Understanding State Fragility
This chapter begins by considering the origins and motivations of contemporary concern with state weakness (or fragility), and the analytical shortcomings of current paradigms. It then provides historical context, summarizing the origins, gradual spread, and evolving functions of the sovereign state, emphasizing that the state is a relatively recent form of political organization, particularly in the postcolonial world, which helps to account for its current difficulties. After reviewing the various definitions and measures of state failure that have guided the debate among scholars and policymakers, the chapter introduces a new approach to measuring state fragility: the Index of State Weakness in the Developing World. This Index permits comparisons of state strength across 141 developing and transitional countries based on their performance in providing four critical sets of goods: physical security, legitimate political institutions, effective economic management, and basic social welfare. A state is weak (or fragile) to the degree that it has deficits in one or all of these dimensions.
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