The failed state is to post-modernity what the nation-state was to modernity. It’s a recent development that is a hallmark of our age – like a state, but incapable of exercising sovereignty over all of its nominal territory. And while it might sound a little far-fetched, the failed state isn’t just coming to the West. It might already be here.
What Is a Failed State?
A failed state is a state no longer exercising effective control over the whole of its nominal territory. This can take a number of forms in practice, such as:
- A de facto separatist nation or nations existing within the boundaries of their de jure territory, competing for the monopoly on legitimate use of physical force.
- Failure of the legitimate authority of the nation to make practical, collective decisions.
- Inability to adequately provide basic social services such as policing, firefighting or emergency medical services to some or all of its territory.
- Inability to connect with other states through diplomatic channels; a lack of participation in the international community.
- A central government incapable of collecting enough tax revenue to operate effectively.
One or several of these factors can be present in a failed state. Once a state is “failed,” this often means widespread crime, corruption and outsized influence by non-state actors.
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