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2.3: Strong state, weak state, sustainable state, failed state

Overview of the concept of state capacity. What explains state capacity, and what does state capacity explain?

Paul DeBell

on 20 January 2017

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Transcript of 2.3: Strong state, weak state, sustainable state, failed state

States can be measured in terms of their "capacity" or "sustainability"
What are we talking about here?
State Capacity
strong state, weak state, sustainable state, failed state
Most sustainable states (2011):
Least sustainable, or failed, states (2011):
Sustainability world map by the Fund for Peace (2011)
life in sustainable states...
high standard of living
safety, order, and rule of law
state provides many services:
The modern state is an "ideal type"
How is state capacity measured?
so what?
A hypothetical abstract form of something at its purest
NOT something in the real world
ideal type of a state is perfectly legitimate, rational-bureaucratic, sovereign, etc...
Useful as the end of a spectrum on which to compare different real world objects
Fund for Peace indicators:
Social: demographic pressure; massive refugee or displaced population; vengeance-seeking groups
Economic: uneven economic development; poverty and economic decline
Political: legitimacy of the state; deterioration of public services; violation of human rights; predatory security apparatus; factionalized elites
How to measure legitimacy, sovereignty, etc.? Tricky...
Life in failed states
much more like Hobbes' state of nature: nasty, brutish, and short
Most of the world:
Sustainable states with significant challenges
Ex: Mexico
challenges to internal sovereignty
challenges to legitimacy
what explains state capacity?
what does state capacity explain?
Reverse causation alert!
state capacity =
ability to provide
ability to provide =
ability to tax
ability to tax =
legitimacy and efficiency of state apparatus
legitimacy and efficiency of state apparatus = state capacity
thus, states often get caught in a vicious and virtuous circles when it comes to state capacity...
Mo Money
Mo Capacity
Ability to extract (successfully tax) is often a key measure of state capacity
It's nothing personal...
The creation of impersonal institutions that have been negotiated upon by the members of a political community encourage state capacity (North, Wallis, and Weingast 2009)
One good independent variable: colonial legacy
Most weak and failed states are former colonies. Why?
institutions imposed from above (no negotiation)
certain groups favored
often arbitrary border drawing = more potential for conflict
Another IV:
The resource curse
When a group of elites gets a lot of revenue from a natural resource (oil, gold, diamonds...)
State capacity as an independent variable
Quality of life; human rights
Not mo money more capacity?!
Nope. Here: mo money mo problems
Elites with this revenue don't have to negotiate. They just pay off competitors and citizens.
International influence
Cold War
Quasi states
Each side gave leaders a bunch of money in exchange for siding with them
leaders have this revenue, don't need to negotiate to get it
similar logic to resource curse
state borders internationally recognized
strong states don't eat weak states like the used to
thus, international recognition and sovereignty without effective state apparatus
Economic prosperity
Picture credits:
Failed states map and statistics: http://www.fundforpeace.org/global/?q=program-fsi
Supreme Court: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/obamacare-day-2-supreme-court-takes-up-individual-mandate/
Supermarket: http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/uk-supermarkets-told-to-green-up-their-act.html
Playground: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Playground
Highway: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/transporter/04nov/index.cfm
Classroom: http://www.litchfieldcountymom.com/articles/2010/11/22/news/doc4cea6e597bedc530806208.txt
Kids in Mogadishu street: http://ithinkfrank.blogspot.hu/2011_01_01_archive.html
Pirate: http://www.forbes.com/sites/afontevecchia/2011/04/21/pirates-selling-shares-as-piracy-hits-all-time-high/
Dirt road : http://www.somaliareport.com/index.php/post/515
Military brutality: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/06/20/postcards_from_hell_2011#21
Mexico drug cartel map: http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/48993000/gif/_48993182_mexico_cartels_464map.gif
Mexican protests: http://www.theworld.org/2012/06/mexico-yosoy-132/
Lying politician: http://www.psmag.com/politics/corruption-leads-to-more-corruption-16868/
Oil well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Oil_well.jpg
Cold War: http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/coldwar2.htm
you are now an expert on state capacity!
Santigold, "Disparate Youth"
Political Science 1200
The Ohio State University
what does
it all mean?
Full transcript