Weak state

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A weak state (synonym for fragile statehood ) is a regime of a state that only insufficiently fulfills certain tasks and obligations towards its citizens that are considered necessary for the state and common good .

Characteristics of a weak state

There is no binding definition of a weak state. The attribution is based on the sum of individual, non-standardized characteristics that are used as criteria for assessment. Typical characteristics of weak states are:

  • the state's lack of a monopoly on the use of force within its territory , because local centers of power have succeeded in building counter-authorities. The state lacks the ability to guarantee the safety of its citizens. The result is a split into ethnic, religious or other social groups.
  • Deficits in legitimacy . The rule of law and the opportunity for citizens to participate politically and sovereignty are limited. Instead, clientelistic distribution systems predominate ( corruption and nepotism ).
  • the inability of the state to fulfill its welfare duties. Revenues are low because the state, with its financial policy and administration, is inadequately able to collect taxes.

After democratic regimes prevailed over coup armies in only a few developing countries in the 1960s and 70s, the state has been the focus of discussion by development and modernization theorists since the beginning of the 80s . While liberals initially explained the economic underdevelopment through overpowering state apparatuses , which are responsible for stifling free, private economic development, and dictatorships were already feared as a state model for the Third World , political science research came to the result that most of these regimes were also political - were institutionally underdeveloped.

In the 1990s, the term failed states was coined for particularly weak states, which were now recognized as a source of danger for the international community ( refugee movement , terrorism ). Legitimacy, the monopoly of force and welfare no longer exist in a failed state. However, this term has been criticized for its blurriness.

Development history of weak states

In the post-colonial states which formed strong state (v. A. In East and Southeast Asia ), the repressive was and economic development drove forward, the exception. In the other developing countries there existed a wide variety of autocratic regimes whose ability to repression was strong, but very weak in terms of development policy. While the countries of Latin America could look back on a longer development history and have a differentiated institutional structure, the Gulf states with their feudalist monarchies also showed a certain political stability , the colonial state creations in Africa were particularly vulnerable. The problem of a weak state apparatus also exists in some CIS countries.

Characteristics of weak states

The post-colonial regimes, especially in Africa, mostly remained loyal to their colonial predecessors and functioned primarily as a rulership and skimming apparatus. The military and police forces were inflated and the establishment of a development administration was not pushed forward with sufficient vigor. In addition, the lower levels of administration were weakened in favor of central government bureaucracies . A large part of the finances is used for personnel and ongoing operations, nothing is left for development from own sources. The neglect of one's own development tasks and the consequent lack of administrative skills in this regard means that third-party development funds cannot be processed and passed on properly. In addition, there are four characteristics of weak states.

“The state is weak because it is poor ; But he is also poor because he is weak. ” Taxes cannot be collected from the poor sections of the population , while the income of the haves is poorly recorded due to the poorly organized financial administration, or taxed too low due to corruption . Foreign companies can usually negotiate tax breaks due to the economic dependence of the regime on their investments. Switching to other tax sources is associated with major developmental disadvantages. Indirect consumption taxes are a burden on the poor in particular, high tariffs usually only lead to increased smuggling across borders that are difficult to monitor and the skimming off of the small profits of the farmers through the instrument of state-prescribed prices ensures the food supply of the urban population, but removes the incentive for the farmers to use their Increase production.

Weak states usually also have a lack of qualified administrative staff . Even if, as in Asia and Latin America, there are enough trained people, the frequent selection based on clientele (e.g. relatives, business partners) instead of skills leads to inefficient administrative processes. The often poor state of the infrastructure (roads, telephone) and language difficulties also contribute to the state's inability to assert itself.

Weak states are also in terms of their position in negotiations with extortion pressure from home and abroad, especially in terms of foreign investment capital - and credit giver. This defenselessness of the state against partial interests is also occasionally denoted with the word banana republic .

The “ bureaucracies are not modern”, in Weber 's sense. Instead of working according to rational, factual organizational rules, the weak state is tied into a thicket of personal and ethnic clientele and patronage relationships. It becomes the prey of power groups that use the state to enforce their private interests against decisions based on the common good . When this phenomenon is particularly pronounced, such a political system is sometimes referred to as a kleptocracy . The form of rule of such states is also known as neopatrimonialism .

Particularly weak states: failed state

The term failed state is scientifically controversial, but has been prominent in the political debate since the 1990s. It describes a weak state in which the central government is increasingly losing control over large parts of its own territory . Widespread crime , armed conflict or serious humanitarian crises can often be found in such states . These can also threaten the stability of neighboring countries. Criticism of the term is mainly sparked by the fact that it can be used to justify self-interested interventions.

According to the State Failure Task Force in 1994, a state breakdown is characterized by the following:

  1. Revolutionary wars : insurgents want to overthrow the central government.
  2. Genocide and political assassinations: by the state itself or by groups it covers
  3. destructive regime changes: sudden changes in government behavior, high instability and intensification of repressive, authoritarian government methods.

Since 2005 the private think tank Fund for Peace has published the Fragile States Index annually in cooperation with the journal Foreign Policy , in which states are examined for their risk of state collapse . The index is based on twelve indicators: strong population growth , large refugee movements, revenge intentions of hostile groups, unevenly distributed economic growth and participation along (ethnic) group affiliations, heavy losses in economic power, increasing criminalization and subsequent delegitimation of the state, advancing deterioration of public services and administrative activities , widespread human rights violations , the security apparatus becomes a state within a state , the fragmentation of the elites and interventions by other states.

From the experiences of the past decades, certain commonalities emerge between states at risk of collapse:

  1. Individual sections of the population are hostile.
  2. Exploitation of the own population by the regime (e.g. Mobutu regime in Congo)
  3. Regions on the periphery of the national territory cannot be monitored.
  4. Violent attacks on the population are not stopped by the state. Warlords and tribal institutions that appear to ordinary people as an alternative, often offer less protection than hoped and pry any constitutional voluntary control of.
  5. Apart from the executive , the state institutions no longer function. There are neither democratic processes of discussion nor an independent judiciary and no equality-preserving , rational administrative activity on the part of the state bureaucracy.
  6. The education and health systems have been informally privatized.
  7. Corruption at all levels of government.
  8. The gross domestic product per capita is falling.
  9. There is a constant threat of food shortages and famine.
  10. The security and welfare deficits, social injustice and widespread lack of prospects often lead to an identification with religious traditions and fundamentalist movements .


In the definition of weak and failing states, too little attention is paid to the fact that a state has failed even if its own people no longer regard it as legitimate, which is expressed, for example, in efforts to achieve autonomy . This delegitimization can be triggered by excessive corruption , even among the highest political leaders. However, there is also the risk that another source of delegitimation, precisely the development policy goal of the minimal state, can become within the framework of the good governance concept , which is sensible in itself . Not only the post-colonial state elites are likely to lose their expensive privileges . The (minimal) state is less and less able to ensure a minimum of political loyalty to the system in addition to its tasks of internal and external security through welfare state and other measures . “If the financial basis of the state is cut beyond a critical minimum, it can no longer fulfill its function for society : political stabilization and social integration .” In addition, there is a great danger that failing states will become “incubators” and at the same time become victims of transnational terrorism, as a comparative longitudinal study in 197 countries shows.

A number of states that are or were considered weak or failed have joined together in the community of interests of the G7 + states .

See also


  • Federal Center for Political Education (Ed.): Disintegrating States. In: From Politics and Contemporary History 28–29, 2005, ISSN  0479-611X , ( available online )
  • Ralf Dahrendorf : Challenges to Liberal Democracies. Lecture on the tenth anniversary of the Federal President-Theodor-Heuss-Haus Foundation. Stiftung Bundespräsident-Theodor-Heuss-Haus, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-9809603-3-5 ( Stiftung-Bundespräsident-Theodor-Heuss-Haus. Small series 19).
  • Thomas Fischer: The sovereignty of the weak. Latin America and the League of Nations, 1920–1936 (= Contributions to European Overseas History, Vol. 98). Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2012, ISBN 978-3-515-10077-9 .
  • Franz Nuscheler : Learning and work book development policy. 5th, completely revised edition, Dietz, Bonn 2004, ISBN 3-8012-0350-6 .
  • Ulf-Manuel Schubert: State collapse as a problem of the international system. Tectum-Verlag, Marburg 2005, ISBN 3-8288-8839-9 (also: Berlin, Freie Univ., Dipl.-Arb., 2004).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Franz Nuscheler: Learning and work book development policy. Chapter XIV - 1. The Corrupt 'Weak State'. Bonn 1995, p. 337 ff.
  2. Neyire Akpinarli: The Fragility of the 'failed state' paradigm: A Different International Law Leiden: Brill, of 2010.
  3. ^ Franz Nuscheler: Learning and work book development policy. Chapter XIV - 1. The corrupt 'weak state' , Bonn 1995, p. 338.
  4. ^ Franz Nuscheler: Learning and work book development policy. Chapter XIV - 1. The corrupt 'weak state' , Bonn 1995, p. 339.
  5. ^ Franz Nuscheler: Learning and work book development policy. Chapter XIV - 1. The corrupt 'weak state' , Bonn 1995, p. 340.
  6. ^ Rainer Tetzlaff: Good governance. In: Development and Cooperation 5/6 , 1995.
  7. James A. Piazza: Incubators of Terror: Do Failed or Failing States Promote Transnational Terrorism? In: International Studies Quarterly , Vol. 52, Issue 2, September 2008, pp. 469–488.