Theses Doctoral

Rents, Patronage, and Defection: State-building and Insurgency in Afghanistan

Gopal, Anand

Afghanistan has been one of the most protracted conflicts modern era, but theories of civil war onset fail to explain the war’s causes or its patterns of violence. This thesis examines the origins of the post-2001 period of the conflict through the perspective of state formation; although many civil wars today unfold in newly-forming states, the processes of center-periphery relations and elite incorporation have been little studied in the context of political violence. The thesis first describes how Afghanistan’s embeddedness in the international state system and global markets undermined the nascent state’s efforts to centralize and bureaucratize, leading instead to warlordism and neopatrimonialism. Second, it demonstrates that the development of an insurgency after 2001 was due not to ethnic grievance or rebel opportunities for profit, but rather to the degree to which local elites were excluded from state patronage. Third, it examines the role of ideology and social position in the Afghan Taliban movement. The dissertation seeks to offer a theory of political violence in Afghanistan that can, mutatis mutandis, help explain key features of civil war in newly-forming states.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Bearman, Peter Shawn
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 6, 2017