Redeeming Statebuilding’s Misconceptions: Power, Politics and Social Efficacy and Capital in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States

in Journal of International Peacekeeping
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Statebuilding is believed to be a central development objective. Statebuilding’s track record, however, has been disappointing, as it has typically focused on institution building and capacity development. Even as questions of politics, power, and state legitimation are elevated in importance, the operational guidance of most recent iterations of the statebuilding approach still revert back to institution and capacity building strategies. This is due to a misconception of the nature and structure of the fragile post-colonial state. The relevance and role of the ‘second state’ – polities legally authorized to distribute public goods and services based upon traditional authorities – are too often overlooked. This is despite the fact that the ‘second state’ provides the formal state with much of its legitimacy; delivers the majority of justice and security, and represents the interests of the preponderance of the population. It is also important to distinguish between the ‘second state’ and various non-state actors, groups that do not belong to either the formal or ‘second state,’ but, nevertheless, provide justice and security. Bringing the ‘second state’ and nonstate actors into the statebuilding agenda will redeem it and strengthen individual/group social efficacy and capital, transforming questions of state legitimacy into those of legitimate selfgovernance, without losing the centrality of power in statebuilding’s understanding of politics.


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