When the Virtuous Circle Unravels: Unfair Service Provision and State De-legitimation in Divided Societies

DLP's Deputy Director Claire Mcloughllin highlights the importance of people's perceptions of fairness in service delivery in this open access article in the Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding.

The mutually reinforcing ‘virtuous circle’ of service provision and state legitimacy posited in prominent statebuilding models can unravel when citizens perceive unfair service processes or distribution. In Sri Lanka, changes to university access catalysed an ongoing process of state de-legitimation among the Tamil minority.

Coveted services are lucrative legitimacy commodities that can cater to the core legitimacy audience, leading to perceptions of unfairness among excluded groups. This can have wider de-legitimizing effects through signalling the state's operative values and norms. In already divided societies, whether services support or undermine state legitimacy can hinge on competing perceptions of fairness.

See the author's policy brief (2pp): When does service delivery undermine state legitimacy? Why perceptions of fairness matter

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The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

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