Friday, March 2, 2012

Predatory Nation-Building In Africa

What is the relationship between nation- and state-building? Originally, nation-building referred to the efforts of newly-independent nations, notably the nations of Africa to:
"reshape colonial territories that had been carved out by colonial powers without regard to ethnic or other boundaries. "
I got a valuable reacton to my blogpost "Does Africa Need Nation Builders?" focusing on the difference between nation and state:
" nation /= state. Author shouldn't blur them. And the dilemma of the state is far more complex than author seems to suggest."
I have to admit, when I wrote my blogpost, I myself had a similar gut feeling. As Wikipedia writes:
"Traditionally there has been some confusion between the use of the term nation-building and that of state-building (the terms are sometimes used interchangeably in North America). Both have fairly narrow and different definitions in political science, the former referring to national identity, the latter to the institutions of the state."
Apparently there is a lot of confusion surrounding the terminology. The term state-building was first used in connection to the creation of states in Western Europe and focused on the power enforcement of state in society(Charles Tilly, 1975 // a controversial scholar if you ask me) described advantages of state building in Europe as follows:
"State building provided for the emergence of specialized personnel, control over consolidated territory, loyalty, and durability, permanent institutions with a centralized and autonomous state that held the monopoly of violence over a given population".
There are two main theoretical approaches to definitions of state-building:
  • Exogenous school: state-building is seen by some theorists as an activity undertaken by external actors (foreign countries) attempting to build, or re-build, the institutions of a weaker, post-conflict or failing state 
  •  The endogenous school believes that countries cannot do state-building outside their own borders, they can only influence, support or hinder such processes.
The "exogenous" school influenced the UN report:“A more secure world: Our shared responsibility” Report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change A/59/565, or the Rand Corporations's Beginners Guide to Nation Building (see a discussion of nation building vs state-building.

To understand what the "endogenous" school is about read the he British Government's Department for International Development' 2008 Working Paper on state-building that helped bring together new thinking in this field. Apparently there is a "Whaites model" to state building.

The second school obviously accuses the first school of "having overtones of imperialism and colonialism". But I have to confess I find the second school pretty repulsive as well when I read phrases like this:
 "national leadership and vision is centrally important".
And have you ever heard of the predatory theory to state-building? Charles Tilly:
" Out of these four activities, war making was the main stimulus to increasing the level of taxation, thus increasing the capacity of the state to extract resources."
Jeffrey I. Herbst subsequently proposed allowing failed states to dissolve or engage in war to re-create the process endured by European countries. What a genius!

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