Why have some states struggled to fashion state-society relations, neutralise opposition, gain predominance, and achieve social control, whereas others have been strong in this regard? This book presents a model for understanding state capabilities in the Third World based on state-society relations.
Key contributions from the book include: that elite politics has historically been a key driver of state-society relations in the Third World; that the state has played an important role in preventing social inequalities; and that a state’s capacity to regulate society is central to its power and importance.
The book considers why the same initial conditions can lead to very different outcomes. The author then shows how this theory can be applied to analysing specific issues from the 20th century. The book concludes with a discussion of the future of Third World state-society relations.
The book's central proposition is that the accumulation of state capacity is the outcome of a political competition between elites and society. The level of state capacity that develops depends upon the relative power of the elite vis-à-vis society. This power differential can be effected by one or more of three structural factors: i) the strength of the dominant elites vis-à-vis the society; ii) the strength of civil society vis-à-vis the elite, and iii) the balance of power between society and the state. The first factor, the strength of the elites vis-à-vis society, is influenced by the absence or presence of charismatic leaders in society (autocratic leadership), the strength of civil society, and the effectiveness of (civil) institutions. The second factor, the strength of civil society vis-à-vis the elites, is a function of the balance of power between society and the elite. Thus, the strength of the elite depends on the combination of the degree of authority of the ruling elites, the policy preferences of elites, the degree of leadership by elites in the process of policy-making, and the existence of civil society. Finally, the third factor, the balance of power between society and the state, affects the strength of the elite and the state capacity of society as a whole. The power of the elite is strengthened if the state is weak relative to society, or if society is strong relative to the elite. Hence, the accumulation of state capacity is dependent on the relative strength of the elite vis-à-vis society. 827ec27edc