Bras. Political Sci. Rev.. 01/Sep/2015;9(3):64-87.

Reversing Polarities: Anarchical (Failed) States versus International Progress

Marta Fernandez Moreno

DOI: 10.1590/1981-38212015000300020

The article explores how the literature on ‘failed states’ (re)produces the modern state as a regulatory ideal, obscuring its contingent character and its violent foundation. So, discursive practices, based on an Eurocentric account, construct the ‘failed state’ as deviant. The resultant hierarchy of states, in turn, creates favorable conditions for interventionist practices, whose agents are depicted as members of a ‘progressive’ and ‘benevolent’ ‘international community’. As state failure is interpreted as exclusively domestic process, a well-demarcated boundary between the domestic level of ‘anarchy’ and the international realm of ‘order’ and ‘progress’ results. This article shows that the traditional image of an anarchical system versus an ordered and progressive state is turned on its head when viewed from the perspective of ‘failed states’. In the latter, domestic anarchy is contrary to a modernizing international realm. By labelling the ‘other’ as ‘traditional’, ‘failed’, and ‘backward’ in distinction to a ‘modern’, ‘successful’ and ‘progressive’ international, the dominant discourse conditions us to conceive of these realms as homogeneous in themselves and radically different from each other, rather than as liminal areas with numerous ambiguities and overlaps.

Reversing Polarities: Anarchical (Failed) States versus International Progress