Crisis States Working Paper 12

Title : Liberal theory, uneven development and institutional reform: responding to the crisis in weak states
Author(s) : E.A. Brett
Date : July 2002

Abstract : The liberal paradigm responds to the failures of neo-mercantilism by attempting to create reform market-based institutions. This agenda demands such radical changes in institutions, culture, and knowledge systems, that it is hardly surprising that it is faltering in countries where the gap between actually existing and new institutions is so wide. This being so, it is time for a serious reconsideration of a programme that is manifestly failing to achieve its own objectives.

This paper looks for explanations for this failure by examining the factors that led to the demise of the post-colonial interventionist programmes, and the problems now associated with their liberal successors. It does this by attempting to validate three propositions: 1) that modern institutions may be failing in crisis states, but still provide the only long-term alternative that offers people freedom, security and prosperity; 2) that reforms must generate antagonistic conflict between new and old institutions and value systems; and 3) that this means that new structures and theoretical paradigms must be adapted to deal with the contradictory realities of the political conflicts that they must inevitably generate during the transition to modernity.