Hameiri, Shahar. Regulating Statehood: State Building and the Transformation of the Global Order

By Coelho, Joseph | International Social Science Review, Spring-Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

Hameiri, Shahar. Regulating Statehood: State Building and the Transformation of the Global Order


Coelho, Joseph, International Social Science Review


Hameiri, Shahar. Regulating Statehood: State Building and the Transformation of the Global Order. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. xii + 248 pages. Cloth, $ 85.00.

In Regulating Statehood: State Building and the Transformation of the Global Order, Shahar Hameiri, a lecturer in international politics and Fellow at the Asian Research Center at Murdoch University in Australia, puts forward an interesting intellectual framework for understanding how state-building interventions in the post-9/11 context represent "a new mode of governance" that challenges traditional conceptions of statehood and signifies a changing global order. Commonly used to refer to a broad range of activities designed to build (or rebuild) and strengthen the institutional capacity of those functions associated with modern statehood, contemporary state-building defies traditional understandings of state development as an exclusively organic and domestically driven process. However, given that today's perceived threats to global and regional security emanate largely from weak and failing states in the developing world, state-building has become a central strategy for Western powers and multilateral organizations seeking to address transnational problems ranging from terrorism and organized crime to the spread of disease, drug trafficking, and refugees. Consequently, state-building has increasingly become a globalized project through which a multiplicity of international, governmental, and private actors shape and monitor the institutional machinery and politics of intervened states.

Like most of the critical scholarship on state-building, Hameiri views state-building interventions as part of a broader strategy of Western powers to: (1) monitor and manage risk and potential instability in the world's periphery; and, (2) build the necessary conditions that are conducive for neo-liberal economics. However, the author is not satisfied with the trajectory of the field. From the outset of his book, Hameiri unleashes a respectful criticism of the scholarly literature on state-building. He accuses scholars and policymakers alike of engaging in what he refers to as "methodological nationalism"--that is, they misconceive and evaluate statehood and state-building through a "capacity-building" lens in which state-building interventions are typically assessed by how effective they are in building the institutional and governmental capacity of intervened states toward an ideal and fantastical Weberian conception of the state. By doing so, the state-building literature largely "strips the state of [a] particular historical context" (p. 3) and portrays it as simply a "neutral set of institutions and actors" (p. 11) rather than as a site of intense social and political conflict. The author contends that this static conception of statehood tends to downplay or mask the political and ideological nature of state-building interventions.

What especially separates Hameiri's analysis from others in the field, however, is his conceptualization of state-building as a "multilevel regime" that operates simultaneously within and outside intervened states. That is, state-building interventions create transnational spaces of governance within intervened states, but without necessarily undermining their formal sovereignty and territorial integrity. These spaces are comprised of "complex vertical and horizontal multi-scalar governances structures" that connect the local to the global and brings "together public and private actors, as well as actors from transnational civil society and multilateral organizations in new and innovative ways that confound traditional notions of statehood and public policy" (p. …

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