Handbook of Governance and Security
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Handbook of Governance and Security

Edited by James Sperling

The Handbook of Governance and Security examines the conceptual evolution of security governance and the different manifestations of regional security governance. In particular, James Sperling brings together unique contributions from leading scholars to explore the role of institutions that have emerged as critical suppliers of security governance and the ever-widening set of security issues that can be viewed profitably through a governance lens.
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Chapter 15: Regional security governance and collective action

Poorneema Devi Bujun, Martial Foucault and Frédéric Mérand


Security is a public good when every member of a group benefits from it. To produce security, various regional governance organizations were created in the last century, such as the EU or the OAS. These organizations require that states engage in collective action to produce regional security, for example, by investing in joint military capabilities or enforcing mutual arms control. This chapter identifies the effects of regional security governance features on the propensity of states to contribute to or abstain from such collective action. We argue that security governance arrangements contain incentive structures, institutional rules and norms that make it more or less likely that states will attempt to free ride, that is, that they will decide not to contribute. This argument, which derives from international relations theory, complements the economic literature that analyzes free riding as a function of the nature of the public good, namely, whether it is ‘pure’ or partly private (or ‘impure’). As James Sperling (Chapter 6 of this volume) argues, regional security governance can take many forms. In all cases, free riding is likely to occur, but the causes and consequences are different. When it resembles the realist balance of power, security governance encourages the expression of naked interest among states. Power trumps rule-following, and identity or feelings of belonging are irrelevant. The regional context is characterized by a security dilemma in which collective action exists, for example in the shape of strategic alliances, but it is directed against others.

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