Fictional states & atomized public spheres: A non-western approach to fragility

William S Reno*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


This essay explains why political order in some places gives way to especially persistent conflict and prolonged state institutional collapse. State failure is rooted in decades of personalist rule, as leaders have sought to fragment and disorganize institutions and social groups that they thought would be possible bases of opposition. This problem was considered particular to sub-Saharan Africa, but now parts of the Middle East and Central Asia exhibit this connection between a particular type of authoritarian rule and state failure. State failure in these countries produces multisided warfare that reflects the fragmentation upon which prewar regimes relied for their protection. Policy-makers are thus faced with the dilemma of propping up personalist regimes that present themselves as bulwarks against disorder at the same time that their domestic strategies of governance play a central role in creating the conditions of protracted multisided warfare in the event that they fail.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-151
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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