Failed state

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The term failed state is often used by political commentators and journalists to describe a state perceived as having failed at some of the basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government. In order to make this definition more precise, the following attributes, proposed by the Fund for Peace, are often used to characterize a failed state:

Often a failed nation is characterized by social, political, and economic failure.

Common characteristics of a failing state include a central government so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality; refugees and involuntary movement of populations; and sharp economic decline.[1]

The level of government control required to avoid being considered a failed state varies considerably amongst authorities.[2] Furthermore, the declaration that a state has "failed" is generally controversial and, when made authoritatively, may carry significant geopolitical consequences.[2]

Contents

Definition

There is no clear universal definition of a 'failed state'.

A state could be said to "succeed" if it maintains, in the words of Max Weber, a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within its borders. When this is broken (e.g., through the dominant presence of warlords, paramilitary groups, or terrorism), the very existence of the state becomes dubious, and the state becomes a failed state. The difficulty of determining whether a government maintains "a monopoly on the legitimate use of force" (which includes the problems of the definition of "legitimate") means it is not clear precisely when a state can be said to have "failed." This problem of legitimacy can be solved by understanding what Weber intended by it. Weber clearly explains that only the state has the means of production necessary for physical violence (politics as vocation). This means that the state does not require legitimacy for achieving monopoly on the means of violence (de facto) but will need one if it needs to use it (de jure).

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