extra-regional actors may impact the structure of regional problematic situations and put external actors in a position to (in-)directly influence the progress of institutionalised cooperation on regional level. Since these asymmetric relations often prevail between the developed North and the less developed South, regionalisms in the latter hemisphere are consequently more prone to external influence. The theoretical assumptions and hypotheses are elucidated by plausibility probes on empirical case studies from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in the South and the European Union (EU) in the North.
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