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Building other Peoples’ States: The Sociology of State-Building

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For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

AbstractThis article discusses the development of social science and policy thinking about “nation-building” and state-building from the 1960s to the present. It examines in detail the recommendations of the recent Army field manual, FM 3-07 “Stability Operations”, demonstrating that the manual offers very little in the way of concrete guidance for policy-makers. This article argues that the shift from “modernization” theory to “globalization” theories did not lead to substantive re-thinking of the processes and difficulties of state-building. Various social science approaches to state-building are discussed and compared with the analysis of FM 3-07. The article argues that what is required for effective policy is detailed local knowledge linked to an appreciation of the larger historical processes of state-building. The notion of development and conflict “traps” and “humps” is suggested as a promising way to analyze state-building.

Affiliations: 1: Stony Brook University, Email:


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