Week 6/8: Political Settlements: Weak states, fractured nations


This week’s presentation and discussion was on political settlements and involved another useful DLP paper on the politics of inclusion by Alina Rocha Menocal titled Political settlements and the politics of inclusion (2015).  Another paper I had already read was Statebuilding without Nation-building? Legitimacy, State Failure and the Limits of the Institutionalist Approach (2009) by Nicolas Lemay-Hebert.  I had read it before for my Governance and Statebuilding course in the previous term.  The key discussion that I found most interesting, in both the presentation and the literature was on how to prevent nations from failing.  As my last blog post mentions, South Sudan is an interesting example of a nation that had high hopes falling into chaos due to failed political settlements. Interest from donors exists due to their role in developing nations and their interest in seeing stability in chaos-prone states.  A failed state, as in Somalia’s case, can affect surrounding nations and nations further abroad, directly and indirectly.  For example, Somalia’s Al-Shabaab has operating within Kenya’s borders, destabilizing majority Somali areas of Kenya.  Its radical members have also attacked Kampala in Uganda due to its contributions to the AU stability force in Mogadishu.

Going back to Menocal’s paper, I noticed similarities between it and Lemay-Hebert’s paper on state failure and nation-building vs statebuilding.  An important concept that I learned previously was the nationbuilding approach as a necessary precursor to successful statebuilding.  A common identity, ethnicity, or tradition falls under nationbuilding.  Nations do not necessarily automatically lead to states, as in the case of some ethnic minorities in nations they do not feel that they belong in.  State fragility often exists because of alienation or the lack of common identity, ethnicity, etc.  That means, in my view, that a state is not always recognized as such by its own people because there was no common approach to nationbuilding.  These two papers brought together governance and statebuilding and political settlements (politics) into an interesting hybrid concept.  Both rely on one another.  Take a look at South Sudan again and it’ll make more sense.  Ultimately, I believe that a successful state is one where inclusion is priority.  That takes a massive effort on the part of a state’s subgroups, be they ethnic, social, cultural, or simply rent-seeking stakeholders.  This inclusion really depends on the nature of a state, as every state differs in many respects.  There is no broad methodology behind political settlements that can apply to every state.  As Lemay-Hebert mentions, there is no proper state, or state legitimacy, without functioning state-social relations, and Menocal only reinforces that with the inclusion of political settlements into the debate.  Exclusionary politics only leads to internal fractures in the state.

P.S. There should be no assumption that this is solely a symptom or issue that exists in developing states.  One only has to look so far as the Paris riots and at US race relations to see such relevant issues in Western ‘Weberian’ states.

Below is an excellent article on the European Union and how Europe might need to change the concept of nations vs states in order to succeed. I believe that the EU has been an exercise in separating the nation from the state and we have yet to see if it will continue to bear fruit.

The modern nation-state is and will likely remain the political space in which citizens recognize each other as equals – Carnegie Europe

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