State Fragility: Some limitations as an explanatory category in development

Brown, Anne (2008). State Fragility: Some limitations as an explanatory category in development. In: Proceedings of: ISA 49th Annual Convention, Bridging Multiple Divides. ISA 49th Annual Convention, Bridging Multiple Divides, San Francisco, Ca.,U.S.A., (1-8). 26-29 March 2008.

Author Brown, Anne
Title of paper State Fragility: Some limitations as an explanatory category in development
Conference name ISA 49th Annual Convention, Bridging Multiple Divides
Conference location San Francisco, Ca.,U.S.A.
Conference dates 26-29 March 2008
Proceedings title Proceedings of: ISA 49th Annual Convention, Bridging Multiple Divides
Place of Publication San Francisco, Ca.,U.S.A.
Publisher International Studies Association
Publication Year 2008
Sub-type Fully published paper
Start page 1
End page 8
Total pages 8
Language eng
Abstract/Summary This paper considers development discourse regarding what is described as state fragility in the Pacific Islands region. The framework of state fragility and failure has been increasingly applied to the region following terrorist attacks in New York and Bali, with fragility and failure linked to the grey area security phenomena, particularly terrorism. States in the region suffer problems commonly associated with poverty and developing states, including periods of violent conflict and severe socio-political crises. As the regional major power, Australia has been taking a leading role in the whole of government approaches to regional problems, bringing together security and development arms of government around state strengthening responses to these regional problems. This paper disputes the assumption that concepts of state failure or fragility help us to understand either the problems with which regional states are grappling, or the challenges of state building. On the contrary, the framework of state fragility may encourage counterproductive approaches.The capacity of many state institutions in the region is weak. However, in focussing overwhelmingly on these institutions, the state failure / fragility framework overlooks significant sources of social cohesion in regional states, and so misrepresents both the nature of the states and their crises. The state failure discourse suggests that the key problem of governance is a failure of already established state institutions. Arguably, however, a very significant, if not the leading problem is that state institutions and processes often lack roots in the patterns of legitimacy and authority that have weight in grassroots communities. While efforts to transfer liberal state institutions have met with varying success, there is a deeply confused relationship between those institutions and prevalent social values and practices. State building efforts have focussed on getting the institutions right, or keeping them sequestered from local practices, and overlooked the challenges of supporting constructive interaction between local practices and state institutions. Policies deriving from the state failure discourse emphasise some aspects of working states at the expense of others. Questions of legitimacy, the role of citizenship, and the interaction between government and community have been significantly overlooked. Development agencies have responded to development and security challenges by focussing on government institutions (particularly justice, security and finance). But the state is not reducible to central institutions. If weak institutions are significantly the result of their lack of grounding in society, then attention to the interface between state and society is critical. Supporting statebuilding lies not only in working with governments, but also with communities, and the structures of legitimacy that provide working underpinnings of social order of the statebuilding from the bottom up. New forms of state or state institution may emerge from this process forms sustainable in Pacific social and economic realities. What would statebuilding look like if the Pacific was approached as if local mechanisms and customary approaches really mattered, and as if the region were engaged in a generative process, rather than struggling (and failing) with state institutions as we know them? The evolution of the state in the Pacific Islands may have things to teach us about the shapes of political community.
Subjects 16 Studies in Human Society
1699 Other Studies in Human Society
Keyword Governance
Pacific Islands
Q-Index Code EX
Q-Index Status Provisional Code

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Created: Mon, 01 Mar 2010, 09:46:39 EST by Ms May Balasaize on behalf of Institute for Social Science Research