Conceptualising state collapse
An institutionalist approach
This paper proposes a theoretically grounded and methodologically rigorous conceptualisation of state collapse. It seeks to overcome several key deficits of research into fragile, failed and collapsed states, which is often criticised as normatively problematic and methodologically deficient. We argue that this is a worthwhile topic to study but that scholarly inquiry needs to become more systematic and focus on extreme cases of state collapse. Following a Weberian institutionalist tradition, we disaggregate statehood into three dimensions of state capacity: making and enforcing binding rules, monopolising the means of violence and collecting taxes. We then propose a set of indicators as well as a mode of aggregation based on necessary and sufficient conditions. Our framework identifies 17 cases of state collapse in the postcolonial era.