Failed State of Political Theory

Elden also writes about Somalia. Here is where much of the American debates over “public reason” clearly are artificial. All states by definition arise out of “failed states,” but you have endless discussions on “a priori conditions” or states of nature, when you have very real conditions of building up political institutions in many places across the world. I have problems with the moniker of the “failed state,” but somehow Somalia’s attempt to build any stable institutions in light of a whole history that I can’t revisit here is little discussed, but we see endless papers, say, on how to balance French Canadian interests against the “universal” interests of the Canadian state…


  1. A very interesting document on ‘Failed States’ is Foreign Policy’s “Failed States Index”:

    It appears on their website with the tagline “The World’s Most Vulnerable Nations — And the Bad Guys Who Keep Them That Way”. (Because we know that the world’s problems are all down to evil black men, obviously.)

    It ranges from the insensitive and oversimplifying to the overbearingly orientalist (not to say borderline racist), but that is the ‘failed state’ thesis all over.

    Whoever heard of, instead of a ‘failed’ state, a ‘successful’ tribal structure? Presumably because such pre-modern notions are inherent failures — only states either can fail OR succeed.

    The state is the only game in town even when it’s not.

    There is a large body of literature on this topic within security studies but it hasn’t made a dent on the neoliberal mainstream (which Foreign Policy embodies thoroughly).

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