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Research Report

Autocracies Failed and Unfailed: Limited Strategies for State Building

Stephen D. Krasner
Foreword by James B. Cunningham
Copyright Date: Mar. 1, 2016
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 37
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. i-ii)
    James B. Cunningham

    The global state-building experiment that began at the end of the Cold War is, at best, a limited success. One would be hard pressed to find examples of full blown achievement, and from the many instances where efforts have fallen short and even failed, we have seen how complex the state-building enterprise is in the real world. We have learned that the fundamental challenge to promoting better governance in closed autocracies is that opportunities to improve the political climate are in large part dependent on the preferences of national elites. Focused on maintaining and building their own wealth and power,...

  2. (pp. 1-1)

    The fundamental challenge for modern wealthy democracies committed to promoting better governance is that their opportunities are hostage to the preferences of national elites in closed-access polities, where political power is exercised in arbitrary ways, and where most of the population lacks access to services, including the rule of law. The overriding objective of these elites is to maintain political control, which offers them the most assured path to wealth and power. These elites will not support programs for free and fair elections, the general elimination of corruption, or the creation of Weberian legal-rational bureaucracies that treat all citizens equally...

  3. (pp. 3-8)

    There are three kinds of polities in the contemporary world. The first is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) world, which is composed of wealthy consolidated democracies. The only OECD members that have not achieved high percapita income and full democracies are Mexico, Greece, and Turkey. Polities in the OECD are all “open-access,” or “inclusive,” orders. Almost all citizens within such polities have access to the legal system and the right to form organizations. An individual’s economic prospects are not primarily determined by party affiliation, or by some ascriptive characteristic like family or clan membership. Economic transactions are...

  4. (pp. 9-20)

    Merilee Grindle, a faculty member at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, coined the term “good enough governance” in 2004. She argued that the good-governance agenda adopted by many of the major aid agencies—such as the World Bank, Department for International Development (DFID), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—was overly ambitious and failed to take into consideration the institutional contexts and needs of specific states. She pointed out that the number of items included in the good-governance agenda had grown indiscriminately.11 The idea of good governance...

  5. (pp. 21-22)

    Over the long term, good enough governance might, or might not, alter the incentives of elites in ways that would make them more amenable to supporting changes that would embed their polities in a new equilibrium: an open-access order that would be confidently defended by at least a minimum coalition of national elites. The most confident assumption that can be made about the behavior of elites is that they will always be self-interested, not altruistic. That said, changing material, security, and political conditions could alter the incentives of elites enough so that their first-best option would be to depend on...