Journal Article - Washington Quarterly

The New Nature of Nation-State Failure

| Summer 2002

Only a handful of the world's nation states can be categorized as failed or collapsed. Several dozen more, however, are serious candidates. What does it take to drive a failing state into collapse? Here is what to watch to determine who is in danger of failing next.

Nation-states fail because they can no longer deliver positive political goods to their people. Their governments lose legitimacy and, in the eyes and hearts of a growing plurality of its citizens, the nation-state itself becomes illegitimate.

Only a handful of the world's 191 nation-states can now be categorized as failed, or collapsed, which is the end stage of failure. Several dozen more, however, are weak and serious candidates for failure. Because failed states are hospitable to and harbor nonstate actors—warlords and terrorists—understanding the dynamics of nation-state failure is central to the war against terrorism. Strengthening weak nation-states in the developing world has consequently assumed new urgency.

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For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Rotberg, Robert I.. The New Nature of Nation-State Failure.” Washington Quarterly, vol. 25. no. 3. (Summer 2002):

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