Weak and failed states have always been a feature of the modern state system, but the West has typically either ignored them or engaged them as humanitarian crises. In a globalized age in which terrorism, crime, and disease know no boundaries, they have become a first-order international issue. In this short, sobering book, Fukuyama provides the most succinct and lucid consideration of this challenge yet to appear, and his message is not optimistic. Policy experts have vigorously debated the proper scope of the state, but there has been much less attention to the strength or capacity of the state-the government's ability to maintain law and order and protect property rights. Fukuyama thus notes the missteps and misunderstandings of the international development community, which has only recently embraced the obvious: that stable and well-functioning political institutions are a precondition for economic advancement. His more important argument, however, is that outside actors have little ability to help countries strengthen their state capacity-and often pursue policies that actually weaken political institutions. On the other hand, he suggests that, in some of the most severe cases, the only option is a return to a neocolonial or mandate system, but such steps clash with current global norms of sovereignty.
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