Friday, 1 July 2011

State Capacity, Civil Society, and Nation-building. A Cross-national Exploration, 1945-2005

Lecture by Andreas Wimmer

Why have some states been captured by specific ethnic elites and their clienteles, excluding all others from access to government power? Conversely, what explains political inclusion across ethnic divides or, in other words, successful nation building? I argue that high state capacity to deliver public goods and well developed civil society organizations reduce ethno-political exclusion because they produce more encompassing networks of political alliances less aligned along ethnic cleavages. Both contemporary state capacity and civil society development are in turn related to levels of state building achieved during the 19th century. Such long-term factors of endogenous political development are more important for explaining ethno-political power structures than political institutions (including democracy) or the legacies of colonial rule. This is shown on the basis of a cross-national dataset covering all countries since 1945.

Andreas Wimmer is professor of sociology at the University of California Los Angeles.