Of State Collapse and Fresh Starts: Some Critical Reflections

  • Doornbos M
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Until little more than a decade ago, it would have seemed almost inconceivable even to professional political analysts that incidences of state collapse should be on the increase, that the prospect of short-lived or more enduring statelessness should become more common, and that discussion about these phenomena should be rapidly spreading. For a long time, states were accepted as ‘normal’ in a very basic sense and scholarly perspectives commonly took such ‘normalcy’ as their point of departure (Doornbos 1994). As already noted in Chapter 1, an extensive literature (in history, archaeology, anthropology and political science) developed on the dynamics of state formation — discussing and weighing variables that may have given rise to it, such as conquest, trade routes, population pressure and a range of other factors (see, e.g., Claessen and Skalnik 1978, Doornbos and Kaviraj 1997, Tilly 1990) — but generally there was little writing on state collapse. Normatively, once states had come into existence they were expected to last — and, in recent decades, to help sustain the international system that had in turn come to be based on them. A notable exception to this continuity-based perspective was the historical, and the historians’, interest in the collapse of empires (e.g., Eisenstadt 1988, Gibbon 1952, Lieven 2000). But there are important qualitative differences between empires and state systems, and by implication in the nature of their possible collapse.




Doornbos, M. (2006). Of State Collapse and Fresh Starts: Some Critical Reflections. In Global Forces and State Restructuring (pp. 93–118). Palgrave Macmillan UK. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230502154_5

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