Just over ten years ago, Ian Bremmer published a treatise (2006) on the stability of states built on the notion that states fall along a curve resembling a slanted “J” when plotting their stability against openness. The basic idea is that states to the right of the turnover (bottom of the curve) are increasingly open while those to the left are increasingly closed. States on either side of the turnover exhibit increased stability the further they rise along the curve, with the implicit assumption that closed states cannot reach the same level of stability as the most open states As states transition from the left side of the curve to the right, they become more open. States in the turnover process are considered unstable, and are at risk of either reversing to a closed and stable system or even collapsing. In this paper we recast Bremmer’s framework of associated conditions to a causal model.

Second, we more accurately specify the causes of reversal in which crises of instability occur. To meet those objectives, we identify states according to the six types characterized by Tikuisis and Carment (2017). We then define stability as a function of two state dimensions: authority and capacity, and apply the remaining state dimension of legitimacy as a proxy for openness. In testing the model, we find that shifts to openness and reversals leading to increasing instability are not as clear cut as Bremmer argues. Transitions can reverse, oscillate, or simply stall, which are exemplified in the different types of states we categorize. For example, we find that the least stable states experience the highest volatility in shifts between stability and openness, while the most stable states exhibit the lowest volatility. Although all state types significantly improved in stability due to capacity but not authority, changes in openness were mixed over the twenty year period of study.

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Publisher Norman Paterson School of International Affairs
Series Country Indicators for Foreign Policy (CIFP)
Carment, D, Tikuisis, Peter, Calleja, Rachael, & Haichin, Mark. (2017, April 20). The J Curve Revisited: Assessing Backsliding and Reversal Among Unstable States. Country Indicators for Foreign Policy (CIFP). Norman Paterson School of International Affairs.