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‘Good governance’ and ‘state failure’: genealogies of imperial discourse

Gruffydd Jones, Branwen ORCID: 2013. ‘Good governance’ and ‘state failure’: genealogies of imperial discourse. Cambridge Review of International Affairs 26 (1) , pp. 49-70. 10.1080/09557571.2012.734785

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Current international policy discourse routinely characterizes the condition of African states in terms of either ‘good governance’, on one hand, or ‘fragility’ and ‘failure’, on the other. This conceptual vocabulary and analytical approach has become entrenched within the public imagination more broadly, and is reproduced in academic analysis, largely without serious questioning or critique. Some scholars, however, have argued that the entire discourse of ‘state failure’ should be rejected as a valid approach to understanding, analysis and explanation of social and political conditions in Africa. This position seeks both to demonstrate the analytical and explanatory emptiness of the conceptual framework of ‘state failure’, and to reject the uncritical adoption of strands of imperial discourse by academic scholars. This article contributes to this position by examining the failed state discourse as a modern form of racialized international thought. It argues that the discourse must be recognized as a contemporary successor to a much longer genealogy of imperial discourse about Africa and other non-European societies.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Law
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 0955-7571
Last Modified: 02 Nov 2022 09:42

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