This paper considers the implications of James Scott’s Seeing Like a State (1998) and The Art of Not Being Governed (2009) for state-building efforts in Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In Seeing Like a State, Scott warns of the problems associated with top-down planning efforts to improve the human condition. In The Art of Not Being Governed, Scott discusses the “art” of state avoidance and self-governance. These works have important insights for contemporary state-building processes, and we explore some of the applications in the context of Afghanistan and the DRC. We conclude with a discussion of the implications for current and future state-building efforts.
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