When the Virtuous Circle Unravels: Unfair Service Provision and State De-legitimation in Divided Societies

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Colleges, School and Institutes


The mutually reinforcing ‘virtuous circle’ of service provision and state legitimacy posited in prominent statebuilding models can unravel when citizens perceive unfair service processes or distribution. In Sri Lanka, changes to university access catalysed an ongoing process of state de-legitimation among the Tamil minority. Coveted services are lucrative legitimacy commodities that can cater to the core legitimacy audience, leading to perceptions of unfairness among excluded groups. This can have wider de-legitimizing effects through signalling the state’s operative values and norms. In already divided societies, whether services support or undermine state legitimacy can hinge on competing perceptions of fairness.


Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Intervention and Statebuilding
Early online date26 Jul 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jul 2018


  • service provision; Sri Lanka; State legitimacy; legitimacy audience; virtuous circle

ASJC Scopus subject areas