From Mastering the National Admissions Test for Law by Mark Shepherd, page 181-182

Last para: Gruesome as we may fi nd the histories of formal dictatorships both of the left and of the right, however, it is to be doubted that the fear engendered by such regimes ever succeeded in percolating through to a visceral level as the totally unpredictable state-in-waiting, one that repudiates even the minimal codes of accountability that are, admittedly, often breached by the formal states. It is these that constitute the quasistates, often meticulously structured by shadowy corporations of power that mimic the formal state in all respects except three: the already noted lack of boundaries, the lack of government secretariats with identifi able ministries and, by extension, the responsibility of governance. The quasi- state, complete with a hierarchy of elites and its own monitoring – i.e. policing and enforcement – agencies, may indeed look to a future world order but, in the process, humanity is blatantly declared expendable, and the actualisation of that new order is limited to a close cabal, proliferating through warrens and cities, and contemptuous of boundaries. [Original source]

34 Which of the following canNOT be inferred to be a defi ning characteristic of a quasi-state?

(e) It is a state about to assume formal power

CORRECT. Reference is made to quasi- states contending for power and being states- in-waiting, but there is nothing in the passage to suggest that a quasistate has to be one that is actually about to assume formal power. It may have, or be about to, acquire power that is not formal in nature, may unsuccessfully seek to obtain formal power, or may simply seek to exercise similar infl uence and challenge the status quo without having any intention of ultimately seizing formal power.

Doesn't X-in-waiting = X that waits to become X? So a state-in-waiting must necessarily be waiting to become a state, which will hold power. Doesn't this truly suggest that ... assume formal power? I accept that the last sentence can be true, The operative word here is suggest, so the last sentence doesn't eliminiate (e).

  • RE: Doesn't X-in-waiting = X that waits to become X? Did you do any English research before you asked this question?
    – J.R.
    Sep 23, 2014 at 11:05
  • Since their inception, these tests have subjected the reader to all kinds of murky shite that passes for prose. "State-in-waiting" is a (poorly chosen) synonym for "quasi-state". The term in-waiting does imply that these quasi-states are in the process of becoming bona-fide states, yet there is nothing in the passage itself to suggest that process is underway. Also, the passage has a grammatical error ("Gruesome as..., however...").
    – TimR
    Sep 23, 2014 at 12:46

1 Answer 1


To be "X-in-waiting" does not imply that it is actually about to become X, just that there are people who want it to become X. In general, if you are waiting for something, you may or may not have any assurance that it will happen. If you say, "I am waiting for the 6:00 flight to Denver", presumably you expect that it will actually come at about 6:00. But if you way, "I am waiting for a promotion", you may or may not expect to get one any time soon. Indeed, if you said, "Yeah, I've been waiting for that for five years", people would probably take that to mean that you don't expect it to ever happen.

RE assume power: Go back to just what the question asked. It said, "which of the following cannot be inferred", not "which of the following is not possible". COULD a state-in-waiting, as described in this paragraph, become an actual state? Yes, it's possible. But the point of the paragraph is that this state-in-waiting is not really ready to assume actual political power. From the paragraph, you cannot INFER that it WILL assume formal power. Just the opposite, the paragraph indicates that it is not ready to assume formal power. Note that the final sentence explicitly states that it MAY be trying to assume power and it may not, it may just be negotiating for changes in the existing power structure. You could argue that the writer is wrong and that this group really is ready to assume power, but that's not something you can infer from the paragraph, that's a rebuttal to the paragraph.

** Addendum **

My reference to the "final sentence" was referring to the answer and not the original paragraph. Looking back I see that rather begs the question of whether the original paragraph actually implies that.

That said, you can see this in the original paragraph, it's just not explicit. The writer says that these quasi-states "mimic formal states ... except ... the responsibility of governance." He's saying that they're not ready to actually govern.

Without more context I'm not sure just what he has in mind when he talks about "quasi-states". It seems to me that an obvious rebuttal would be that they don't have identifiable ministries and the responsibility of governance because they are not actually in power, and that if they did gain power they would quickly establish these things. What would be the point of a revolutionary movement having a Department of Agriculture or a Ministry of Commerce with elaborate bureaucracies that issue edicts or regulations that no one follows? But the point of the question isn't to debate the validity of the author's viewpoint but to demonstrate that you understand it.

  • Thank you. I apologise for overlooking your answer. Would you please explain and cite your sentences: ' the paragraph indicates that it is not ready to assume formal power. Note that the final says explicitly states that it MAY be trying to assume power and it may not, it may just be negotiating for changes in the existing power structure'? I'm still contending with finding these in the passage itself.
    – user8712
    Oct 18, 2014 at 13:15
  • Will you please to respond in your answer, and not as a comment?
    – user8712
    Oct 18, 2014 at 13:16

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