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In the post-Westphalian world, sovereignty is the norm that simultaneously produces anarchy between states and the possibility of its opposite, order, within those states. While sovereignty ostensibly gives national authorities ultimate control over subnational actors and spaces, along with the formal ability to impose order from above, the reality is much more complicated – and much more interesting. Order is never a foregone conclusion, even within the sovereign states that form the units of the international state system. From the seminal works of scholars like Michael Mann, Stein Rokkan, and Charles Tilly, we know that the emergence of the nation-state as the dominant unit in the modern world was everywhere associated with dramatic territorial struggles between national and subnational actors over who got to do what, and with whose resources. Whether peripheral regions were incorporated into proto-states by core areas using direct or indirect forms of rule, territory was always at the heart of state building. But territorial struggles do not simply disappear once the process of state formation is complete; well after their emergence, states are constantly negotiating and renegotiating territorial arrangements between core and periphery, and between national and subnational. We see this in the wave of decentralization that swept the global south at the end of the last century, and in the set of re-centralizing changes that have occurred in the opening years of the new century.

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