The topic of nation building has emerged again in the twenty-first century as a major new development in international affairs, especially in the context of terrorism and failed states. Although efforts that one readily could understand as nation building date from the time of Alexander the Great (356–323 BCE), if not before, the contemporary use of the term denotes a complex and multifaceted reality that deserves sustained reflection by the philosophical, political science, and legal communities.

Leaving aside whether nation building itself is an appropriate phrase—state building may indeed be more appropriate—there exists a rough definition of nation building, or perhaps more accurately, nation building functions as shorthand for several activities. Although some may quibble about the details, one can suggest that contemporary nation building involves ...

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