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Toward an Anthropology of ‘State Failure’

Lebanon’s Leviathan and Peace Expertise

Nikolas Kosmatopoulos

The sizable amount of academic and policy-oriented literature on socio-political violence in Lebanon could be said to have rendered the country a 'prestige zone' for theorizing on the powerful image of the Leviathan, the Hobbesian idea that a secular social order is achievable only within a strong sovereign state. Building on the insights of the anthropology of the state, this article argues for the necessity of a critical assessment of contemporary expert discourses of 'state failure'. Based on archival research and anthropological fieldwork, the article addresses the metaphor of the failed Leviathan as an empirical question. Overall, it seeks to explore its productivity as an applied expert category and to highlight both the conditions of its construction and dissemination, as well as some of its particular effects.