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The failed state discourse : a critique from the Papua New Guinea experience

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Title: The failed state discourse : a critique from the Papua New Guinea experience
Authors: Kombako, Bello D.
Keywords: Political sociology
Papua New Guinea
Issue Date: 2004
Abstract: So much has already been written about the state so why another thesis on the state? There are two compelling reasons: the first is the result of a personal disillusionment that arose out of my own working experience and association with the state and state actors in Papua New Guinea (PNG). It is a humble endeavor that sets out to bring a topic that entails complex and interrelated issues to a level of simple understanding. It is a personal yearning to learn for myself, in a holistic manner, about an imposing entity that has been seen as central to the lives of contemporary ordinary Papua New Guineans. The second reason is also personal and is an undertaking to critically analyze the impression and perception that the PNG state is a failed state. The personal undertaking came about after it became obvious that a discourse on failed state has been making the rounds in academic and political circles in the pacific in recent years following the two Fiji coups and the current (2001-2003) failed state scenario in the Solomon Islands (Chappel, 2003: pers.comm.). The discourse prophesied that given its present political and social upheavals within its own society, PNG would follow its two Melanesian neighbors down the path of state failure. This thesis does not pretend to break new grounds nor shed valuable light on the subject. But it does intend to revisit what has already been said and written with the view to bring to the forefront what may not have been adequately covered. That is, what is it about state failure in PNG that has not been adequately covered or analyzed by the current array of discourses and paradigms? Are there possibilities of picking up valuable threads or suggestions that may help to explain the root causes of state failure in PNG? This thesis is about two issues: to ascertain the validity of the failed state discourse and to identify possible root causes of state failure in PNG. The overall argument of this thesis, then, is that the current discourse on state failure does not adequately explain root causes of state failure in PNG and that a wider approach should be able to suggest better ways of explaining this. What follows, then, is an attempt to examine these two issues in a critical light by analyzing similar examples and experiences of state failure around the world vis a vis the PNG case. It is hoped that the literature review in Chapter 2 and the historical analysis of state-formation and political development in Chapter 3 should be able to lay a firm groundwork as the way to expound on my central argument. On the basis of these two chapters, I also argue that the ultimate outcome of state failure is deeply intertwined with the forces and circumstances that helped shaped the state's own conception and subsequent birth. I want to commence this inquiry by asking a few sociological questions: Why is it that some states take good care of their societies while others do not? Why is it that some states are stronger and more successful than others? Could the PNG state achieve the same level of success and prosperity enjoyed by other more successful societies using the same rules and ideological foundations applied so successfully in other states? These questions in turn serve as bases for policy formulation, legislation enactment, and ultimately the politics of distribution of power and resources. While there are significant bases for the failed state discourse to be widely accepted as a social fact in PNG and elsewhere, a broader approach is undertaken here to examine this discourse. While most of these views about state failure in PNG are not without merits and are well researched, this thesis will take a neutral stand when compared with the more extreme examples of state failure and collapse occurring in different parts of the world today.
Description: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2004.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 133-139).
v, 139 leaves, bound map 29 cm
Rights: All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections:M.A. - Sociology

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