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Olle Frödin, private photo

Olle Frödin

Senior lecturer

Olle Frödin, private photo

"Failed States."


  • Olle Frödin

Summary, in English

The concept of failed state denotes countries where institutions underpinning the legal and political order have fallen apart, meaning that government organizations do not have the capacity to enforce laws, guarantee rights, and provide core public goods, such as security and basic infrastructure. The concept gained prominence as a national security and international development narrative in the 1990s, and was subsequently widely used in government and academic discourse in the 2000s. Both the concept itself and the interventions associated with it are contested. National security analysts held that the failed state agenda was an overconfident and misguided foreign policy rationale that seriously underestimated the difficulties of state building operations. In academic circles, the concept has been criticized for being vaguely defined in that a clear and coherent set of indicators for what constitutes failed states is lacking. As a result, different kinds of states, such as Afghanistan, North Korea, Haiti, Iraq and Colombia, have been lumped together into an undifferentiated mass under one label. In the wake of such criticism, scholars have recently developed more nuanced and refined categories to discriminate between kinds and degrees of state failure.


  • Sociology

Publishing year





The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology


Blackwell Reference Online. 30 November 2016

Document type

Book chapter


  • Sociology