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Trying to make sense of the contemporary debate on state-building: the legitimacy and the institutional approaches on state, state collapse and state-building

Lemay-Hebert, Nicolas (2010) Trying to make sense of the contemporary debate on state-building: the legitimacy and the institutional approaches on state, state collapse and state-building. In: PSA Annual Conference (Political Studies Association), 29 March - 1 April 2010, Edinburgh.

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URL of Published Version: http://www.psa.ac.uk/journals/pdf/5/2010/1790_1539.pdf

Drawing upon the vast contemporary literature on state-building that has emerged since Helman and Ratner’s pioneer article in 1992-1993, this paper identifies two different schools of thought in the discussion, each of which reflects different sociological understandings of the state. The first one, an “institutional approach” closely related to the Weberian conception of the state, focuses on the importance of institutional reconstruction and postulates that state-building activities do not necessarily require a concomitant nation-building effort. The second, a “legitimacy approach” influenced by Durkheimian sociology, recognizes the need to consolidate central state institutions, but puts more emphasis on the importance of socio-political cohesion in the process. The institutional approach focuses on the institutional and physical basis of the state, while the legitimacy approach is more preoccupied with the social contract binding the citizens together. This contemporary debate has practical implications for practitioners in the field of state-building. Indeed, one’s conception of what to rebuild – the state – will necessarily impact the actual process of state-building. This paper tries to bring some clarity to a very confused debate, detailing the rise of the institutional approach and its limits when faced with unforeseen legitimacy issues.

Type of Work:Conference or Workshop Item
Date:01 April 2010 (Completion)
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
Department:International Development Department
Subjects:JZ International relations
Institution:University of Birmingham
Copyright Holders:Nicolas Lemay-Hebert
ID Code:829
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