Apr 1, 2015

IR - One Definition A Day: Quasi-States

IR - One Definition A Day: Quasi-states

A term used by Bull and Watson in the Expansion of International Society (1984) and later popularized by Robert H. Jackson (1990). It refers to ex-colonial states of Asia, Africa and Oceania, which through the process of decolonization have achieved 'juridical' statehood but lack many of the attibutes of 'empirical' statehood. They possess all the trappings and formal qualities of sovereign independent statehood - in particular the rights and responsibilities stemming from full membership of the international community - but are deficient in 'the political will, institutional authority and organized power to protect human rights or to provide sio-economic welfare' (p. 21, Jackson). In effect, quasi-states are states in name only; they are able to survive despite being insufficient, unstable and illegitimate by operational rules implicit in the new international order established after 1945. 

They are protected from the traditional fate of weak, fragmented states - foreign intervention - by new international norms such as anti-colonialism, the right to ex-colonial self-determination and racial sovereignty; ideas which are underwritten by the spread of egalitarian and democratic values which have their origins in Western social and political movements. In other words, they escape the classic security dilemna by virtue of the existence of a 'nanny' international society which fosters a culture of entitlement (to sovereignty and its attendant rights) and a culture of dependence (protection and foreign aid) which enables them to survive despite their malformations. 

Whereas in the past, such entities if they survived the power struggle at all were subordinated in the international system, today they enjoy equal status with all others. According to Jackson, quasi-states and their external support structures - which amount to the international communities version of 'affirmative action programmes' - reflect a new doctrine of 'negative sovereignty' which was created expressly for the independence of the Third World. Thus, post-colonial international society has sheltered these new entities from the harsh balance of power and sell-help rules associated with traditional criteria for state-creation and maintenance.

The dire consequences of economic inviability, social/ethnic fragmentation and human rights abuses have been highlighted by Robert Kaplan in his influential article 'The Coming Anarchy' (1964). For Kaplan, these quasi-states all too often become failed states. In the post-cold war period the pivotal rule which upholds quasi-states, the rule of non-intervention is now under threat. Increased global concern with human rights, the movement towards good governance, the increased popularity of the idea of humanitarian intervention as well as simple donor fatigue may serve to restrict the political space enjoyed by quasi-states. But for so long as the values of ex-colonial self-determination and sovereign equality are regarded as 'groundnorms' of post-Westphalian international relations these entities will continue to be a settled feature of the international landscape.

(Source: wikipedia)
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