‘Bringing international politics back in’: reconceptualising state failure for the twenty-first century
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This article argues that the failed-state phenomenon is not unique to the post-cold war era, nor is it uniquely threatening in comparison with other historical periods. The article contends that state failure is not primarily a failure of formal institutions of governance but a subjective condition defined by the great powers. 'Bringing international politics back in' is essential to a clear understanding of the issue for an emerging multipolar international system of the twenty-first century. The article draws on classical realist and critical constructivist perspectives to define state failure before developing a theoretical framework to reconceptualise the issue in a historical and international systemic context. Interpretations of state failure are based on the interplay of contingent transnational threats with the distribution of capabilities in the international system, the pattern of order in the international society, and the sensitivity of the domestic polities of leading actors to risk. The article draws some implications of this for the coming decades of the twenty-first century.
Australian Journal of International Affairs
Copyright 2010 Routledge. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.