The State as Social Practice: Sources, Resources, and Forces in Central Asia

Akchurina, Viktoria (2016) The State as Social Practice: Sources, Resources, and Forces in Central Asia. PhD thesis, University of Trento.

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Abstract

This thesis is about state and society relations in Central Asia. It examines statehood comparatively in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Despite having made different political, economic, and institutional choices at independence in 1991, these countries arrived at the same outcome today: an incomplete state. In framing the problem as the incomplete state, this thesis shifts the conventional emphasis away from symptoms of state weakness toward those processes that contribute to it. It highlights the fact that the state can simultaneously be both strong and weak, omnipresent and absent. It is the blurring of the line between state and non-state, public and private, legal and illegal, formal and informal which matters for a better understanding of the state. Drawing from Charles Tilly and Michael Mann, this thesis suggests that these shadow areas generate processes of interstitial emergence that may either undermine or strengthen the state. The outcome generated by such processes is dependent on the balance between state autonomy and state embeddedness. The thesis argues that the incomplete state is a result of three sets of factors—historical, external, and local—that directly or indirectly produce processes that are counter-productive to the current state-building process. Specifically, it focuses on the societal legacy of the Soviet statehood, the strategies of state-building provided by external actors, and the balance of power between rival local elites. It demonstrates how each of these sets of factors contribute to the creation or development of sites of social resistance and the chasm between the state and society in each of the three given cases. Further, it identifies three important processes. Firstly, structural changes taken for granted following the dissolution of the Soviet Union have not necessarily altered cross-border societal interdependence at the grassroots. Secondly, the strategies pursued by external actors have indirectly created isolated pockets of land, empowered community-based civil activism and facilitated informal trade. Finally, while state elites strengthened the institution of the state, they turned it into a tool for legitimizing illicit revenues rather than a means to increase its infrastructural power. States and societies in the region have become isolated from one another. These states, empowered only in the institutional sense, have become empty shells. The societies, empowered without the state, have become captives within a game of survival. It seems that the state cannot be complete without becoming social.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:International Studies
PhD Cycle:26
Subjects:Area 14 - Scienze politiche e sociali > SPS/04 SCIENZA POLITICA
Repository Staff approval on:22 Feb 2016 13:11

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