The Fragility-Grievances-Conflict Triangle in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA): An Exploration of the Correlative Associations

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The intention of this special issue of Social Sciences is to study state fragility in the post-Cold War Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The intention of this article is to lay the foundation for such a study. The core concept of this article and the special issue is the concept of state fragility, and the focus is on interaction between state fragility and grievances, and fragility and conflict. Laying the foundation to such analysis will be done by clarifying the definitions and conceptual associations between the three clusters of variables. Based on the definitions of the core concepts of state fragility, conflict and grievances, this article will select and adjust data for the analysis of the causal associations between the variables of fragility, conflict and grievance. This data is openly available in the University of Bath Research Data Archive at (Kivimäki, 2021a). Finally, this article will do exploratory work by investigating bivariate correlations between such indicators of state fragility, conflict and grievances that make sense from the perspective of the conceptual foundation. The intention of such exploration is to flag out the apparent anomalies of MENA, so that it would be possible for the rest of the articles of the special issues to focus on MENA-specific structures and dynam-ics. This way the intention is to identify how to complement the more global and general theo-ries of state fragility, to understand the phenomenon in the MENA region. Instead of attempting to move from correlative associations to explanatory, causal models simply by using the quanti-tative data and more sophisticated quantitative methods and models, the intention is to flag the regionally specific associations and leave their explanation to more understanding, qualitative analysis. This way the explanation of causal complexes is approached through the understanding of the region and its conflicts and dynamics of state fragility rather than approaching full expla-nations from the perspective of numbers. Yet, the statistical exploration of the correlative associ-ations in this article intends to guide qualitative analysis of this special issue and prevent it from overgeneralizing exceptions into rules.
Most specifically this article suggests that the relationship between political legitimacy, faction-alism of the state, and conflict needs special, MENA-specific emphasis, as this relationship seems more prominently different in the MENA region, compared to the rest of the world. Also, the role of oil dependence, and the impact of external intervention requires attention of specialists of the region
Original languageEnglish
Article number120
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2021


  • state fragility
  • Human development
  • conflict
  • battle deaths
  • corruption
  • Polity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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