The Resilient State: New Regulatory Modes in International Approaches to Statebuilding?

Jan Pospisil, Florian Kuehn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


‘Resilience’ has quickly risen to prominence in international security and development circles. In recent years, it has found its way into political discourse on statebuilding and state fragility, triggering a vast but often conceptually indistinct examination of the subject. Given its meaning in policy publications and guidelines, ‘resilience’ tends to eschew a static conceptualization of statehood, turning instead to a more dynamic, complex and process-oriented rendering of state-society relations. This illustrates a conceptual shift from ‘failed states’ to ‘fragile states and situations’. It also transforms the ‘failed state’ as a mere threat perception – with ‘stability’ as its logical other – into ‘fragility’ as a particular form of social and political risk. This paper analyses the concepts in 43 policy papers focusing on the nexus of ‘resilience’ and ‘fragility’ in international statebuilding and assesses potential consequences. What does ‘resilience’ – as the opposite vision to ‘fragility’ – in fact mean? What is the practice derived from this chimerical state of states?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2016


  • fragile states
  • resilience
  • failed states
  • security
  • statebuilding policy


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