Engagement or entrapment? scholarship and policymaking on asian regionalism

Amitav Acharya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


While an interactive relationship between scholars and policymakers is generally regarded as mutually beneficial, there is also the risk of 'entrapment.' The latter occurs when scholars, once having proven their usefulness to policymakers and thereby earned their trust, become unwilling to offer dissenting opinions for the fear of risking their access and privileges. Using Asian regionalism as an example, this article argues that the development of regional institutions in Asia has benefitted from the ideas and input of the two main channels of such scholar-official interaction: epistemic communities and track two dialogues, especially during the formative stages of Asian regionalism (both economic and security). But after gaining access, scholars engaged with officialdom in developing regional institutions have found it difficult to dissent from the official line, and in challenging the shortcomings and failures of Asian regional institutions. In Asia, the danger of entrapment has been strong in authoritarian countries. In general, participation by Asian scholars in the policymaking process has suffered from the inability of scholars and think-tankers (especially the latter) to rise above the national interest and question the official position of their own governments, the ubiquitous presence and dominance of government-linked scholars or retired government officials in track two dialogues, the exclusion of social movements form many such dialogues, the presence and influence of non-specialists (in issue areas) in setting their agenda and outcome, and generational gatekeeping (failure to bring in new faces). As a result, the development of a genuine transnational regionalism has been stunted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-17
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Studies Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011


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