State-building is a term used in state theory. It describes the construction of a functioning state. This concept was first used in connection to the creation of states in Western Europe and focused on the power enforcement of state in society (Tilly 1975). Tilly (1975: 70f.) described the advantages of state building in Europe as follows:

"State building provided for the emergence of specialized personnel, control over consolidated territory, loyalty, and durability, permanent institutions with a centralized and autonomous state that held the monopoly of violence over a given population".


There are two main theoretical approaches to definitions of state-building. Firstly state-building is seen by some theorists as an activity undertaken by external actors (foreign countries) attempting to build, or re-build, the institutions of a weaker, post-conflict or failing state. This is a view of state-building as the activity of one country in relation to another, usually following some form of intervention (such as a UN peacekeeping operation). A view that has featured in media debates on Iraq and Afghanistan and has influenced documents such as the UN report:“A more secure world: Our shared responsibility” Report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change A/59/565, or the Rand Corporations's Beginners Guide to Nation Building (see below for a discussion of nation building vs state-building)at

The second strand of theory and definitions gained momentum following the signing in 2007 of an international accord between donor nations on their work in conflict affected and weak states ( This accord committed richer countries to consider supporting `state-building' as their `central objective' in conflict affected countries. The result has been a steady stream of new work commissioned by donor countries on definitions, knowledge and practice in state-building, much of this co-ordinated by a Task Team of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This work has tended to draw heavily on political science. It has produced definitions that view state-building as an indigenous, national process driven by state-society relations. This view believes that countries can not do state-building outside their own borders, they can only influence, support or hinder such processes. Illustrations of this approach include a think-piece commissioned for OECD ( and a research study produced by the Overseas Development Institute (

In 2008 the British Government's Department for International Development released a Working Paper on state-building that helped bring together new thinking in this field. It drew heavily on the more recent studies, and also on views of a panel of academic experts( The paper moved the debate forward by offering models of how indegenous state-building dynamics may work in practice (the Whaites model). The paper argues that state-building is primarily a `political' process rather than just a question of technical capacity enhancements. It sees state-building as involving a threefold dynamic of: political (usually elite) deals, the prioritization of core government functions and the willingness to respond to public expecations ( See also Political settlement

Across the two streams of theory and writing there is a broader consensus that lessons on how to support state-building processes have not yet been fully learnt. Some believe that supporting state-building requires the fostering of legitimate and sustainable state institutions, but many accept that strategies to achieve this have not yet been fully developed. Little of the post-conflict support to state-building undertaken so far has been entirely successful. Sustained focus on supporting state-building has tended to happen in states frequently characterized by brutalized civilian populations, destroyed economies, institutions, infrastructure, and environments, widely accessible small arms, large numbers of disgruntled soldiers to be demobilized and reintegrated, and ethnically or religiously divided peoples. These obstacles are compounded by the fundamental difficulty of grafting democratic and human rights values onto countries with different political, cultural, and religious heritages. {Fact|date=April 2007

While approaches such as the Whaites model (DFID) have tried to argue that state-building takes place in all countries and that much can be learnt from successful state-building there is a tendency to narrow the discussion to the most problematic contexts. As a result much of the literature on state-building is preoccupied with post conflict issues. See eg (Dahrendorf, 2003), (The Commission on Post-Conflict Reconstruction, 2003), (Collier, 2003) (Fukuyama, 2004), (Paris, 2004), (Samuels 2005). Common critiques include inadequate strategy and a lack of coordination, staffing weaknesses, and that funding is insufficient or poorly timed. Moreover, it is increasingly recognized that many of the tasks sought to be achieved are extremely complex and there is little clarity on how to best proceed. For instance, it is extremely difficult to provide security in a conflictual environment, or to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate armies successfully. It remains practically impossible to address vast unemployment in states where the economy is destroyed and there is high illiteracy, or to strengthen the rule of law in a society where it has collapsed. Moreover, the unintended negative consequences of international aid are more and more evident. These range from distortion of the economy to skewing relationship of accountability by the political elite towards internationals rather than domestic population.

The first approach to State-building, an activity by external actors/countries, is perhaps the more controversial of the two strands of thinking. It is viewed as having overtones of imperialism and colonialism, whereby local populations view the foreign power as an oppressor attempting to impose a foreign system and culture. In this sense, critics argue that wars could even be lengthened to cause additional damage to the adversary's infrastructure. By doing so, critics contend, economic opportunities emerge. Examples of such occurrences put forward by proponents of such a theory include the rebuilding of Germany in the aftermath of World War II via the Marshall Plan, the rebuilding of Japan following the United States' fire-bombing campaign, and more recently, the use of private corporations.

The second strand of thinking (an indigenous process of state-society relations) has less interventionist overtones and makes clear that national leadership and vision is centrally important. It does, however, potentially leave a gap in terms of strategies for the international community to support positive state-building processes in poor, post-conflict and weak states. More work is needed to convert the ideas and models of the second strand of thinking into clear poliicies to help conflict affected states.

Differentiating "nation-building", military intervention, regime change

In the American context, some commentators use the term "nation-building" interchangeably with "state-building" (eg Rand report on America's role in nation-building). However in both major schools of theory the state is the focus of thinking rather than the "nation" ("nation" conventionally refers to the population itself, as united by identity history, culture and language). The issues debated related to the structures of the state (and its relationship to society) and as result state-building is the more broadly accepted term. In political science `nation-building' usually has a quite distinct meaning, defined as the process of encouraging a sense of national identity within a given group of people, a definition that relates more to socialisation than state capacity (see the ODI, OECD, and DFID reports cited above).

Similarly, state-building (nation-building) has at times been conflated with military intervention or regime change (again often in the American context). This derives in part from the military actions in Germany and Japan in World War II and resulting states, and became especially prevalent following the military interventions in Afghanistan (October 2001) and Iraq (March 2003). However, the conflation of these two concepts has been highly controversial, and has been used by opposing ideological and political forces to attempt to justify, or reject as an illegal military occupation, the actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hence, regime change by outside intervention should be differentiated from state-building.

State structures within the concept of state-building

The term "state" can be used to mean both a geographic sovereign political entity with a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with the other states, as defined under international law (Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, December 26, 1933, Article 1), as well as a set of social institutions claiming a monopoly of the legitimate use of force within a given territory (Max Weber, 1919).

For the purposes of state-building in environments of instability, the sub-structures of states can be defined as a political regime (or system of government), a governance framework (or constitution), and a set of state institutions (or organizations) such as the armed forces, the parliament, and the justice system. State capacity refers to the strength and capability of the state institutions. Nation conventionally refers to the population itself, as united by identity, history, culture and language.

ee also

* Nation-building
* Regime change
* The White Man's Burden
* Disaster capitalism
* Political settlement
* State


*Almond, Gabriel: "The Return to the State" in: American Political Science Review, Vol. 82, No. 3, 853–874, 1988.
*Bastian, S. and Luckham, R. ) In Can Democracy Be Designed? : The Politics of Institutional Choice in Conflict-Torn Societies (Ed, Luckham, R.) Zed, London Collier, P., 2003.
*Caplan, Richard, "International Governance of War-torn Territories: Rule and Reconstruction", Oxford: OUP, 2005.
*Chandler, D. "Empire in Denial: The Politics of State-building". Pluto Press, 2006.
*Collier, Paul "Breaking the Conflict Tr

*The Commission on Post-Conflict Reconstruction, "Play to Win", Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Association of the U.S. Army, Washington DC, 2003.
*Covey, Dziedzic, et al. (eds.) "The Quest for Viable Peace: International Intervention and Strategies for Conflict Transformation", USIP Press, Washington DC, 2005.
*Dahrendorf, N. (Ed.) "A Review of Peace Operations: A Case for Change", King's College, London, 2003.
*Fukuyama, Francis: State Building. Governance and World Order in the Twenty-First Century, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2004a, ISBN 0-8014-4292-3
*Fukuyama, Francis: "The Imperative of State-Building", in: Journal of Democracy, Vol. 15, No. 2, 17–31, 2004b.
* Hehir, A. and Robinson, N. (eds.) "State-building: Theory and Practice", Routledge, London, 2007.
*Kjær, Anne M./Hansen, Ole H./Frølund Thomsen, Jens Peter: "Conceptualizing State Capacity", Working Paper, March, Department of Political Science, University of Aarhus, 2002.
*Krasner, Stephen D.: "Approaches to the State: Alternative Conceptions and Historical Dynamics", in: Comparative Politics, Vol. 16, No.2, 223–246, 1984.
*Kuzio, Taras/Kravchuk, Robert S./D’Anieri, Paul (eds.): "State and Institution Building in Ukraine", London: Routledge, 1998, ISBN 0-415-17195-4 .
*Migdal, Joel S.: "State in Society. Studying how States and Societies Transform and Constitute one another", Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
*Paris, Roland, "A War's End", University of Colorado, Boulder, 2004.
*Samuels, Kirsti S, "State Building and the Consequences of Constitutional Choices in Conflictual Environments: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Fiji, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Uganda", IPA Policy Paper, New York, 2006.
*Skopcol, Theda: "Bringing the State Back In", in: Social Science Research Items, Vol. 36, June, 1–8, 1982.
*Tilly, Charles: "Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 900–1990", Malden: Blackwell, 2000, ISBN 1-55786-067-X.
*Tilly, Charles (ed.): "Western-State Making and Theories of Political Transformation", in: The Formation of National States in Western Europe, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975.
* World Bank : "World Development Report 1997: The State in a Changing World", Washington, DC: World Bank, 1997
* Whaites, Alan: `States in Development: Understanding State-building,' UK Department for International Development, London, 2008.
* Zaum, Dominik: "The Sovereignty Paradox: The Norms and Politics of International Statebuilding", Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • State Building — (dt. Staatsbildung, Staatsaufbau) ist ein Begriff aus der Staatstheorie. Der Aufbau eines funktionsfähigen Staates wird in der Staatstheorie als State Building bezeichnet. Eine Diskussion dazu wird vor allem in der englischsprachigen Literatur… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • STATE BUILDING — …   Useful english dictionary

  • Empire State Building — Record height Tallest in the world from 1931 to 1972 …   Wikipedia

  • Empire State Building — Localisation Coordonnées …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Empire state building — Usage(s) Bureaux Localisation 350 Fifth Avenue New York (New York) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • The Empire State Building — Empire State Building Empire State Building Usage(s) Bureaux Localisation 350 Fifth Avenue New York (New York) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Empire State Building — Empire State Building …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Maine State Building — U.S. National Register of Historic Places …   Wikipedia

  • Vampire State Building — was an industrial band from Norway with an experimental flair, that in their three years of existence made quite an impact in their home country, Norway. Their eccentric live show, consisting of rubber fetish outfits, video graphics, avant garde… …   Wikipedia

  • Empire State Building Run-Up — Das Empire State Building Run Up ist das bekannteste Treppenlauf Wettrennen weltweit. Es findet seit 1978 im Empire State Building in New York City statt. Zu bewältigen sind 1576 Treppenstufen und 320 Höhenmeter (1050 Fuß). Das Ziel ist auf der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”