chapter  2
24 Pages

State, Societies, and Political Legitimacy

WithAmin Saikal, William Maley

Regime change within a nation-state cannot properly be understood without reference to the fundamental nature of the nation-state's social and political order. Societies may be categorised in many different ways, but the exercise of taxonomy does not always do justice to the complexities of the societies which one seeks to analyse. Only in the face of direct foreign intervention did the microsocieties of Afghanistan unite even temporarily, and the unity was always insufficient to permit sustained state-building. Afghanistan has historically been marked by a strong society and weak state. The strength of society has come from its weblike character, in which multiple, largely autonomous, social units, most importantly tribes and their subdivisions, have retained their identity within a political unit in the face of bureaucratic-administrative accretions within their territories. In urban centres in particular, new political forces were coalescing which increasingly developed the potential to influence the operations of state instrumentalities and thereby the policies of the central government.