State Erosion

State Erosion: Unlootable Resources and Unruly Elites in Central Asia

Lawrence P. Markowitz
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    State Erosion
    Book Description:

    State failure is a central challenge to international peace and security in the post-Cold War era. Yet theorizing on the causes of state failure remains surprisingly limited. In State Erosion, Lawrence P. Markowitz draws on his extensive fieldwork in two Central Asian republics-Tajikistan, where state institutions fragmented into a five-year civil war from 1992 through 1997, and Uzbekistan, which constructed one of the largest state security apparatuses in post-Soviet Eurasia-to advance a theory of state failure focused on unlootable resources, rent seeking, and unruly elites.

    In Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and other countries with low capital mobility-where resources cannot be extracted, concealed, or transported to market without state intervention-local elites may control resources, but they depend on patrons to convert their resources into rents. Markowitz argues that different rent-seeking opportunities either promote the cooptation of local elites to the regime or incite competition over rents, which in turn lead to either cohesion or fragmentation. Markowitz distinguishes between weak states and failed states, challenges the assumption that state failure in a country begins at the center and radiates outward, and expands the "resource curse" argument to include cash crop economies, where mechanisms of state failure differ from those involved in fossil fuels and minerals. Broadening his argument to weak states in the Middle East (Syria and Lebanon) and Africa (Zimbabwe and Somalia), Markowitz shows how the distinct patterns of state failure in weak states with immobile capital can inform our understanding of regime change, ethnic violence, and security sector reform.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6946-6
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures, Tables, and Maps
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    (pp. 1-15)

    State failure is a central challenge to international peace and security in the post–Cold War era. It has emerged with alarming frequency in contemporary weak states, contributing to a rise in civil wars, insurgency, and terrorist attacks. Having rapidly gained currency in the 1990s, the problem of state failure—the collapse of the central government’s authority to impose order—has become a preoccupation in academic and policy circles.

    Prominent voices call for new (or renewed) attention to state failure as a primary foreign policy concern. The charge, they contend, is to commit to “fixing failed states” despite high costs...

    (pp. 16-29)

    Rural Central Asia closely approximates the highly unequal, labor-repressive landholding economy that Barrington Moore believed to be susceptible to peasant insurrection. As anyone who spends time on farms in Tajikistan or Uzbekistan can attest, what Moore called “the spread of the state’s authority” is quite thin and what he aptly termed “the intrusion of the market” is at best rare and limited. Farms may be privatized and law-abiding on paper, but in practice they are well outside the reach of central state authorities and largely untouched by market reformers. Moreover, the farm chair is the arbiter of both state authority...

    (pp. 30-50)

    The successor states of the former Soviet Union fit well within the broader universe of postimperial orders. Like the image of the African colonial state as Bula Matari (crusher of rocks), the Soviet state swept away many pre-Soviet institutions. In place of those institutions emerged a Soviet system that deeply embedded neopatrimonial relationships down to the lowest levels of the state. Crawford Young’s description of the postcolonial state in Africa holds true of the post-Soviet state as well: “The formal Weberian traits evoked by an image of an integral state—impersonality of office, uniform application of rules, predictability of behavior,...

    (pp. 51-76)

    During my second visit to southern Tajikistan’s Amirshoev Farm, after failing to catch up with the farm chair (whose BMW outran my driver’s twenty-year-old Jiguli), I turned to others at the farm to interview. Amirshoev is the furthest farm from Kuliab’s district center, requiring a thirty-minute drive over deteriorated roads through well-maintained cultivated fields. Situated deep in Khatlon Province, in the foothills not far from the Afghanistan border, the farm has its own bazaar, apteka (pharmacy), and several shops clustered in the center, constituting a self-sufficient village. With a worried glance in the direction of his departed boss, the secretary...

    (pp. 77-99)

    Since the war ended in 1997, Tajikistan’s central government has struggled to establish its monopoly over organized violence. Throughout the republic, criminal gangs engaged in drug smuggling, political rivals of President Rakhmon posed threats of a coup d’etat, Islamist groups exploited links to Afghanistan, and former civil war commanders staged insurgencies, kidnapped international aid workers, and assassinated state officials. Tajikistan’s extremely weak postwar state has led some observers to forecast precipitous decline if not imminent failure. As one report concluded, “The Rakhmon regime could, theoretically speaking, collapse at any moment. This is because the institutional structures which usually support any...

    (pp. 100-123)

    On May 13–14, 2005, state security forces suppressed an uprising in Andijan city, resulting in the deaths of hundreds—possibly seven hundred—civilians (including many women and children).¹ The crackdown after the uprising spread well beyond Andijan Province, resulting in a wave of arrests, a refugee crisis in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, and a turn away from Western engagement in Uzbekistan’s foreign relations.² For Uzbekistan’s domestic and international politics alike, the 2005 Andijan uprising was a pivotal event, dramatically demonstrating the farreaching consequences of the regime’s tenuous hold over regional politics.

    The 2005 Andijan uprising was also crucial test for the...

    (pp. 124-146)

    The core argument of this book is that weak states defined by low capital mobility have specific political ramifications for local elites. Those elites may command resources, but they cannot convert their resources into rents without patrons and protection within the state. This promotes various combinations of rent-seeking opportunities for local elites, which can be decisive during moments of political, economic, or social crisis. In some cases, a coercive rentseeking state emerges, which leads to cycles of coercion, extraction, dissent, and repression. Other cases succumb to state failure and are defined by fractious state apparatuses, unable to bind the “loyalty”...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 147-156)

    In the eyes of local elites, the dramatic events during the collapse of the Soviet Union have long ceased to threaten their access to rent-seeking opportunities. The disruptive economic reforms, large-scale political purges, and sweeping mass demonstrations of the early 1990s are already part of history in many postcommunist textbooks. Even memories of Tajikistan’s horrific civil war have begun to fade as years pass. But economies of immobile capital have remained remarkably durable, continuing to shape the bargains struck between rulers and local elites. Underpinned by resources and patronage, a subtle political economy of rent seeking pervades the postcommunist region,...

    (pp. 157-158)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 159-192)
  16. Index
    (pp. 193-196)