FSI09: Failed States and Civil Resistance

My former Professor Richard Shultz gave the fourth presentation at the Fletcher Summer Institute (FSI) for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict 2009.

Shultz placed his presentation into context by noting that he has radically changed his syllabi and created new courses in order reflect the changing global security. While security traditionally focused on armed groups, we are now focusing increasingly on non-state armed groups and more recently on non-state non-armed groups. Furthermore, violence is a subset of force. In other words, nonviolence is another force that needs to be studied within the context of failed states and civil resistance.

Authority, according to Professor Shultz is based on two characteristics: legitimacy and coercion. He addressed these within the context of strong states and weak states on the one hand and strong societies and weak societies on the other.

There are two types of strong states: those based on strong institutions of coercion not restricted by law; versus those in which the population grants or agrees that the government needs strong institutions of coercion and extraordinary powers. Whether a society is strong or weak depends on how legitimate they view the state. This produces a framework with 4 quadrants or cells (e.g., strong state, strong society).

Not surprisingly, the framework prompted discussions on whether the notions of legitimacy, consent, coercion, etc., were really so clear cut. One participant noted that whether or not a state’s institutions of coercion or strong or weak depends on what period of history we’re interest in. Also, if coercive institutions are “weak”, that may actually be due to the fact that society was able to foster political transition. Finally, states are not monolithic, the strength of states and societies will vary substantially within a country’s territorial borders.

I had hoped that the presentation would be more linked to the topic of civil resistance. For example, how do civil resistance strategies and tactics need to change depending on which cell a state falls in? Moreover, I had hoped that the presentation would address how one might engage in civil resistance in failed states, such as Somalia.

Patrick Philippe Meier

One response to “FSI09: Failed States and Civil Resistance

  1. Pingback: Brokekid.net » Monkey Vs Robot – My Weekly Idealist post

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