Limited statehood is frequently depicted as a major cause for civil war and violent conflict. Consequently, state-building efforts are often considered to be an effective tool for the prevention of civil war and violent conflict. This essay argues, however, that this assumption is misguided in several respects. First, at present and historically, areas of limited statehood are the global default rather than the exception. Thus, efforts to eliminate limited statehood would likely be unsuccessful. Second, limited statehood does not equal civil war and violence. In fact, only a small fraction of areas of limited statehood are affected by civil war. Third, a too-narrow focus on state-building may be counterproductive, as it may foster ineffective or even predatory state institutions. Such a focus also ignores the plurality of governance actors beyond the state that are relevant for effective governance–such as service provision and rule-making–in areas of limited statehood. Therefore, external actors like international organizations and foreign powers should contribute to governance-building rather than state-building, with a focus on service provision and rule-making institutions with a broader scope than the state.

As Stephen Krasner and Karl Eikenberry have argued, the “standard model for development”–largely based on versions of modernization theory–claims that once countries are set on a path toward economic development, all good things will align and follow: namely, peace, prosperity, and democracy.1 In contrast, Huntingtonians argue that weak state capacity is a root cause for civil war and for the emergence of violent nonstate actors and that building strong state institutions thus constitutes the right “path to Denmark.”2 Indeed, the literature on civil war is full of references to fragile or failed states. Fragile and failed states are usually portrayed as breeding grounds for civil wars and as stomping grounds for all kinds of violent nonstate actors, including transnational terrorists.3 If one were to look only at Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the like, one would easily share this view. But there are also Somaliland and Puntland–two provinces of the quintessential failed state of Somalia–which have been rather peaceful over the last two decades.4 How can this variation be explained?

This essay takes issue with both modernization theory and the Huntingtonian approach to state-building that informed Western policies toward war-torn countries in the 1990s and early 2000s. First, we argue that, at present and historically, areas of limited statehood are the global default rather than the exception. Thus, efforts to eliminate limited statehood will likely be unsuccessful. Second, limited statehood does not equal civil war and violence. In fact, only a small fraction of areas of limited statehood are affected by civil war. Third, a too-narrow focus on state-building may be counterproductive, as it may foster ineffective or even predatory state institutions. This focus also ignores the plurality of governance actors beyond the state that are relevant for effective governance–service provision and rule-making–in areas of limited statehood. Therefore, external actors such as international organizations and foreign powers should contribute to governance-building rather than state-building, with a focus on service provision and rule-making institutions with a broader scope than the state.

Our understanding of “limited statehood” must be distinguished from the way in which notions of “fragile,” “failing,” or “failed” statehood are used in the literature.5 Most typologies in both the literature and in datasets on fragile states, “states at risk,” and similar categories reveal a normative orientation toward the Western state model.6 The benchmark is usually the democratic and capitalist state, governed by the rule of law.7 This bias toward Western, consolidated statehood is problematic for two reasons. First, it obscures the fact that most states are neither consolidated nor failed. Rather, they are characterized by areas of limited statehood to varying degrees. Second, this bias toward Western, consolidated statehood prevents us from answering key research questions, including the one investigated here: namely, the relationship between civil war and violence, on the one hand, and degrees of statehood, on the other. If we define statehood by the absence of violence and civil war, we can no longer ask, in a meaningful way, how much statehood is necessary to keep the peace.

Therefore, we distinguish between statehood or state capacity and the provision of public goods and services, including public security. We follow Max Weber's conceptualization of statehood as an institutionalized structure with the ability to rule authoritatively (Herrschaftsverband) and to control the means of violence.8 While no state governs hierarchically all the time, consolidated states possess the ability to authoritatively make, implement, and enforce central decisions for a collectivity. In other words, consolidated states command “domestic sovereignty”: “the formal organization of political authority within the state and the ability of public authorities to exercise effective control within the borders of their own polity.”9 This understanding allows us to distinguish between statehood as an institutional structure of authority and the services it provides. The latter is an empirical and not a definitional question. The fact that a state has a monopoly over the legitimate use of force does not necessarily mean that it will provide security for all of its citizens. Nazi Germany was a consolidated state with a monopoly over the means of violence, but it did not provide public security for Jews, homosexuals, and other members of the population.

We can now more precisely define the meaning of limited statehood. Limited statehood concerns those areas of a country in which the central authorities (governments) lack the ability to implement and enforce rules and decisions and/or in which the legitimate monopoly over the means of violence is lacking. The ability to enforce rules or to control the means of violence can be differentiated along two dimensions: 1) territorial, that is, parts of a country's territorial space; and 2) sectoral, that is, with regard to specific policy areas. It follows that the opposite of limited statehood is not unlimited but consolidated statehood: namely, those areas of a country where the state enjoys a monopoly over the means of violence and/or the ability to make and enforce central decisions. Furthermore, statehood is not a dichotomous variable. Rather, different degrees of statehood limitations exist, spanning the spectrum from a complete lack of statehood to consolidated statehood, with various nuanced levels of statehood in between.

Only a small percentage of states in the contemporary international system can be characterized as displaying consolidated statehood, that is, possessing full and effective domestic sovereignty. On the other end of the spectrum are fragile, failing, or failed states, which are states that have more or less lost their monopoly on the use of force and/or do not possess effective capacities to enforce decisions (such as Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Afghanistan). The vast majority of states in the past and in the contemporary international system, however, display “areas of limited statehood” to varying degrees: in parts of the territory or in some policy areas, the central government lacks the capacity to implement decisions and/or its monopoly over the means of violence is challenged.10 Areas of limited statehood are the default condition both historically and in the contemporary international system. Territorial examples of areas of limited statehood include the Amazon region in Brazil, Northeast Kenya, and parts of Southern Italy. Policy examples include legislation that is never implemented for issues such as the environment, schooling, and social security in many developing countries or the inability to collect (income) taxes in more developed countries, such as Greece.

Almost all states, including states with very significant areas of limited statehood, possess international legal sovereignty. Somalia, the quintessential failed state for more than twenty-five years, is still internationally recognized, even though its “government” has no control over the territory in any meaningful sense. As Krasner and Eikenberry have pointed out, effective governance is no longer a precondition for international recognition.11 Otherwise, South Sudan would never have become an independent and internationally recognized state. Many countries also possess “Westphalian/Vattelian” sovereignty: external actors do not interfere with their domestic authority structures, feeble as they may be. What is lacking in all countries, with the exception of the small group of nations with consolidated statehood, are degrees of domestic sovereignty.12

Yet, areas of limited statehood are neither ungoverned nor ungovernable spaces. There are almost always some “governors” or groups of governors: state and nonstate actors as well as local, national, and external/“international” actors who provide rule structures and/or collective goods.13 There is strong empirical evidence in areas of limited statehood that a broad variety of external and/or nonstate actors is key to goods and service provision and governance as a whole.14 Actors such as multinational companies provide health care, private security companies play an important role for security provision, and transnational public-private partnerships deliver food and water.15 There is substantial variation in the extent to which areas of limited statehood are well-governed. And there is no linear relationship between degrees of statehood and the provision of collective goods and services.16 This also holds true for the presence or absence of civil war and/or organized violence.

State capacity has recently received increased attention as a key factor in the empirical analysis of civil war.17 In many cases, the explicit or implicit assumption is that more statehood will equal more governance and less civil war.18 However, many open questions and challenges remain for empirical studies of the link between state capacity and civil war.19 While civil wars may take place in areas of limited statehood, equating such areas with civil war is wrong and misleading for policy initiatives. Thus, a more nuanced approach promises a clearer picture. A common and analytically straightforward definition of statehood has so far been mostly absent from the study of the effects of state capacity on civil war. This has resulted not only in the use of a large number of different indicators to capture state capacity empirically, but also in a lack of robustness and comparability of empirical findings.20 While some statehood definitions and measurements include elements of democracy or economic development, others are connected to better provision of goods and services.21 In light of the historical and contemporary prevalence of areas of limited statehood, however, the assumption that the state is the sole and effective provider of goods and services capable of preventing or stopping civil war is erroneous. This confusion concerning the conceptualization of statehood in many studies of civil war results in unclear findings, such that we cannot know whether it is ultimately statehood, democracy, the provision of governance, or other factors that effectively prevent or put an end to civil war.

Areas of limited statehood do not equal civil war. While areas of limited statehood are more likely to witness civil wars in their territory when compared with areas of consolidated statehood, not all areas of limited statehood are affected by civil war. In 2007, about 85 percent of countries worldwide displayed some degree of limited statehood.22 However, the Correlates of War Project counts only eighteen intrastate wars between 2001 and 2007, spread out across twelve countries. All of these wars occurred or are still occurring in states displaying significant degrees of limited statehood. Nevertheless, in 2007, the countries suffering from these conflicts comprised only 10 percent of all areas of limited statehood.23 Limited state capacity as such does not correlate highly with the presence of civil wars, even though it may be an enabling condition for organized violence by nonstate actors.

Moreover, in areas of limited statehood, the state itself is often more of a source of insecurity than security.24 Thus, strengthening state capacity may not only be insufficient in preventing or ending civil wars, but may in fact have unintended consequences. If the state acquires stronger capacities but uses them in a predatory way–not to protect but to harm its citizens–state-building initiatives are counterproductive. As cases such as Mexico, South Africa, Iraq under Nouri al-Maliki, or the Philippines under Rodrigo Duterte illustrate, the state and, in particular, the police forces in areas of limited statehood have regularly used their capacities to violently oppress and discriminate against parts of the population, thereby increasing insecurity for these discriminated against individuals.25

Thus, analyzing areas of limited statehood, instead of using concepts such as fragile or failed states, allows for an unpacking of the state and for the focus to be set on subnational variations of state capacity and civil war, thus overcoming methodological nationalism. Studies on the state capacity–civil war nexus have thus far largely focused on the national level of analysis.26 However, occurrences of civil war not only vary between but within countries; only some parts of countries are normally affected by violent conflict, while others are not.27 For example, Chad–a country that is often ranked among those with the lowest level of state capacity on a global scale–displays significant statehood limitations throughout its territory.28 During the civil war from 2005 to 2010, only some of the twenty-three regions of Chad were affected by the conflict. In 2005, for instance, nine out of the twenty-three Chadian regions (39 percent) were affected by armed conflict.29Figure 1 illustrates that the proportion of the country affected by fighting from 2005 to 2015 varied over time, but never covered the entire Chadian territory. A peak was reached in 2007 with almost 60 percent of Chadian regions suffering from the civil war, while 2012 and 2013 marked the lowest episodes with less than 15 percent of all regions involved in violent conflict.

Figure 1

Percentage of Chadian Regions Affected by Fighting, 2005–2015

Figure 1

Percentage of Chadian Regions Affected by Fighting, 2005–2015

Close modal

These and other data allow for two conclusions. First, as political scientist Siri Aas Rustad and colleagues have argued, civil wars, violent incidents, and related activities are often spread out within countries but do not necessarily cover the entire territory.30 Therefore, subnational analyses must supplement analyses of civil war at the national level. Second, even in countries with rather low levels of statehood throughout the entire territory, such as Chad, not all regions will be affected by violent activities, such as armed conflict.

At the same time, not only do civil war dynamics vary subnationally, but state capacity does, too. Nigeria exemplifies this point: while the level of statehood in the northern Nigerian state of Yobe is very low, state capacity in the southern Nigerian state of Ogun is comparatively stronger.31 In other words, both state capacity and civil war, as well as incidents of violence, vary subnationally, and there is little reason to assume that lower state capacity leads to more civil war, even though civil wars require some degree of limited statehood. Research has only just begun to grasp the complex relationship between degrees of statehood and transnational as well as intrastate violence. A focus on the subnational level has already demonstrated that equating limited statehood with civil war is wrong. We need many more fine-tuned analyses on the subnational level to understand the scope conditions under which areas of limited statehood are likely to become regions of civil war.

The available evidence suggests that limited state capacity may be an enabling condition for civil war, but it is neither a necessary nor a sufficient one. As a result, it is very unlikely that strengthening the institutional capacity of central state authorities in areas of limited statehood will prevent civil wars. State-building policies as external strategies to prevent civil war or to rebuild countries after violent conflicts from the outside are not only likely to fail, but will also not address the root causes of civil war.32 Moreover, strengthening the institutional capacities of autocratic and/or corrupt elites may actually increase the likelihood of organized state and nonstate violence, rather than reduce it.33

So what can be done to prevent areas of limited statehood from becoming breeding grounds for civil war and violent nonstate actors, including transnational terrorist groups, particularly from the perspective of external actors? We claim that governance breakdowns and the failure to deliver public goods and services provide the missing link between areas of limited statehood and violence. We thus suggest a concentration on governance-building instead of state-building.34 We define governance as the “various institutionalized modes of social coordination to produce and implement collectively binding rules or to provide collective goods.”35 Accordingly, we understand governance-building as intentional activities that strengthen effective state and nonstate governance institutions and foster service delivery. This also explicitly includes the possibility of focusing on nonstate governance structures instead of state institutions, if strengthening state capacity may result in repressive and authoritarian state structures.

There is ample evidence that the provision of collective goods–such as food, health services, basic education, and basic infrastructure–in areas of limited statehood does not necessarily require a functioning state.36 There are various mechanisms to induce nonstate actors to provide governance services.37 For example, the “shadow of anarchy”–the absence of political order–often incentivizes private companies to engage in governance and the provision of services.38 The same holds true for mass mobilization against companies in the global North in an effort to induce them to comply with human rights and social standards in the global South, even in the absence of a functioning state.

Contributing to the establishment of governance institutions and to the provision of collective goods in areas of limited statehood is less complex and less resource-intensive than full-scale state-building. What is required, though–and this applies to external actors as well–is social acceptance or legitimacy among the local population, that is, a “license to govern.” Related to this is the challenge of identifying who the relevant local and national actors are that external actors should or should not speak to and cooperate with in order to gain legitimacy. Effectiveness and legitimacy appear to go together in some sort of a virtuous circle of governance.39 If external actors are considered illegitimate intruders by local elites and/or local populations, they cannot contribute to governance, no matter how hard they try. In some cases, external actors receive the “license to govern” through delegated authority.40

In addition, the design of governance institutions for the provision of collective goods in the absence of a functioning state needs to be “fit for purpose,” as not only the rational design literature reminds us. Simple tasks (such as child immunization) require relatively simple structures, while complex tasks (such as combating HIV/AIDS) require repeated interventions and a coordination of efforts among many actors.41 Moreover, governance institutions must be flexible enough to adjust to changes in conditions on the ground.

In any event, providing collective goods and services in areas of limited statehood and, thus, securing the livelihood of the population appears to be a viable strategy in the prevention of violence and civil war. But what about rule-making and securing fair treatment, as well as some degree of the rule of law in the absence of a functioning state? This is the more daunting task, since populations in areas of limited statehood are often exposed to severe human rights abuses and have rarely experienced fair treatment by state institutions.

Here, we need to turn to another functional equivalent for state capacity in areas of limited statehood: namely, social trust.42 Personalized social trust contributes to the effective provision of governance in the absence of functioning state institutions in at least four ways. First, personalized trust enables actors to solve local collective action problems.43 Economist Elinor Ostrom demonstrated through experimental designs that local communities in which members trust one another are likely to produce common-pool resources, without having to refer to strong institutions that employ monitoring and sanctioning mechanisms.44 Personalized trust thus enhances the action capacity of local communities. For instance, the study by political scientist Esther Thomas on conflicts between multinational mining companies and neighboring communities in Tanzania and Guinea demonstrates that local communities with high levels of trust have a higher capacity to engage with companies to manage conflicts.45 Another example are nonstate security forces that are independent from national security forces and have been built up by local communities, such as the Kurdish security forces in Iraq.

Second, local trust enhances the legitimacy of governance actors. Communities whose members trust each other are more likely to put leaders in charge and to convey authority rules to people whom they also trust.46 Trust generates legitimacy, thereby inducing voluntary compliance with costly decisions in the absence of formal institutions with sanctioning and enforcement capacities. Trust within Somali indigenous communities has provided them with the capacity to act in the fight against HIV/AIDS and to accept foreign assistance as legitimate in the provinces of Somaliland and Puntland, despite the complete absence of central state authorities.47

Third, trust among community members holds authorities accountable to the community. Areas of limited statehood are often populated by traditional communities with their own standards of what is considered to be in the public interest, even when state actors may not reflect and uphold such standards overall. Political scientist Lily Tsai has shown that state representatives embedded in inclusive societal institutions at the local level are more likely to strive for public goods provisions than those who are not embedded in inclusive societal institutions or who find themselves in areas with no such institutions.48 Likewise, political scientists Jana Hönke and Tanja Börzel find that local communities in sub-Saharan Africa that exhibit high levels of trust restrain the powers of local state representatives and customary authorities.49 This “shadow of the community” holds state representatives accountable in the absence of formal institutions through which citizens might voice their claims.

Fourth, mutual respect and shared norms tend to exhibit strong monitoring and sanctioning capacities, which serve to ensure compliance with costly rules. The quest for social approval and the threat of social exclusion from the community both serve as a powerful incentive for compliance with the rules and for the provision of public goods. One should not underestimate the sanctioning potential of these informal institutions, ranging from social ostracism to physical punishment.50

In short, social trust in local communities provides powerful capacities for collective action and for resilience in areas of limited statehood. Yet, what can external actors do to foster such trust, particularly in ethnically divided societies? Here, we return to service provision. It has been shown through various studies that the experience of fair and transparent (state) institutions is likely to foster generalized social trust.51 In other words, governance institutions established by external actors and providing social services in areas of limited statehood are likely to generate social trust if they ensure equal and fair treatment.

This essay makes three main arguments concerning the limited statehood–civil war nexus. First, areas of limited statehood are the default condition on a global scale and are likely to remain so in the foreseeable future. Limited statehood is here to stay, and politicians as well as scientists are compelled to take this condition into account when working to prevent and end civil wars. Second, the nexus between limited statehood and civil war is weaker and more complicated than is often assumed. While limited state capacity may enable civil war, it is neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition. Third, large-scale state-building efforts have so far failed to prevent or end civil wars and have not turned areas of limited statehood into consolidated states. What is necessary, instead, is to foster societal and political resilience in areas of limited statehood and to prevent governance breakdowns. Thus, governance-building with a focus on particular state and nonstate institutions, as well as on service provision, is likely to be not only more efficient, but also more effective.


See Karl Eikenberry and Stephen D. Krasner, “Introduction,” Dædalus 146 (4) (Fall 2017); Karl Eikenberry and Stephen D. Krasner, “Introduction,” Dædalus 147 (1) (Winter 2018); and Dankwart A. Rustow, “Modernization and Comparative Politics,” Comparative Politics 1 (1) (1968): 37–51.


Samuel P. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1968). For a contemporary example, see Francis Fukuyama, Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014); and Clare Lockhart, “Sovereignty Strategies: Enhancing Core Governance Functions as a Postconflict & Conflict-Prevention Measure,” Dædalus 147 (1) (Winter 2018).


See, for example, Robert I. Rotberg, State Failure and State Weakness in a Time of Terror (Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institution Press, 2003); Robert I. Rotberg, ed., When States Fail: Causes and Consequences (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2004); and Stewart Patrick, “Civil Wars & Transnational Threats: Mapping the Terrain, Assessing the Links,” Dædalus 146 (4) (Fall 2017).


See also Seyoum Mesfin and Abdeta Dribssa Beyene, “The Practicalities of Living with Failed States,” Dædalus 147 (1) (Winter 2018).


The following represents a condensed version of Stephen D. Krasner and Thomas Risse, “External Actors, State-Building, and Service Provision in Areas of Limited Statehood: Introduction,” Governance 27 (4) (2014): 545–567. See also Thomas Risse, “Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood: Introduction and Overview,” in Governance without a State? Policies and Politics in Areas of Limited Statehood, ed. Thomas Risse (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 3–9.


See, for example, Francis Fukuyama, State Building: Governance and World Order in the Twenty-First Century (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2004); Rotberg, State Failure and State Weakness in a Time of Terror; and Rotberg, ed., When States Fail.


Stephan Leibfried and Michael Zürn, eds., Transformations of the State? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).


Max Weber, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1980).


Stephen D. Krasner, Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999), 4.


Eric Stollenwerk, “Measuring Governance and Limited Statehood,” in The Oxford Handbook of Governance and Limited Statehood, ed. Thomas Risse, Tanja Börzel, and Anke Draude (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018). Fukuyama has noted that national identity and acceptance of rule-of-law norms need a long time to emerge. This further underlines our argument that limited statehood is unlikely to diminish in the foreseeable future. See Francis Fukuyama, “The Last English Civil War,” Dædalus 147 (1) (Winter 2018). See also Mesfin and Beyene, “The Practicalities of Living with Failed States,” which discusses buffer zones as examples for areas of limited statehood.


Karl Eikenberry and Stephen D. Krasner, “Introduction,” Dædalus 147 (1) (Winter 2018). See also Hendrik Spruyt, “Civil Wars as Challenges to the Modern International System,” Dædalus 146 (4) (Fall 2017).


On these distinctions, see Krasner, Sovereignty.


For this term, see Deborah Avant, Martha Finnemore, and Susan K. Sell, “Who Governs the Globe?” in Who Governs the Globe? ed. Deborah Avant, Martha Finnemore, and Susan K. Sell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).


Thomas Risse, ed., Governance without a State? Policies and Politics in Areas of Limited Statehood (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011). On the specific interplay between limited statehood, civil war, and economic governance in the Middle East, see Steven Heydemann, “Civil War, Economic Governance & State Reconstruction in the Arab Middle East,” Dædalus 147 (1) (Winter 2018).


Tanja A. Börzel, Jana Hönke, and Christian R. Thauer, “Does It Really Take the State? Corporate Responsibility, Multinational Corporations, and Limited Statehood in South Africa,” Business and Politics 14 (3) (2012): 1–34; Sven Chojnacki and Zneljko Branović, “The Logic of Security Markets: Security Governance in Failed States,” Security Dialogue 42 (6) (2011): 553–569; and Marianne Beisheim, Andrea Liese, Hannah Janetschek, and Johanna Sarre, “Transnational Public Private Partnerships and the Provision of Services in Areas of Limited Statehood in South Asia and East Africa: Institutional Design Matters,” Governance 27 (4) (2014): 655–673.


Melissa Lee, Gregor Walter-Drop, and John Wiesel, “Taking the State (Back) Out? A Macro-Quantitative Analysis of Statehood and the Delivery of Collective Goods and Services,” Governance 27 (4) (2014): 635–654.


See, for example, Hanne Fjelde and Indra De Soysa, “Coercion, Co-Optation, or Cooperation? State Capacity and the Risk of Civil War, 1961–2004,” Conflict Management and Peace Science 26 (1) (2009): 5–25; Karl R. DeRouen and David Sobek, “The Dynamics of Civil War Duration and Outcome,” Journal of Peace Research 41 (3) (2004): 303–320; David Sobek, “Masters of Their Domains: The Role of State Capacity in Civil Wars,” Journal of Peace Research 47 (3) (2010): 267–271; Cullen S. Hendrix, “Measuring State Capacity: Theoretical and Empirical Implications for the Study of Civil Conflict,” Journal of Peace Research 47 (3) (2010): 273–285; Cameron G. Thies, “Of Rulers, Rebels, and Revenue: State Capacity, Civil War Onset, and Primary Commodities,” Journal of Peace Research 47 (3) (2010): 321–332; and Timothy Besley and Torsten Persson, “State Capacity, Conflict, and Development,” Econometrica 78 (1) (2010): 1–34.


See, for example, DeRouen and Sobek, “The Dynamics of Civil War Duration and Outcome”; and Sobek, “Masters of Their Domains.”


See, for example, Hendrix, “Measuring State Capacity.”


Ibid.; and Sobek, “Masters of Their Domains.”


DeRouen and Sobek, “The Dynamics of Civil War Duration and Outcome”; and Besley and Persson, “State Capacity, Conflict, and Development.”


A total of 139 countries have been included in this analysis. To analyze the degree of statehood, we used the International Country Risk Guide's Bureaucracy Quality indicator. This indicator not only captures the administrative capacity component of our statehood definition, but has also been recommended by past research as one of the few relevant and reliable indicators for understanding civil war. See Hendrix, “Measuring State Capacity.” The indicator is scaled from 1 to 4 with higher values signaling higher bureaucratic quality. All countries with a score lower than 4 were evaluated as displaying significant areas of limited statehood. The indicator is released on a monthly basis. To increase robustness, we calculated the mean score for every country using the January, June, and December ratings to reach a reliable annual average. The monopoly of force component of our statehood definition has been left out of the empirical analysis, since there are enormous challenges to clearly distinguishing between empirical measurements of civil war and the monopoly of force with the available data. Therefore, to avoid problems of endogeneity, this approach was considered the more viable option. See Stollenwerk, “Measuring Governance and Limited Statehood.”


Authors' calculation based on Correlates of War Project intrastate conflict data. See Meredith Reid Sarkees and Frank Wayman, Resort to War: 1816–2007 (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2010); and DeRouen and Sobek, “The Dynamics of Civil War Duration and Outcome.” See also statehood data as described in endnote 22.


Markus-Michael Müller, Public Security in the Negotiated State: Policing in Latin America and Beyond (Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); Bruce Baker, “Linking State and Non-State Security and Justice,” Development Policy Review 28 (5) (2010): 597–616; and William Reno, “Fictional States & Atomized Public Spheres: A Non-Western Approach to Fragility,” Dædalus 146 (4) (Fall 2017).


Michael Neocosmos, “The Politics of Fear and the Fear of Politics: Reflections on Xenophobic Violence in South Africa,” Journal of Asian and African Studies 43 (6) (2008): 586–594; Jerjes Aguirre Ochoa and Zoe Infante Jiménez, “Police Force Crisis and State Legitimacy in Mexico,” Asian Social Science 8 (15) (2012): 86–92; and Diane E. Davis, “Undermining the Rule of Law: Democratization and the Dark Side of Police Reform in Mexico,” Latin American Politics and Society 48 (1) (2006): 55–86.


See, for example, Karl DeRouen, Mark J. Ferguson, Samuel Norton, et al., “Civil War Peace Agreement Implementation and State Capacity,” Journal of Peace Research 47 (3) (2010): 333–346; Fjelde and De Soysa, “Coercion, Co-Optation, or Cooperation?” 5–25; and Sobek, “Masters of Their Domains.”


Siri Camilla Aas Rustad, Halvard Buhaug, Ashild Falch, and Scott Gates, “All Conflict Is Local: Modeling Sub-National Variation in Civil Conflict Risk,” Conflict Management and Peace Science 28 (1) (2011): 15–40; and Halvard Buhaug and Päivi Lujala, “Accounting for Scale: Measuring Geography in Quantitative Studies of Civil War,” Political Geography 24 (4) (2005): 399–418.


See, for example, The Fund for Peace, “Fragile States Index,”; and Bertelsmann Stiftung, “Bertelsmann Transformation Index,”


To analyze this, we used Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, “ACLED Version 6 (1997–2015),”


Rustad et al., “All Conflict Is Local.”


See Eric Stollenwerk, “Measuring Statehood on the Sub-National Level in Nigeria,” in Measuring Statehood on a Sub-National Level: A Dialogue among Methods, ed. Angela Heucher, Luisa Linke-Behrens, and Leon Schettler (Berlin: DFG Collaborative Research Center [SFB] 700, Freie Universität Berlin, 2017).


See David A. Lake, The Statebuilder's Dilemma: On the Limits of Foreign Intervention (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2016).


See also Reno, “Fictional States & Atomized Public Spheres”; and Vanda Felbab-Brown, “Organized Crime, Illicit Economies, Civil Violence & International Order: More Complex Than You Think,” Dædalus 146 (4) (Fall 2017).


Lars Brozus, “Applying the Governance Concept to Areas of Limited Statehood: Implications for International Foreign and Security Policy,” in Risse, ed., Governance without a State? Policies and Politics in Areas of Limited Statehood. For alternative approaches, see Lockhart, “Sovereignty Strategies”; and Nancy E. Lindborg and J. Jospeh Hewitt, “In Defense of Ambition: Building Peaceful & Inclusive Societies in a World on Fire,” Dædalus 147 (1) (Winter 2018). A too-narrow focus on state-building may also be one of the reasons why approaches such as the Ink Spot Strategy by the U.S. military did not deliver the anticipated result of a stable political environment in Afghanistan. On the Ink Spot Strategy, see Greg Mills, “Calibrating Ink Spots: Filling Afghanistan's Ungoverned Spaces,” RUSI Journal 151 (4) (2006): 16–25.


Risse, “Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood,” 9. See also Mark Bevir, ed., The Sage Handbook of Governance (London: Sage, 2011); David Levi-Faur, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Governance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012); Rod A. W. Rhodes, Understanding Governance: Policy Networks, Governance, Reflexivity and Accountability (Buckingham, United Kingdom: Open University Press, 1997); Renate Mayntz, Über Governance: Institutionen und Prozesse politischer Regelung (Frankfurt/Main, Germany: Campus, 2009); and Gunnar Folke Schuppert and Michael Zürn, eds., Governance in einer sich wandelnden Welt (Wiesbaden, Germany: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2008).


Krasner and Risse, “External Actors, State-Building, and Service Provision in Areas of Limited Statehood.”


For details, see Tanja A. Börzel and Thomas Risse, “Governance without a State–Can It Work?” Regulation & Governance 4 (2) (2010): 113–134; Christian R. Thauer, The Managerial Sources of Corporate Social Responsibility: The Spread of Global Standards (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015); and Jana Hönke and Christian R. Thauer, “Multinational Corporations and Service Provision in Sub-Saharan Africa: Legitimacy and Institutionalization Matter,” Governance 27 (4) (2014): 697–716.


Tanja A. Börzel and Christian Thauer, eds., Business and Governance in South Africa (Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013); and Thauer, The Managerial Sources of Corporate Social Responsibility.


Krasner and Risse, “External Actors, State-Building, and Service Provision in Areas of Limited Statehood.”


Aila M. Matanock, “Governance Delegation Agreements: Shared Sovereignty as a Substitute for Limited Statehood,” Governance 27 (4) (2014): 589–612.


Barbara Koremenos, Charles Lipson, and Duncan Snidal, eds., “Rational Design: Explaining the Form of International Institutions,” International Organization 55 (4) (2001).


See Tanja A. Börzel and Thomas Risse, “Dysfunctional State Institutions, Trust, and Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood,” Regulation & Governance 10 (2) (2016): 149–160.


Diego Gambetta, ed., Trust: Making and Breaking Cooperative Relations (New York: Blackwell Publishers, 1988).


Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Elinor Ostrom, “Toward a Behavioral Theory Linking Trust, Reciprocity, and Reputation,” in Trust and Reciprocity: Interdisciplinary Lessons for Experimental Research, ed. Elinor Ostrom and James Walker (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2002); and Elinor Ostrom, Roy Gardner, and James Walker, Rules, Games, and Common-Pool Resources (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994).


Esther Thomas, Sustainable Conflict Management by Multinational Mining Companies in Areas of Limited Statehood (Ph.D. diss., Freie Universität Berlin, 2014); and Jeffrey Paller, “Shame and Honor: The Everyday Practice of Accountability in African Democracies,” paper presented at the American Political Science Association Meeting, Washington, D.C., August 27–31, 2014.


Michael G. Schatzberg, Political Legitimacy in Middle Africa: Father, Family, Food (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001).


Marco Schäferhoff, Transnational Health Partnerships in Areas of Limited Statehood–How Much State Is Enough? (Ph.D. diss., Freie Universität Berlin, 2013); and Marco Schäferhoff, “External Actors and the Provision of Public Health Services in Somalia,” Governance 27 (4) (2014): 675–695. See also Tobias Debiel, Rainer Glassner, Conrad Schetter, and Ulf Terlinden, “Local State-Building in Afghanistan and Somaliland,” Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice 21 (1) (2009): 38–44; and Marianne Beisheim and Andrea Liese, eds., Transnational Partnerships: Effectively Providing for Sustainable Development? (Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).


Lily L. Tsai, Accountability without Democracy: Solidarity Groups and Public Goods Provision in Rural China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).


Jana Hönke and Tanja A. Börzel, “Restraint of Statehood and the Quality of Governance by Multinational Companies in Sub-Saharan Africa,” SFB-Governance Working Paper Series, Berlin (65) (2014).


Ibid.; and Paller, “Shame and Honor.”


See, for example, Bo Rothstein and Dietlind Stolle, “The State and Social Capital: An Institutional Theory of Generalized Trust,” Comparative Politics 40 (4) (2008): 441–459; Bo Rothstein and Dietlind Stolle, “Political Institutions and Generalized Trust,” in The Handbook of Social Capital, ed. Dario Castiglione, Jan W. Van Deth, and Guglielmo Wolleb (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); and Dietlind Stolle, Stuart Soroka, and Richard Johnston, “When Does Diversity Erode Trust? Neighborhood Diversity, Interpersonal Trust and the Mediating Effect of Social Interactions,” Political Studies 56 (1) (2008): 57–75.

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