Building States—Inherently a Long-Term Process? An Argument from Comparative History

  • Thomas Ertman
Part of the Political Evolution and Institutional Change book series (PEIC)


In his contribution to this volume,Dietrich Rueschemeyer has presented an “argument from theory” that explores the extent to which state building is an inherently long-term process.At first glance,the European experience would seem to imply that it most certainly is,since most of the continent’s polities can point to developmental histories that span many centuries. Yet Rueschemeyer is not interested in just any kind of state building, but rather in the sort that leads to the emergence and consolidation of “effective” states, those constructed around the modern bureaucracies famously analyzed by Max Weber. Viewed from this perspective, the European case appears more ambiguous, for it was patrimonial ratherr than “modern” state building that predominated there throughout much of the medieval and early modern periods. Furthermore, when breakthroughs to a more effective form of state organization finally occurred beginning in the 1600s, they did so at varying speeds and under diverse circumstances, thereby rendering generalizations more difficult though, I hope to show, not impossible.


Eighteenth Century Procedural Justice Sixteenth Century State Apparatus State Building 
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© Matthew Lange and Dietrich Rueschemeyer 2005

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  • Thomas Ertman

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