Open Access

An Analysis of the ‘Failed States Index’ by Partial Order Methodology


Often objects are to be ranked. However, there is no measurable quantity available to express the ranking aim and to quantify it. The consequence is that indicators are selected, serving as proxies for the ranking aim. Although this set of indicators is of great importance for its own right, the most commonly used practice to obtain a ranking is an aggregation method. Any aggregation, however suffers from the effect of compensation, because the aggregation technique is in the broadest sense an averaging method. Here an alternative is suggested which avoids this averaging and which is derived from simple elements of the theory of partially ordered sets (posets). The central concept in partial order is the ‘concept of comparison’ and the most general outcome is a web of relations between objects according to their indicator values, respecting the ranking aim.

As an example the ‘Failed State Index’ (FSI), annually prepared by the Fund of Peace is selected. The FSI is based on twelve individual contextual different indicators, subsequently transformed into a single composite indicator, by simple addition of the single indicator values. Such an operation leaves space for compensation effects, where one or more indicators level out the effect of others. Hence, a comparison between the single states (in total 177) based on their mutual FSI ranking has its limitations as the comparisons are made based on the composite indicator. We show that brain drain is one of the indicators in the FSI-study that plays a crucial role in the ranking, whereby the ranking aim is the stabilization of nations.

Publication timeframe:
Volume Open
Journal Subjects:
Social Sciences, other