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Friends in High Places: International Politics and the Emergence of States from Secessionism


  • Coggins, Bridget


State emergence is an essential dynamic of the international system, yet international relations scholars pay it little attention. Their oversight is all the more unfortunate because international politics ultimately determine which aspiring system members will succeed in becoming new states. Existing models of state emergence rely exclusively on internal or domestic-level explanations. However, the international system is inherently social; therefore any aspiring state's membership also depends on the acceptance of its peers. I present a novel, international-level model of state birth that suggests state leaders should use decisions regarding new members strategically to advance their own interests, not passively abide by domestic factors. I test this argument using a new data set on secessionism and Great Power recognition (1931–2000). I find that external politics have important, underappreciated effects on state emergence. Furthermore, acknowledging the politics of recognition's centrality to state birth alters our understanding of civil conflict dynamics and conflict resolution and suggests important implications for system-wide stability.

Suggested Citation

  • Coggins, Bridget, 2011. "Friends in High Places: International Politics and the Emergence of States from Secessionism," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(03), pages 433-467, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:intorg:v:65:y:2011:i:03:p:433-467_00

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    Cited by:

    1. Griffiths, Ryan D. & Guillén, Pablo & Martinez i Coma, Ferran, 2013. "Between the Sword and the Wall: Spain's Limited Options for Catalan Secessionism," Working Papers 2013-17, University of Sydney, School of Economics.
    2. Martijn Huysmans & Christophe Crombez, 2017. "Making exit costly but efficient: the political economy of exit clauses and secession," LICOS Discussion Papers 39717, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
    3. Thomas Denk & Sarah Lehtinen, 2016. "Two modes of democratisation: transition and state-formation," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 50(6), pages 2331-2346, November.

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