Whats in a name? De facto states, terminological choices, and normative consequences

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University of Oslo

Whats in a name? De facto states, terminological choices, and normative consequences
// Pathways to Peace and Security. 2022. No 1(62) Special Issue: Peace Processes, Violence, and De Facto States. P. 30-46
DOI: 10.20542/2307-1494-2022-1-30-46

Abstract. There are a handful of territories around the globe that have state-like qualities such as governments, police, and tax collection, but are not recognized as states by other states, or are, perhaps, recognized by only one or several states. The study of these entities has been characterized by “terminological anarchy”, with each author developing his or her own designations, sometimes covering exactly the same ground, or seeking to introduce definitions to expand or delimit the number of cases. While these “name games” are partly driven by the ambitions of academics who want to present their research as being original and innovative, they also reveal underlying attitudes towards the phenomenon of de facto statehood. In the article, the range of appellations used in describing these political entities at the margins of international society is analyzed, to see what the choices of names can tell us about underlying attitudes. It is argued that current terminological pluralism is unhelpful and should be eliminated, in order to ensure that we are referring to the same entities in discussing what these entities “are”, what moves them and how they interact with other entities.

Keywords: de facto states, terminology, definitions, quasi-states, contested states, statehood


About author

Pål Kolstø (Norway) – Professor, Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages, University of Oslo.


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For citation:
Kolstø P. Whats in a name? De facto states, terminological choices, and normative consequences // Pathways to Peace and Security. 2022. No 1(62) Special Issue: Peace Processes, Violence, and De Facto States. P. 30-46. https://doi.org/10.20542/2307-1494-2022-1-30-46



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