Modern definition of the state and failed state in political leadership

Posted by: | Posted on: May 20, 2013

Buddha preached that “Dhamma is the supremacy, Dhamma is the ultimate law; those who practice Dhamma shall prevail wisdom, peace and happiness”. Dhamma means truth, natural laws, or the rule of law. Aristotle pointed out that the law is very important to build a kingdom. Modern political scientist defined a country managed by the rule of law as the nation-state or the state.

According to Aristotle, the development of political leadership has evolved into three distinctive phases: one, few and many. One refers to the ancient empire which was managed by one powerful leader and the leader is called Kingship ក្សត្រាធិរាជ; the leadership style is tyranny or absolute. Few refers to the nation which has been managed by few outstanding leaders and those leaders are within the effect of aristocracy វណ្ណះអភិជន; the leadership style is oligarchy អប្បជនាធិបតេយ្យ. Many refers to modern era of enlightenment which is governed by the people and Aristotle called it “the polity” ទំរង់រដ្ឋាភិបាល; the leadership style is democracy or mobocracy ប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ.

Political observer on the change of political leadership describe the “pragmatic” has produced political result of democracy or it is vaguely called “first world country”; the “ideological” has produced political result of communist or it is vaguely called “second world country”; the “revolutionary” has produced political result of “independence” from colony or foreign occupation or it is vaguely called “third world country”.

However, the evolution to become the state and the definition of the state itself have been broadly debated by the political scientists. They concur that the term “state” itself has been vague, very subjective, unrealistic, unpractical and academically disagreeable. State cannot be useful if it has no neighborhood community, family network and individual participation. Society is the crucial factor of the state or we can argue that without society, state will not be existed. Modern political scientists such as Mitchell Timothy, Evan Peter and Migdal Joel have argued that state and society is inseparable. Hence, between state and society, which come first? What is the concrete bridge to bond these two actors? Again, individual is the state and the law is the link to enable state and society coexist within modern context.


Buddha addressed that individual is the most important factor to drive change in order to reach the realm of Nibbana (Enlightenment) by practicing through the right roadmap (Dhamma). Present scholar such as Benedict Anderson described nationalism as the imagined community and again it is the individual who has created this community and this nation.

Those scholars argue that if a state failed to implement good governance, effective bureaucracy, judicial independence, social justice, people’s freedom, social equity and the enforcement of the rule of laws, the outcome of political leadership of those states shall prevail in the manner of “failed state” or “predatory state”. It means the powerful or the top leader has gained nothing beneficial under their “leadership” to build the nation of the future. He/she has gained only for personal interest and family clan. Buddha said that such leader has been deceived by greed លោភះ and ignorance អវិជ្ជា.

In fact, Cambodia is not only categorized in the third world country as this country was freed from French colony, this country has also experienced genocidal, foreign occupation and poor performance of political leadership. As the result, Cambodian people and their leaders are still embedded by the past of either Angkor the Great or Khmer Rouge genocidal. Memory and imagination have played important role in the mindset of the people and current political leader than to pragmatically make it change for the greater future.

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