restricted access 3. Recent Analyses of the State and Political Capacity
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CHAPTER 3 Recent Analyses of the State and Political Capacity L'etat c'est moi -Louis XIV I have argued that national political capacity hinges on the creation of legitimate institutions. On the face of it, this approach would seem to have much in common with recent analyses of the nation-state, especially those that address the issue of state strength. Indeed, I suggested in chapter 1 that such analyses have brought us back to many of the questions addressed by the earlier literature on development. I now consider the contribution of recent writing on the state to our understanding of political capacity. To begin, I have already emphasized the distinction between the nation-state as a legal entity and the question of state strength. The legal definition stresses two criteria: that the state consist of a defined territory, and that it be independent or sovereign in the sense that it has the right "to enter into relations with other states" (Brownlie 1979, 73-76). This offers us a juridical definition of the state (Jackson and Rosberg 1982a) that identifies the unit of analysis with which we are concerned. These juridical attributes are possessed uniformly by most modem states. There is, of course, some variance in juridical statehood because sovereignty involves recognition by the international community and that recognition is not universal in the modem state system. For example, although they were charter members of the United Nations, the former Byelorussian and Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republics (now Belarus and Ukraine) were not in practice regarded as even potentially independent and sovereign by the broader international community until the end of 1991. The sovereignty of client states like South Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s or Afghanistan in the 1980s is also questionable, to say the least. On the other side of the coin, the 1971 loss of its membership in the United Nations increased the ambiguity surrounding Taiwan's juridical statehood, although that 47 [To view this We[W, refer to the print version of this title.] 48 Power without Force country still maintains extensive diplomatic relations. Similarly, the Republic of South Africa was denied the right to participate in the General Assembly in 1974, but retained de jure membership in the United Nations itself.l These cases remind us that juridical statehood is not without its uncertainties; not all states uniformly possess the requisite properties. But the broader point is that these exceptions, while important in their own right, constitute a tiny handful of the total. The vast majority of states clearly and unequivocally meet the criteria for juridical statehood. In contrast, the question of state strength bears on the issue of political effectiveness and capacity. To raise this question is immediately to imply that some states are more effective than others. Thus, where considerations of the juridical state identify a relatively constant factor (in the context of the contemporary nation-state system), considerations of state strength isolate one or more variables. Two basic approaches to the issue of state strength are evident in the literature. The first of these essentially equates strength with size, so that stronger states are those that control more resources. The second approach avoids the issue of size and appears to conceive of state strength as the capability to make independent or autonomous policy decisions. I address each of these general approaches in tum. State Strength as Government Size The idea that state strength is associated with the size of the state has been widespread for some time. A straightforward and explicit articulation is to be found in Camoy's book titled The State and Political Theory: This is a book about politics. It is a book about the increasing importance of politics in shaping social change in today's world. The primary problem of advanced capitalist societies, after two centuries of economic growth, is no longer the adequacy of resources or their "efficient" allocation for maximum output. The way that output is produced, the definition of what constitutes output, what is produced, and who decides development policy are the significant "economic" problems today. These problems are settled as much in the political arena as in production. There is another reason for the importance of politics: as econ1 . Interestingly, Switzerland has never sought membership, but maintains a permanent observer to the United Nations. Membership in that organization is therefore not the criterion for juridical statehood in the contemporary state system. Recent Analyses of the State and Political Capacity 49 omies throughout the world have...


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Subject Headings

  • Legitimacy of governments.
  • Power (Social sciences).
  • Political development.
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