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Peter Ferdinand

This chapter deals with institutions and states. Institutions are essentially regular patterns of behaviour that provide stability and predictability to social life. Some institutions are informal, with no formally laid down rules such as the family, social classes, and kinship groups. Others are more formalized, having codified rules and organization. Examples include governments, parties, bureaucracies, legislatures, constitutions, and law courts. The state is defined as sovereign, with institutions that are public. After discussing the concept of institutions and the range of factors that structure political behaviour, the chapter considers the multi-faceted concept of the state. It then looks at the history of how the European type of state and the European state system spread around the world between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries. It also examines the modern state and some of the differences between strong states, weak states, and democratic states.


This chapter explores the relationship between the state and institutions and how political scientists theorize about them. It first provides an overview of the concept of institutions and the range of factors that structure political behaviour, noting how political, economic, and social factors determine particular outcomes, which are in turn influenced by ‘structure’ and ‘agency’. It then considers the multifaceted concept of the state and the rise of the European state, focusing in particular on the ways in which the European type of state and state system spread around the world between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries. The chapter goes on to discuss the modern state and some of the differences between strong states, weak states, and democratic states, suggesting that states need legitimacy and robust institutions to be strong.


12. The Modern State  

Characteristics, Capabilities, and Consequences

Anna Persson

This chapter examines the concept of the modern state in a developing world context. More specifically, it considers the characteristics and capabilities that define the modern state and the extent to which the state can be regarded as an autonomous actor with the potential to influence development outcomes. After providing an overview of the role of the state as a potential driver of development, the chapter discusses statehood in the contemporary world and how the evolution of the modern state can be understood. It then asks how different patterns of state formation affect the ways that states further consolidate and develop. It also explains the distinction between the ‘weak’ state found in the majority of developing countries and the ‘strong’ state typically found in the industrialized parts of the world. Finally, it tackles the question of institutional reform from ‘the outside’ and its implications for development.


This chapter examines the implications of globalization for sovereign statehood. It begins with a discussion of the debate over the consequence of globalization for nation-states, followed by an analysis of the modalities of statehood as they have developed over the past several decades. In particular, it explores how advanced capitalist states are transforming from modern into post-modern states. It also considers the emergence of weak post-colonial states out of special circumstances—the globalization of the institution of sovereignty in the context of decolonization. Furthermore, it looks at modernizing states such as China, India, Russia, and Brazil, which combine features of the modern, post-modern, and weak post-colonial states. The chapter concludes with an overview of changes in statehood that place the discipline of comparative politics in a new setting.


Andreas Krieg

This chapter focuses on regime security, the condition where governing elites are secure from violent challenges to their rule, and the unique insecurity dilemma facing many developing countries. The chapter shows that the insecurities that confront regimes in the developing world mostly emanate from internal rather than external threats and are linked to the inability or unwillingness of these regimes to provide security inclusively as a public good to local communities. This regime insecurity loop is explained by contrasting public and regime security, and how regimes in the developing world are trying to manage internal threats through accommodation and coercion. The Assad regime in Syria is used to illustrate the regime insecurity loop. The chapter concludes by outlining the prospects of regime security in the developing world amid an increased transnationalization of security affairs.


Michael Bratton

This chapter examines efforts to introduce multi-party politics into Sub-Saharan Africa during the 1990s. It first considers regime changes in the region and shows that they result from the ‘conjuncture’ of various forces. Some of these forces are structural—such as the decline of African economies, the end of the Cold War—but political actors produce others, like incumbents’ concessions, opposition protests, and military withdrawals from politics. With reference to various African examples, the chapter emphasizes the important role played by certain structural conditions in transitions to democracy during the 1990s, but suggests that outcomes more often hinged on purposive political action. It also analyses the quality of resultant African regimes and concludes by identifying several fundamental constraints on further democratization including endemic poverty and weak states.