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Cornell University Cornell Brooks Public Policy

Built to Fail: How Bureaucratic and Institutional Origins Undermined State Building in Afghanistan


Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili presents evidence from Afghanistan to illustrate how failure to break from Soviet-era centralized public administration undermined the massive state-building project and perpetuated a wedge between Afghan civil society and a state that failed to deliver on its promise.

Liberal state building continues to fall short of its promise of political order and economic development. The persistence of bureaucratic legacies in states seeking to recover from conflict, especially the persistence of centralized administrative structures, help explain these failures. These institutions are often the source of state collapse yet are often reinforced by the international community once the dust of war settles. This leads to a vicious cycle of centralization that reinforces rigidity through influxes of foreign aid. Elections often serve as a smokescreen that detract from meaningful administrative reform. The desire to concentrate power is at odds with societies that have governed without the state, or have become deeply distrustful of it, during conflict.

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About the Speaker

Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili is an Associate Professor of Public and International Affairs, at the University of Pittsburgh.


Presented by the Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. Co-sponsored by the South Asia Program.