ASEAN, Sovereignty and Intervention in
Palgrave Macmillan, 2012
The member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) are famed for clinging to the principle of non-interference in the
internal affairs of other countries and resisting the shift to 'post-
Westphalian' sovereignty, much to the derision of many critics. Yet the
historical record shows that Southeast Asian states have also been
involved in subversion, invasion, annexation, proxy warfare,
peacekeeping, state-building and humanitarian interventions. How do we
make sense of this apparent contradiction, and what is the real state of
sovereignty in Southeast Asia today?
Critiquing mainstream constructivist and realist accounts, this book offers a
fresh, revisionist history of ASEAN. Drawing on political economy, political
geography and state theory, it offers a new approach to theorizing
sovereignty and intervention as technologies of power. Focusing on
ASEAN states' interventions in Burma, Cambodia and East Timor, it
argues that the selective application of sovereignty norms reflects power
struggles within Southeast Asian societies.
1. Theorising Sovereignty and Intervention
PART I: THE COLD WAR
2. The Social Foundations of ASEAN and 'Non-Interference'
3. East Timor: ASEAN and Third-World Colonialism
4. Cambodia: Representation, Refugees and Rebels
PART II: THE POST-COLD WAR PERIOD
5. ASEAN after the Cold War: Capital, Crisis, Conflict
6. Cambodia: From Cold War to Conditionality
7. East Timor: Interdependence and Intervention
8. Burma: ASEAN's Image and the 'Regional Interest'
Anyone who thinks that ASEAN’s ‘non-interference’ principle has not been problematic in practice should read this
original, thoughtful, and debatable book.
Professor Donald K. Emmerson, Director, Southeast Asia Forum, Stanford University
This innovative study introduces new ways of understanding the relations between ASEAN states... Lee Jones
challenges assumptions that these are defined simply by principles of non-intervention and argues that interference and
intervention have also been critical drivers of regional relationships. Most important, he challenges both realist and
constructivist assumptions that state interests and norms can be understood in abstractions of ‘national interest’,
arguing that specific forms of state interest and ideology are the products of deeper conflicts within nations themselves
and across the region. By embedding critical cases in this political economy framework, the author provides a powerful
new analysis of how relations have been forged between the regimes of this increasingly complex and potentially
Professor Richard Robison, Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University, Perth
This engaging, timely and intellectually compelling book manages both to ground political science theorising in the
richness of an area studies investigation, and to speak truth to power. It reminds us, at a time when ASEAN is
increasingly gaining international credibility beyond Southeast Asia, of the Association's sordid, reactionary,
undemocratic and interventionist origins. It exposes the ASEAN principle of 'non-intervention' as patently false, ruling
elites having repeatedly intervened to suppress or contain populist, democratic and socialist protest. The myth has been
shattered; the ‘honourable’ ASEAN diplomat looks more like a local thug.
Professor Patricio Abinales, University of Hawaii
Lee Jones’ new book on ASEAN and the states of Southeast Asia is refreshingly iconoclastic... a worthwhile
independent contribution to the literature and our understanding of ASEAN’s development... ASEAN, Sovereignty and
Intervention in Southeast Asia is an impressive first book by Lee Jones of particular value for scholars and students of
ASEAN, contemporary Southeast Asia, regional organizations and applied International Relations theory. It opens up a
new, rich field of enquiry and debate for the study of ASEAN. As a good book does, it questions the answers of
conventional wisdom while its own answers generate new questions as well.
Professor Malcolm Cook, Dean, School of International Studies, Flinders University, Adelaide (in Contemporary
Southeast Asia 34:2 (2012), 303-6 (link))
There can be no doubt whatsoever that Lee Jones has written one of the most original, innovative and thought-
provoking books on ASEAN of recent years. The term "page-turner" is not usually used to characterise academic works,
but this analysis is so clearly and intriguingly written that it is hard to lay the book down. Even the most seasoned
ASEAN experts will discover new facets to Southeast Asian regionalism in Jones' thoroughly stimulating monograph...
The book not only makes an important theoretical contribution to the study of Southeast Asian regionalism as it
transcends the great divide between social constructivism and neo-realism but, equally important, provides a valuable
insight into the way that member states interact with one another... Lee Jones' book would not be a great one, if it was
not controversial in parts.
Professor Joern Dosch, Professor of Asia-Pacific Studies, University of Leeds (in the ASEASUK Newsletter no.
52 (Autumn 2012), 21-3 (link))
Lee Jones's book is refreshing reading in the otherwise rather commonsensical and atheoretical literature of Southeast
Asian security studies. It gives an important contribution to the study of the normative order of that region... [and] a new,
plausible way of seeing international relations as transnational class relations... the book is a must read.
Professor Timo Kivimaki, Dept of Political Science, University of Copenhagen (in the Journal of Peace Research
49:6 (2012), 877 (link))
Jones’ work is an important and significant contribution to academic literature... Jones clearly places himself against the
current of the typical historiography... This is not some drool account of vapid diplomacy; this work is a forthright
presentation of ideas and positions. And, for its part, it loves pointing out hypocrisy.
Prof Christopher Gennari, Camden County College, NJ (in East Asian Integration Studies 6:8 (2012) [link])
[A]n interesting contribution... the book addresses a highly relevant area of research from both scholarly and policy
perspectives... Through its approach and originality, it complements existing literature by offering new insights. The book
can be recommended to the scholarly community and policy makers. It is of considerable relevance to those interested
in the Southeast Asian region... regionalism and regional collaboration more broadly, given that issues such as
sovereignty and intervention... are of global relevance.
Professor Ramses Amer, Institute for Security and Development Policy, Sweden (in Austrian Journal of Southeast
Asian Studies 6:1 (2013), 232-234 [link])
[A] challenging book... pioneers a new approach to the understanding of regional politics in Southeast Asia... Jones
bravely investigates what sovereignty really means in Southeast Asia today.
Claudia Astarita, John Cabot University, Italy (in Millennium, 41:3 (2013), 656-662 [link])
ASEAN, Sovereignty, and Intervention in Southeast Asia develops its own alternative perspective of sovereignty,
interference, and noninterference in ASEAN, and disproves the stereotype that ASEAN has been “socialized into a norm
of non-interference”. Academics, researchers, and students of international relations (especially those interested in
sovereignty and noninterference) as well as readers concerned about ASEAN and Southeast Asia studies will benefit
from this well-researched book.
Kai Chen, Zhejiang University, China (in Journal of East Asian Studies, 14:1 (2014), 137-139 [link])
Lee Jones [is] one of the most astute Southeast Asian scholars to have emerged on the scene in the recent decade...
[I]n a methodologically rigorous and prudent manner, without at all divorcing himself from the rationalist theories of
international relations nor constructivism, [he] has become one of the few to offer a different, but critical view, of ASEAN.
Dr Kim Beng Phar, Asia Book Reviews, 12 December 2016 [link]
To read a sample chapter, click here.
Full EPUB version here.
Click here to see the book on
Palgrave’s website, and here to
purchase a copy via Amazon.
Selected as one of the Lowy
Institute’s books of the year, 2012.