State Erosion

Title:                      State Erosion

Author:                 Lawrence P. Markowitz

Markowitz, Lawrence P. (2013). State Erosion: Unlootable Resources and Unruly Elites in Central Asia. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press

LCCN:    2013018864

DK928.8657 .M37 2013


  • “State failure is a central challenge to international peace and security in the post-Cold War era. Yet theorizing on the causes of state failure remains surprisingly limited. In State Erosion, Lawrence P. Markowitz draws on his extensive fieldwork in two Central Asian republics–Tajikistan, where state institutions fragmented into a five-year civil war from 1992 through 1997, and Uzbekistan, which constructed one of the largest state security apparatuses in post-Soviet Eurasia–to advance a theory of state failure focused on unlootable resources, rent seeking, and unruly elites. In Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and other countries with low capital mobility–where resources cannot be extracted, concealed, or transported to market without state intervention–local elites may control resources, but they depend on patrons to convert their resources into rents. Markowitz argues that different rent-seeking opportunities either promote the cooptation of local elites to the regime or incite competition over rents, which in turn lead to either cohesion or fragmentation. Markowitz distinguishes between weak states and failed states, challenges the assumption that state failure in a country begins at the center and radiates outward, and expands the “resource curse” argument to include cash crop economies, where mechanisms of state failure differ from those involved in fossil fuels and minerals”– Publisher’s Web site.


  • Rethinking the resource curse — Resources and rents under Soviet rule — Pathways to failure : Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — Tajikistan’s fractious state — Coercion and rent-seeking in Uzbekistan — Weak and failed states in comparative perspective.


Date Posted:      April 5, 2016

Reviewed by Joshua Sinai, Ph. D.[1]

An application of a theory of the factors leading to state failure to the case studies of the Central Asian republics of Tajikistan (particularly during the period of 1992-1997) and Uzbekistan in which their ruling elites exploited their countries’ natural resources for their own personal gains at the expense of focusing on political and economic development. This thesis is expanded to cover weak states in the Middle East, such as Syria and Lebanon, and Africa, particularly Zimbabwe and Somalia; where similar practices by their ruling elites also resulted in state failure and lack of attention to their overall development.

[1] Sinai, Joshua in The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies (20, 2, Fall/Winter, 2013, p. 122). These reviews present books which examine national security issues that need to be considered in terrorism and counterterrorism analysis. Joshua Sinai is a Washington, DC-based consultant on counterterrorism studies. He can be reached at: Joshua.sinai@

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