State fragmentation: Toward a theoretical understanding of the territorial power of the state

Sociological Theory 20 (2):139-156 (2002)
Abstract
In existing theories of revolution, the state is narrowly defined as an administrative entity, and state breakdown simply refers to the disintegration of a given political regime. But this narrow definition cannot deal with this question: Why, in a revolutionary situation, do some states become fragmented and others remain unified? I would therefore argue for the broadening of the concept of state breakdown to include the territorial power of the state and to treat the latter as a key analytical dimension in the study of state fragmentation. The dynamics of territorial state power involve the control of critical territories and valuable resources associated with the spatial position of a given state in the interstate system. A strong territorial state is able to maintain its organizational coerciveness and territorial integrity, whereas a weak territorial state is vulnerable to fragmentation. The overall state crisis derives from the accumulated effects of geopolitical strain by which territorial fragmentation unfolds
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