Conceptual Clarifications

What Is Limited Statehood ?

Our concept of “limited statehood” requires clarification.2 In particular, it needs to be strictly distinguished from the way in which notions of “fragile,” “failing,” or “failed” statehood are used in the literature. Most typologies in the literature and datasets on fragile states, “states at risk,” and so on reveal a normative orientation toward highly developed and democratic statehood and, thus, toward the Western model (e.g., Rotberg 2003; Rotberg 2004). The benchmark is usually the democratic and capitalist state governed by the rule of law (Leibfried and Zurn 2005). This is problematic on both normative and analytical grounds. It is normatively questionable because it reveals Eurocentrism and a bias toward Western concepts as if statehood equals Western liberal statehood and market economy. We might find the political and economic systems of the People’s Republic of China and Russia morally questionable, but they certainly constitute states. Confounding statehood with a particular Western understanding is analytically problematic, too, because it tends to confuse definitional issues and research questions. If we define states as political entities that provide all kinds of services and public goods, such as security, the rule of law, welfare, and a clean environment, many, if not most, “states” in the international system do not qualify as such. Moreover, such conceptualizations of statehood, which are more than common in the literature on failing and failed states, obscure what we consider the most relevant research question: Who governs for whom, and how are governance services provided under conditions of weak statehood?

Thus, we have deliberately opted for a rather narrow concept of statehood. We follow rather closely Max Weber’s conceptualization of statehood as an institutionalized rule structure with the ability to rule authoritatively (Herrschaftsverband) and to legitimately control the means of violence (Ge- waltmonopol, cf. Weber 1921/1980; on statehood in general see Benz 2001; Schuppert 2009).3 While no state governs hierarchically all the time, states at least possess the ability to authoritatively make, implement, and enforce central decisions for a collectivity. In other words, states command what Stephen Krasner calls “domestic sovereignty,” that is, “the formal organization of political authority within the state and the ability of public authorities to exercise effective control within the borders of their own polity” (1999, 4). This understanding allows us to strictly distinguish between statehood as an institutional structure of authority and the kind of governance it provides. The latter is an empirical not a definitional question—for example, control over the means of violence is part of the definition. Whether this monopoly over the use of force actually provides security for the citizens as a public good and is irrespective of one’s race, gender, or kinship becomes an empirical question. Whether a state’s polity is democratic and bound by human rights also concerns empirical issues that should not be confused with definitional ones.

If statehood is defined by the monopoly over the means of violence or the ability to make and enforce central political decisions, we can now define more precisely what “limited statehood” means. In short, while areas of limited statehood still belong to internationally recognized states (even the failed state Somalia still commands international sovereignty), it is their domestic sovereignty that is severely circumscribed. Areas of limited statehood concern those parts of a country in which central authorities (governments) lack the ability to implement and enforce rules and decisions or in which the legitimate monopoly over the means of violence is lacking, at least temporarily. The ability to enforce rules or to control the means of violence can be restricted along various dimensions: (1) territorial, that is, parts of a country’s territorial spaces; (2) sectoral, that is, with regard to specific policy areas; (3) social, that is, with regard to specific parts of the population; and (4) temporal. It follows that the opposite of “limited statehood” is not “unlimited” but “consolidated” statehood, that is, those areas of a country in which the state enjoys the monopoly over the means of violence and the ability to make and enforce central decisions. Thinking in terms of configurations of limited statehood also implies thinking in degrees of limited statehood rather than using the term in a dichotomous sense.

This conceptualization allows distinguishing among quite different configurations of limited statehood. As argued earlier, “limited statehood” is not confined to failing and failed states that have all but lost the ability to govern and to control their territory (Rotberg 2003; Rotberg 2004; Beisheim and Schuppert 2007; Schneckener 2004). Failed states such as Somalia comprise only a small percentage of the world’s areas of limited statehood. Most developing and transition states, for example, encompass areas of limited statehood as they only partially control the instruments of force and are only partially able to enforce decisions, mainly for reasons of insufficient political and administrative capacities. Brazil and Mexico, on the one hand, and Somalia and Sudan, on the other, constitute opposite ends of a continuum of states that contain areas of limited statehood. Moreover, and except for failed states, “limited statehood” usually does not obtain for a state as a whole but in “areas,” that is, territorial or functional spaces within otherwise functioning states in which the latter have lost their ability to govern. While the Pakistani government, for example, enjoys a monopoly over the use of force in many parts of its territory, the so-called tribal areas in the country’s northwest are beyond the control of the central government and, thus, areas of limited statehood.

It also follows that limited statehood is by no means confined to the developing world. For example, New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 constituted an area of limited statehood in the sense that U.S. authorities were unable to enforce decisions and to uphold the monopoly over the means of violence for a short period of time. However, this book concentrates mostly on cases in which limited statehood in an area’s territorial, sectoral, or social dimension extends over sustained periods of time. For example, the chapter by Chojnacki and Branovic on markets of violence deals empirically with territorially and socially defined areas of limited statehood in mostly sub-Saharan Africa, where the state monopoly over the use of force is systematically lacking. The chapter by Liese and Beisheim focuses on areas of limited statehood in the developing world according to their territorial, sectoral, and social dimensions. The chapter on South Africa by Borzel et al. concentrates on policy sectors in which the South African state does not have the capacity to implement and enforce its own laws.

Moreover, if we conceptualize limited statehood in such a configurative way, it becomes clear that areas of limited statehood are an almost ubiquitous phenomenon in the contemporary international system and also in historical comparison (see the chapter by Conrad and Stange). After all, the state monopoly over the means of violence has only been around for a little more than 150 years. Most contemporary states contain “areas of limited statehood” in the sense that central authorities do not control the entire territory, do not completely enjoy the monopoly over the means of violence, or have limited capacities to enforce and implement decisions, at least in some policy areas or with regard to large parts of the population. This is what Somalia, Brazil, and Indonesia but also the People’s Republic of China have in common and share with modern protectorates such as Afghanistan, Kosovo, or Bosnia- Herzegovina—internationally recognized states that lack “Westphalian sovereignty” in the sense that external actors rule parts of their territory or in some policy areas (Krasner 1999).

The following map presents a graphical description of the phenomenon. It uses a combination of two indicators of the Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) measuring degrees of, first, the state monopoly over the means of violence, and, second, basic administrative structures.4 The countries marked in white are fully consolidated states located in the Western world, as well as a handful of others, such as Chile. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we find twenty-nine failed (marked in black) or fragile (marked in dark gray) countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. The remaining countries (marked in gray)—the vast majority of states in the contemporary international system—contain areas of limited statehood in the sense defined earlier. Note that about 80 percent of the world’s population lives in or is exposed to such areas of limited statehood.

These data have serious consequences for the way in which we think about statehood in general. What if the modern, developed, and sovereign nationstate turns out to be a historical exception in the context of this diversity of areas of limited statehood? Even in Europe, the birthplace of modern statehood, nation-states were only able to fully establish the monopoly over the use of force in the nineteenth century (Reinhard 2007). And the globalization

Degrees of limited Statehood. Source

FIGURE 1.1. Degrees of limited Statehood. Source: Bertelsmann Transformation Index 2010,

of sovereign statehood as the dominant feature of the contemporary international order only took place in the 1960s, as a result of decolonization.

Yet the world today, as an international community of states, is largely based on the fiction that it is populated by fully consolidated states. International law embodies the idea of sovereign nation-states, which the international community assumes are functioning states that command “effective authority” over their territories (see chapters by Schuppert and Ladwig and Rudolf). The international prohibition on intervening in the internal affairs of sovereign states assumes that these states have the full capacity to conduct their own domestic affairs. Ironically, many developing countries where limited statehood constitutes part of the daily experience of the citizens firmly insist on their full rights as sovereign states and are adamantly opposed to any intervention in their internal affairs. Moreover, international law and the legalization of world politics have increasingly embedded states in a net of legal and other binding obligations in almost every policy area (Goldstein et al. 2000; Zangl and Zurn 2004; see chapter by Ladwig and Rudolf in this volume). Yet legalization assumes that states are fully capable of implementing and enforcing the law.

Most international donor agencies and most international state-building and democratization programs—from the World Bank to the European Union and the United States—also presuppose that the modern Western nation-state is the model for “good governance” (Magen et al. 2009). Underneath these programs and strategies is the assumption of modernization theory that the modern state comes as a package consisting of an effective government, the rule of law, human rights, democracy, market economy, and some degree of social welfare. This “governance package” constitutes a world cultural script (Meyer 1987) and is applied to developing and transition countries as well as to failing and failed states. “State building” is part of this governance package that the international community tries to institute in failing or failed states (see chapters by Schneckener and Brozus). But the goal of these measures is always the same: the institutionalization of fully consolidated, democratic, Western-style nation-states.

In short, this volume challenges central assumptions of both development studies and development policies, namely, that fully consolidated statehood has to be the yardstick against which most existing states are measured. Rather, we assume that areas of limited statehood constitute much of the empirical context in most existing states, both in the contemporary international system and from a historical perspective. But this volume is not about exploring the causes of limited statehood. In fact, there are multiple causes ranging from particular colonial histories, resource constraints, failures of nation building, histories of internal warfare, and the like. Exploring these root causes would require a different book. Rather, we take areas of limited statehood as our starting point and then ask how effective and legitimate governance is possible under these circumstances.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >