The Soft State is a term introduced by Gunnar Myrdal in his Asian Drama to describe a general societal “indiscipline” prevalent in South Asia and by extension much of the developing world - in comparison to kind of modern state that had emerged in Europe. Myrdal used the term to describe:
- ... all the various types of social indiscipline which manifest themselves by deficiencies in legislation and, in particular, law observance and enforcement, a widespread disobedience by public officials and, often, their collusion with powerful persons and groups ... whose conduct they should regulate. Within the concept of the soft states belongs also corruption (Myrdal, (1970), p 208).
For Myrdal a major causal factor was colonial powers' destruction of many of the traditional centers of local power and influence and failure to create viable alternatives. Coupled with this was the development of an attitude of disobedience to any authority which was central to the nationalist politics resistance. This attitude persisted after independence. Such soft states are seen as unlikely to capable of imposing the right development policies and would be unwilling to act against corruption at all levels.
- Myrdal, G., (1968), Asian Drama. An Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations, 3 Vols., New York: Pantheon
- Myrdal, G., (1970) The Challenge of World Poverty. New York, NY: Vintage Books.
- Myrdal, G., (1970) The 'Soft State' in Undeveloped Countries. In Unfashionable Economics: Essays in Honour of Lord Balogh, edited by Paul Streeten. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.