Journal of International Relations and Development

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 122–149

Failed states or a failed paradigm? State capacity and the limits of institutionalism

  • Shahar Hameiri

DOI: 10.1057/palgrave.jird.1800120

Cite this article as:
Hameiri, S. J Int Relat Dev (2007) 10: 122. doi:10.1057/palgrave.jird.1800120


In the post-Cold War era, a voluminous literature has developed to define failed states, identify the causes and parameters of failure, and devise ways for dealing with the problems associated with state fragility and failure. While there is some theoretical diversity within this literature — notably between neoliberal institutionalists and neo-Weberian institutionalists — state failure is commonly defined in terms of state capacity. Since capacity is conceived in technical and ‘objective’ terms, the political nature of projects of state construction (and reconstruction) is masked. Whereas the existence of social and political struggles of various types is often recognized by the failed states literature, these conflicts are abstracted from political and social institutions. Such an analysis then extends into programmes that attempt to build state capacity as part of projects that seek to manage social and political conflict. Ascertaining which interests are involved and which interests are left out in such processes is essential for any understanding of the prospects or otherwise of conflict resolution.


economic developmentfailed statesgovernanceinstitutionalismstate capacitysocial conflict

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan Ltd 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shahar Hameiri
    • 1
  1. 1.Asia Research Centre, Murdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia