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.