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Failing States and Conflict

Kimberly Marten


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Comment on this article   The security studies literature on weak and failing states and their relationship to various forms of conflict (such as civil war, frozen conflicts, organized criminal violence, and terrorism) emerged as a response to the new policy problems facing the international community after the end of the Cold War. This essay will first review the intertwined trajectory of those policy concerns and the literature on failing states and conflict. It will then explore three major themes that have defined scholarly debates in this area: (1) how to define and categorize weak and failing states; (2) how to understand the political economy of warlordism in the “ungoverned territories” that remain after states begin to fail; and (3) whether states should necessarily be reconstructed after they fail, given that many failed states were unnatural and authoritarian postcolonial creations. State weakness in the postcolonial world, particularly in Africa, was defined and studied from a comparative politics and international development standpoint long before it became of interest to the international security studies community. During the Cold War era, most scholars of international security instead focused on strong states as the major sources of threats and conflicts. Research on failing states and conflict evolved later, in response to two sets of events that caused policy ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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