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Overarching Research Issue

Our research at the SFB 700 is based on the understanding that the great majority of the world population is living in areas of limited statehood. In those areas the state power to implement rules and to sustain a legitimate monopoly of force is at least to some degree limited. However, even there we oftentimes observe effective governance services, both on a world scale and when looking at history. Deriving from this observation the SFB 700 poses the questions:

  • How can effective and legitimate governance be sustained in areas of limited statehood?
  • What problems emerge under such conditions?
  • Which consequences may arise from non-state governance for national and international politics?

During our second funding period we developed four central conclusions at the SFB 700. To start with, we discovered the following governance models both in our empirical, contemporary, and historical research:

  • hierarchical and non-hierarchical ruling without a state structure
  • the respective central government delegating governance to external and internal/local actors
  • diverse non-hierarchical negotiating systems involving different actors.

Our second conclusion was that we could not find a systematic connection between the degree of residual statehood and the effectiveness of governance modes in areas of limited statehood. Also, effectiveness and legitimacy of governance do not vary depending on certain policies. However, this does not imply that state or statehood do not play any role in the areas that we looked at. Our third research finding proves the close connection between (empirical) legitimacy and effective governance. When governance is being perceived as legitimate or illegitimate, it consequently triggers a process of adaptation or defense which in return supports or hinders the governance's effectiveness. From a normative perspective our fourth finding distinguishes clearly between instrumental and intrinsic justifications of a certain way of ruling. Instrumental justifications potentially legitimize a governance model if there is consensus on the ruling objectives. Yet, the justifications are limited to the restricted sphere of protection of fundamental human rights and other indisputable goods. Governance services exceeding this limited sphere require participatory processes working on the definition of the respective issues and objectives.

During this current third funding period of the SFB 700 we intend to develop a solid theory of governance in areas of limited statehood based on and backed up by our previous empirical findings. We assume four groupings of conditions to explain the success of effective governance in areas of limited statehood.

(1) Institutional arrangements: the level of established forms under a specific governance is relevant for this category. What also matters is the adaptability to the local context, the interaction of formally established rules and regulations, and the informal practices. Furthermore, what contributes to institutional arrangements on a meta-governance level is the inclusion of institutions that coordinate the varying governance actors and provide a regime in case of clash.

(2) (Residual) statehood and functional equivalents: functional equivalents to the state "shadow of hierarchy" are, amongst others, the hierarchical control by external actors, the "shadow of anarchy" (the threatened absence of political order), as well as anticipated non-governmental actors boosting their reputation.

(3) (Empirical) legitimacy: legitimacy and effectiveness of governance may form either a virtuous or a vicious circle. In the eyes of the affected individuals, legitimacy of governance is a crucial factor influencing their strategies of acting. And in return, the related process of adaptation, defense, and translation has a significant impact on the effectiveness of the respective governance.

(4) Social integration and trust: social trust is an essential requirement for the effective solving of issues around collective acting. Mutual trust enables actors to perform governance services independently. We pose the question on how personalized trust influences governance and how generalized trust that exceeds local communities can be created.


Our second contribution to a theory on governance in areas of limited statehood lies in our research on explaining how empirical legitimacy of governance is created and marks a central condition for success of effective governance. What are the normative factors that make affected individuals favor a certain governance? Pursuing this research question we focus on the following origins of legitimacy:

  • participation and procedural fairness (legitimacy of input and throughput);
  • the anticipated effectiveness of governance (output legitimacy);
  • unique qualities of governance actors (knowledge, ethical and religious competence, and ethnicized means of identification);
  • and localization and translation of external norms.


At last, during our current third funding period we focus on the consequences of governance in areas of limited statehood, do a normative evaluation, and work on policy recommendations. At this point of our research, we now intend to understand the effects of complex governance arrangements on state, statehood, and the international system. Also, we analyze different possibilities to coordinate diverse governance actors and to mediate between different normative demands (meta-governance). To round up our research objectives, we examine the pressing questions on the worthiness of recognition and social justice of governance in areas of limited statehood.