[TimorLesteStudies] New article: (Post-)colonial state-building and state failure in East Timor: bringing social conflict back in

Bu Wilson bu.wilson at anu.edu.au
Wed Aug 25 08:41:36 EST 2010

Jones, Lee (2010). (Post-)colonial state-building and state failure in East Timor: bringing social conflict back in, Conflict, Security and Development, 10: 4, 547-575

One potential explanation for the persistent gap between international  state-builders' aspirations and achievements is their misguided  understanding of states as institutional apparatuses abstracted and  separated from society. State-society interpenetration is actually the  historical norm, and a proper understanding of state forms requires  close analysis of the conflicts between different social forces as they  promote state projects that will advance particular interests over  others. International state-builders are best conceptualised as merely  one—albeit important—party to this ongoing struggle, which  state-builders have no realistic hope of taming. The argument is  illustrated by the case of East Timor. Both Indonesian and UN efforts to  transplant state projects into Timorese society, even when backed by  tremendous economic and coercive resources, failed to simply penetrate  and dominate, or to create a technically efficient state insulated from,  society. Rather, their state projects became interpenetrated with the  society they sought to govern, and thus became shot through with social  conflict. Neither more 'capacity-building' nor 'participatory  intervention' can eliminate this conflict, nor evacuate it from the  state.

        * Lee Jones (DPhil, Oxford) is Lecturer in International Relations  at Queen Mary, University of London. His work focuses on the politics of  sovereignty and intervention in developing countries. He is currently  completing a book on (non)intervention by ASEAN states, and will soon  embark on a new project on economic sanctions. 

Dr Bu V.E. Wilson
+61  0 407 087 086

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