Does war still make states?

By Lisa Staadegaard

‘War makes states’ is a statement that is generally considered to be true among social scientists. Tilly is one of the scholars who outline how war influenced the state making in Europe. He discusses how nation states were formed through violent competition for territory and capital. The idea of the nation state developed and replaced the settlements that were formerly in place. However if we look at contemporary warfare, where states are already in place, does war still makes states?

Tilly describes 3 stages of state making: first some power holders in ‘external’ struggles differentiate between an ‘internal’ and an ‘external’ area where force is used. Secondly this process of defending the ‘internal’ creates ‘internal’ state making. Finally, ‘external’ war making among states strongly determined the form a particular state takes.

With the international formalization of state boundaries the struggle for coercion is currently mainly internal. Countries increasingly experience internal struggles instead of having external ‘enemies’.

Whereas Tilly describes how the internal state making was a centralized process, finance and capital are decreasingly centralised businesses. Privatisation, de-regulation and reduced budget deficits are recent policy preferences that reduce a state’s control over its financial resources. This often results in a state that is fragmented due to a lack of centralized power.

Therefore wars, especially in the contemporary developing world, trigger a further break down of the state. This instead of creating a centralized, strong structure which is comparable to the states in European history. Therefore we can conclude that contemporary wars do not make states anymore as these wars are often internal ones. This internal warfare often supports the unravelling of states, and thus does the exact opposite of state making.