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The Crisis of Governance in New Subsistence States.

Nixon, Rod
June 4, 2015

Source: (2006) Journal of Contemporary Asia. 36(1):75-.

The aim of this article is to explore options for public administration in weak states that lack
experience of a self-generated state development process. The article commences with a review of the
state development process in pre-historic times. Drawing on weak state writings and sociological
theory, and with reference to the state development process as it unfolded in Europe, a critical
examination of dominant prescriptions for state-building is then undertaken. Based on the sociological
information considered, it is proposed that state-building strategies that may be appropriate for
societies with experience of state social organisation and the administration of large surpluses, may be
inappropriate for societies which have experienced no internally-generated change in the direction of
state social organisation. Yet countries characterised by these later kinds of societies, referred to in
this article as new subsistence states, by nature possess a range of local administrative mechanisms
capable of operating independently from the state in accordance with the principles of “traditional
authority.” These local administrative mechanisms have no reliance on the centralised accrual and
management of large surpluses for their operation. It is argued–with a particular emphasis on the
areas of justice and conflict resolution – that sustainable public administration in new subsistence
states will be advantaged by the formal recognition and integration of such local capacities. The article
considers recent analysis of developments in the Pacific, and draws on research indicating the
effectiveness of local justice and conflict mediation systems in East Timor. (excerpt).


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