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If a commonplace exists about African political societies, it’s that of ‘failed states’. And if there’s a lesson to be learnt from these societies, it is precisely the vacuity of such a notion. In reality, the incisive ‘failed state’ thesis merely betrays the incapacity of the new theory of international relations to free itself from the trap it got into when it created the academic artifice of the so-called ‘New World Order’ in the 1990s. Over the last two centuries, we have witnessed a global generalisation of the principle of the nation-state as a regime of territorial sovereignty and ‘autonomisation’ of the political sphere. Albeit imported by the colonial powers, the state in Africa has been the subject of complex processes of ‘appropriation’ that have rapidly added their own social and cultural foundations.