The role of trust in a security community: trust-building and the development of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations

Edwards, Scott Adam ORCID: 0000-0003-1046-2519 (2019). The role of trust in a security community: trust-building and the development of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis explores the role of intra-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) trusting relationships in the formation of an ASEAN Security Community. The recognised long peace of ASEAN suggests that the primary outcome of a Security Community, the dependable expectation of peaceful change, exists between ASEAN members. Current literature focuses on this expectation emerging from a collective identity. Whilst this has often been operationalised in the ASEAN case, strong critiques have emerged persuasively arguing that there is no collective identity within ASEAN, encompassing neither society nor elites. Rival theories make claims that can explain certain phases of relations in ASEAN’s history, but cannot persuasively explain ASEAN’s peaceful relations throughout. This thesis, therefore, demonstrates the existence of the dependable expectation of peaceful change and the problems that emerge when utilising collective identity to explain it. Instead, it argues that trust, a recognised but under-theorized element within Security Community literature separate from identity, is an important causal factor in explaining the emergence of an ASEAN security community.

The thesis develops a framework to analyse the development of trusting relationships, primarily between governmental elites embedded in the ASEAN structure, through a longitudinal case study of ASEAN. Through exploring crises, it demonstrates that trust was essential in mediating Malaysian, Indonesian, and Singaporean elites’ decision-making at critical junctures of the relationships, which led to a process whereby the emergence of trusting relationships became a significant and necessary causal factor in generating dependable expectations of peaceful change. Specifically, trust at earlier stages of the relationships was based on calculation and had a more limited impact, but it was still necessary for the emergence of positive behaviour towards one another and a trust-building dynamic to emerge. As knowledge of the other expanded, so too did trust deepen and become reciprocated, and more trusting behaviours were identified in the middle period of ASEAN relations despite crises that threatened to undermine the relationships.

Finally, the thesis argues that these behaviours gained significant meaning within the ASEAN structure, and became embedded as a ‘natural attitude’ through the enactment of trusting behaviours as practice. Through this, the dependable expectation of trust became part of the background knowledge of the structure itself, and dependent on specific practices developed throughout ASEAN’s history rather than the characteristics of the particular actors. I argue that this is particularly important, as it explains how trust can become consistent outside of specific dyads and time, which enables trust to become an important mechanism even in a context whereby leadership is continuously rotating. As such, while agents often change and do not go through the trust-building process, it should not be assumed that trust cannot play a role – instead, it becomes a property of the structure which influences those that join it and enact the practices expected.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: Department of Political Science and International Studies
Funders: Other
Other Funders: Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations


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