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Differences in the Strength of States

Literature has long recognized the power of states as a crucial component in ensuring the survival of many political and economic developments, like the consolidation of democracy, the rule of law, the proper supply of fundamental social infrastructure, and economic development. When, during a conflict, the state refuses to safeguard all of its inhabitants and supply them with public goods, it breaches its social contract with its inhabitants and opens the door for “rebel regimes” to fill a void (Chenoweth, 2020). The strength of a state is determined by its ability to provide its population with political goods, foster peace and the rule of law and promote a shared prosperity within its boundaries.

Strong states are effective in ensuring internal political stability, economic expansion, and the potential of social evolution, as well as galvanize resources in order to achieve its objectives. A state befitting of its strength will be adept of attaining its objectives (Larsson, 2015). In addition to setting objectives and organizing resources, a strong or successful state requires democratic components to facilitate interaction between the populace and the governing class (Larsson, 2015). Nevertheless, democracy and state governance are not identical. The state is essentially managed by organizations accountable for maintaining law and order. An efficient state must have sufficient administrative capacity to withstand exterior influence and special interest lobbying, such as organizations that advocate for large corporations, racial clans, or administrative or military agencies (Larsson, 2015). Yet democratic methods may and should be used to fight these organizations and institutions and to establish priorities in the public interest. Otherwise, as Aristotle cautioned, that the state would become a captive of oligarchic either parties or become uncontrollable.

The strength of states are also determined by the social and economic developments. Depending on the circumstances and degree of public growth, the features of state power and efficacy might change. Various cultures establish diverse objectives. Some civilizations have attained a high degree of social and economic growth and can consistently offer security against internal and external dangers (Larsson, 2015). On the other hand, others place security and prosperity as their top priorities. Certain nations are aiming to retain their technical leadership and strong social security measures, whereas others are concentrating on accelerating economic and population development (Larsson, 2015). As a result, it may be inferred that power and effectiveness are related to objectives, and that certain states may lack some components of power that are present in other states (Chenoweth, 2020). In nation-building, national traditions and place in the international order may play a unique role. To evaluate the state’s capacity to maintain stability and promote growth, it is crucial to consider these factors.

Weak states are characterized by increased internal conflicts and violence, which underscore its legitimacy. Such states collapse since they are singed by internal strife and cannot provide their citizens with positive political benefits. The administrations lose credibility, and the very essence of the nation-state itself loses credibility in the eyes and emotions of an increasing number of their population (Radelet, 2015). The birth and collapse of nation-states is not uncommon, but in the contemporary period, when national governments are the base of a legitimate global order, the violent fragmentation and evident fragility of some African, Asian, Oceanic, and Latin American nations endanger the fundamental foundation of this structure (Radelet, 2015). Global institutions and major states are subsequently dragged uncomfortably into a vortex of anarchic domestic turmoil and chaotic humanitarian aid. When many of the world’s newest nation-states vacillate dangerously between fragility and collapse, with some actually faltering or disintegrating, it becomes difficult to maintain desirable international standards such as stability and consistency. Furthermore, during times of terror, understanding the origins and mechanisms of nation-state collapse have been fundamental to important policy issues.

Strong states offer systematic, identifiable, formalized ways for arbitrating conflicts and controlling the prevalent values and traditions of a community or polity. Typically, the core of this political good consists of norms and processes that together establish a legal system, protection of assets and inalienable agreements, a judicial system, and a system of principles that legitimate and support the local rendition of fair treatment (Larsson, 2015). Individuals’ ability to engage freely, publicly, and completely in governance and the political process is another essential political good that strong states offer (Larsson, 2015). This good comprises the core liberties: the rights to run for office; support and respect for regional and national democratic structures, such as parliament and tribunals; accommodation of criticism and disagreement; and basic civil and human rights.

As a broad definition of weak nations, loss of sovereignty is used. Weak states are those that cannot or may not provide their citizens with minimum civic conditions, such as internal peace, social order, and effective governance (Larsson, 2015). Moreover, these states are unable to protect the legal sheaths that conceal an unstable and even hazardous home situation, a state of nature. They have a legal presence on the international level, but a negligible domestic political life. In such countries, infrastructures disintegrates, bribery is pervasive, frontiers are uncontrolled, the gross domestic product is decreasing or stagnating, crime is prevalent, and the national currency is not generally acknowledged (Chenoweth, 2020). Armed organizations exist inside the state’s borders but are not under official authority. In certain instances, the central government’s authority may be limited to the capital city. Local bodies in other regions of the nation, or no one at all, may wield power.

On the other hand, strong states offer a decentralized manner of supplying political goods to individuals residing inside specified boundaries (borders). Having supplanted ancient kings, contemporary nations prioritize and respond to the needs and concerns of their citizenry (Chenoweth, 2020). They coordinate and direct the aspirations of their population, usually but not always for the advancement of national objectives and ideals (Chenoweth, 2020). These states cushion or manage external pressures and forces, advocate for the national or specific interests of their members, and arbitrate between the restrictions and difficulties of the global stage and the vibrancy of their domestic social, political, and economic realities.

Weak states comprise a spectrum of nations that are intrinsically flawed due to geographical, structural, or underlying economic limitations; fundamentally strong but momentarily or circumstantially vulnerable due to internal frictions, governance weaknesses, egoism, disunity, or incursions; and a combination of the two. Generally, weak nations have ethnic, religious, linguistic, or other intercommunal conflicts that have not yet, or have not yet fully, manifested as outright violence (Radelet, 2015). Urban incarceration rates are often higher and rising. In weak nations, the capacity to offer sufficient quantities of other political goods is decreased or deteriorating (Chenoweth, 2020). Infrastructure networks have degraded physically. Schools and hospitals are in disrepair, especially outside of metropolitan areas.

There are three primary reasons why weak states are problematic. First, they pose a danger to regional and global stability, and are oddities in the international order of nations. Besides, they are often accompanied by egregious human rights abuses. According to Radelet, (2015), the political breakdown of a weak state causes instability and endangers adjacent nations via refugee influx and because populations threatened, by state collapse frequently cross international boundaries and might turn to nearby groups for assistance (Radelet, 2015). Alternatively said, groups taking up weapons in one country to further a lawful or illegitimate objective may spark comparable wars in adjacent nations.

Since the international order of nations is based on the premise that legitimate independence is synonymous with internal sovereignty, weak states also pose a risk to the system’s operation. If the national component is lacking, the system’s core concept is compromised (Larsson, 2015). In the absence of domestic implementation power, an international treaty is impotent. Similarly, the concept underpinning international institutions such as the United Nations is that the representatives in the general assembly genuinely reflect a population, whether or not they are democratically viable (Larsson, 2015). In the event that this is not the case, if the representation is de jure but not de facto, the credibility of the institution is diminished.

Examples of Weak and Strong States


Western media regularly fall into the trap of portraying Russia as a strictly regulated society ruled by a centralized dictator. In practice, nevertheless, the leadership provided by the Russian state is unintelligible, and centrifugal forces progressively frame Russian civilization. Observers of Russia are acquainted with a variety of maladies that characterize absolutist autocracies (Morris, 2019). They have rampant corruption than single-party or martial autocratic regimes, as well as slower economic development, more authoritarianism, and less stable governance. Leaders in absolutist autocratic regimes have a fundamental framework: they incite anti-Western feeling to mobilize their base, corrupt the economy to benefit insiders, attack political adversaries via the judicial system, and extend executive authority at the cost of other agencies (Frye, 2021). They often depend on an unstructured inner group of decision-makers that shrinks with time and install cronies or close relatives to key government jobs (Frye, 2021). To legitimize their control, they establish new security groups that answer directly to them and rely on public support rather than free and fair elections.

The extractive, vindictive state strives to collect as much as possible from the populace via additional taxes and penalties. It proclaims clearly that the social state has ended. As a result of Russia’s partial separation from the global economy, the Kremlin has reneged on its promise to fundamental social rights in order to compensate for the absence of political liberties (Frye, 2021). The reduction in economic output caused the social compact to breakdown. In lieu of full coverage by welfare programs, individuals increasingly had to depend on their direct employment for items like social housing and cafeteria meals.


The leadership elements including suppression and corruption shows that Iran is a weak state. Iran’s resilience in the face of formidable foreign opponents and significant domestic dissent and turbulence may reveal a great deal about the survival of authoritarian governments in emerging nations (Parsa, 2020). The Islamic Republic was founded on groundbreaking pledges of political liberty and shared prosperity; however, the secrets to its longevity do not rest in the realization of these pledges (Parsa, 2020). Rather, scholars of the regime’s durability must examine its accumulation of wealth within a closed cluster of government authorities and cronies, their use of assets to nurture dependence and political dominance, their cleansing of dissidents and intrinsic rivals, and their suppression of all independent bodies (Parsa, 2020). Moreover, the existence of external conflicts continues to bolster internal cohesiveness, altering ideologies and fostering dishonesty. The governing government employs severe repressive machinery and oppositional vulnerabilities. (Parsa, 2020). These create political and ideological schisms throughout Iranian society. The legitimacy of the government is questioned by the repression measures it employs.


China’s ability to offer its population both economic and political goods shows that it is a strong state. China exemplifies an East Asian neo-mercantilist nation built on the patriarchal Confucian heritage and a place on the periphery of the global order. Due of its periphery, China prioritizes quick growth while relying on the hierarchical character of its political system to ensure domestic tranquility (Nathan, 2016). It has been aiming to progressively strengthen the totalitarian decision-making system and shift the GDP from the more developed areas to the undeveloped ones (Qiang, 2019). The emergence of the developmental state is associated with the so-called East Asian development paradigm. Based on an export-oriented development model, the developing nation concocts long-term development objectives, identifies economic growth areas, and tries to become interwoven into the global economy (Qiang, 2019). The key to China’s remarkable economic growth over the last three decades has been its selective opening to the global economy. The country’s focus on the wellbeing and security of its nationals guarantees its sovereignty and legitimacy of the regime (Qiang, 2019). There are minimal incidences of violence and revolutions in China and the communist regime has complete control over the economy and the people. This exemplifies China as a strong state.

In conclusion, the strength of a state is determined by its ability to provide its population with political goods, foster peace and the rule of law and promote a shared prosperity within it boundaries. Strong states offer systematic, identifiable, formalized ways for arbitrating conflicts and controlling the prevalent values and traditions of a community or polity. On the other hand, weak states are those that cannot or may not provide their citizens with minimum civic conditions, such as internal peace, social order, and effective governance.


Parsa, M. (2020). Authoritarian Survival: Iran’s Republic of Repression. Journal of Democracy31(3), 54-68.

Frye, T. (2021). Russia’s Weak Strongman: The Perilous Bargains That Keep Putin in Power. Foreign Aff.100, 116.

Larsson, S. (2015). Weak states? A pursuit for a weak state definition and feasible reconstruction theories.

Morris, J. (2019). Russia’s Incoherent State. Current History118(810), 251-257.

Chenoweth, E. (2020). The future of nonviolent resistance. Journal of Democracy31(3), 69-84.

Radelet, S. (2015). The rise of the world’s poorest countries. Journal of Democracy26(4), 5-19.

Qiang, X. (2019). The road to digital unfreedom: President Xi’s surveillance state. Journal of Democracy30(1), 53-67.


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