Home / Articles / To Survive, Decentralize!: The Barbarian Threat and State Decentralization
What happens when states or empires face multiple and geographically dispersed assaults along their frontiers from non-state, tribal actors? It is plausible to argue that the result may be state decentralization, both military and administrative. In some cases, this may be a conscious strategy pursued by the central authorities, but in others, it may be the result of centrifugal tendencies pursued by disaffected local leaders. This article illustrates this argument by describing the end of the Roman empire, caused by multiple assaults of barbarian groups. The lesson is that in such an environment a centralized state that arrogates to itself all the functions of security provision may undermine its own safety.