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Failures of the state failure debate: Evidence from the Somali territories


  • Tobias Hagmann

    (University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland)

  • Markus V. Hoehne

    (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle|Saale, Germany)


Much of the current literature on state failure and collapse suffers from serious conceptual flaws. It ignores the variegated types of empirical statehood that exist on the ground, it conflates the absence of a central government with anarchy, it creates an unhelpful distinction between 'accomplished' and 'failed' states, and it is guided by a teleological belief in the convergence of all nation-states. Particularly African states figure prominently in this debate and are frequently portrayed in almost pathological terms. Proposing a comparative analysis of politics in the Somali inhabited territories of the Horn of Africa, this article challenges state failure discourses on both theoretical and empirical grounds. We draw attention to the multiple processes of state-building and forms of statehood that have emerged in Somalia, and the neighbouring Somalia region of Ethiopia, since 1991. The analysis of the different trajectories of these Somali political orders reveals that state formation in Africa contradicts central tenets of the state failure debate and that external state-building interventions should recognise and engage with sub-national political entities. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Suggested Citation

  • Tobias Hagmann & Markus V. Hoehne, 2009. "Failures of the state failure debate: Evidence from the Somali territories," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(1), pages 42-57.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jintdv:v:21:y:2009:i:1:p:42-57 DOI: 10.1002/jid.1482

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Monika François & Inder Sud, 2006. "Promoting Stability and Development in Fragile and Failed States," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 24(2), pages 141-160, March.
    2. Ken Menkhaus, 2003. "State collapse in Somalia: second thoughts," Review of African Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 30(97), pages 405-422, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Addison Tony & Niño-Zarazúa Miguel & Singhal Saurabh & Gisselquist Rachel M., 2015. "Needs vs expediency: Poverty reduction and social development in post-conflict countries," WIDER Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    2. Stel, Nora & Naudé, Wim, 2013. "Public-Private Entanglement: Entrepreneurship in a Hybrid Political Order, the Case of Lebanon," IZA Discussion Papers 7795, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Stel, Nora, 2012. "Entrepreneurship and innovation in a hybrid political order: The case of Lebanon," MERIT Working Papers 078, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    4. Kohnert, Dirk, 2009. "Democratisation via elections in an African 'narco state'? The case of Guinea-Bissau," MPRA Paper 19109, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Pijović Nikola, 2013. "Seceding but not Succeeding: African International Relations and Somaliland’s lacking international recognition," Croatian International Relations Review, De Gruyter Open, vol. 19(68), pages 73-105, July.
    6. Nora Stel, 2012. "Business by Generator The impact of fragility and hybridity on Lebanese entrepreneurship – A Case-Study of the Electricity Sector," Working Papers 2012/52, Maastricht School of Management.

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