The politics of insurgency in collapsing states

William S Reno*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


The phenomenon of failed states might be expected to lead to the development of mass-based social movements to address the typically ensuing social problems. This article explores the general failure of reformist insurgencies to develop in failed states, using analyses of Nigeria's Bakassi Boys and Oodua People's Congress, and references to other armed groups. The cause of this failure is found in the legacy of patronage politics, especially the strategies of rulers who monopolized economic opportunities as a way of controlling people. As centralized patronage networks fragment, popular movements develop to challenge this control. Local political entrepreneurs, however, continue to dominate local markets, including clandestine ones, and use this social domination to buy off members of mass movements. As their new patrons give them access to weapons and protection against rivals, the organizational position of members who pursue individual economic interests is enhanced, while the people with more overt ideological agendas are marginalized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-858
Number of pages22
JournalDevelopment and Change
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development


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