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Where is the ‘state’ in Iraq and Lebanon?

Authors: Renad Mansour, Lina Khatib

Affiliation: Chatham House

Organization/Publisher: Chatham House

Date/Place: April 21, 2021/UK

Type of Literature: Research Paper

Number of Pages: 33


Keywords: State Fragility, Power Competition, Westphalian Model, Accountability


The apparent state failures of Iraq and Lebanon have more details to be explored, and a closer look at social power dynamics that goes beyond the conventional “state collapse” narratives. Most analysts take the institution-centric (neo-Weberian) model for granted, however it doesn’t explain the blurred lines between state and non-state actors. A hybrid approach gives the nuances needed to explain the current power dynamics, as these dynamics transcend official institutions. The hybrid approach is based on an axis of a horizontal inter-elite relations coupled with a vertical elite-citizen one; this complex spectrum showcases the state as competition between actors—along with their social base—for power. It is the fragility of state that should be studied and not its absence. In doing so, Iraq and Lebanon’s political fragmentation is then understood as a competition for power. The Westphalian model cannot explain state survival, i.e. despite Iraq and Lebanon’s ongoing sectarian party splits and public unrest, state fragility is simply a part of a competition using ideology, economics and violence. Accepting the current power axis helps in implementing accountability measures in society, and is more useful than ongoing postulation on when state collapse will happen.  

By: Omar Fili, CIGA Research Assistant



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