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. 

Oil, Islam, women and Pierson

By Lisa Staadegaard

In his paper Oil, Islam and Women Ross argues that oil can be held accountable for inequality in resource rich countries. Part of this theory is that the effects that resources, and in particular oil and minerals, have on the economy causes women to refrain from entering or leave the labour force.

In his explanation of this theory he portrays women’s influence on the labour force, and the influence this has on society.  He states that more female participation in the labour force will cause fertility rates to drop which will then in turn cause for a decline in population growth.

If we apply this example to Pierson’s theories about long term processes we can pin point several aspects of this example that break down its process. The female participation has an immediate effect on fertility rates, once one woman enters the labour force her fertility drops. Therefore this process can be seen as cumulative, more and more women entering the labour force will result in lower and lower fertility rates, which directly relates to a decline in population growth.  

However there is a clear relationship between women entering the labour force and this causing population growth to decline. So this cumulative process leads to an inevitable outcome, making this process according to Pierson; structural determination.

However the process described can have several different explanations, in line with Ross his paper this could be moving away from an economy solely based on the nontradable sector.  Once this is included in the model we might relate the process to an entirely different long term process as described by Pierson. Therefore I think that Pierson’s way of analysing processes, is mainly helpful to break down the entire process of cause and effect. This instead of pin pointing whether one process necessarily belongs to a certain type. 

Path dependency = positive feedback?

By Lisa Staadegaard

Pierson defines path dependence as "referring to social processes that exhibit positive feedback and thus generate branching patterns of historical development”. From this definition we can derive that Pierson uses path dependency and positive feedback interchangeably. Here positive feedback is defined as a process that generates increasing returns, its inflexible,  unpredictable, non ergodic and suffers from potential path inefficiency. However, are these concepts always the same?

The concept of positive feedback mechanisms is not only used in political science. It is especially popular in economics but can even be used to explain behaviour and biological processes. An example of this is given in a paper by Baker, where he claims that addiction is an instated positive feedback loop. Stating that appetitive drug actions increase appetitive stimuli resulting in an increase in drug use. This example perfectly fits the above given criteria for positive feedback, however can we call this a path dependent process?

This really depends on the definition used, if we look at the narrower definition proposed by Margaret Levi, path dependency is supposed to involve countries. Then, we could easily argue that the addiction example is not a path dependent process.

Path dependency in social sciences is used to describe a sequence of events, and should point out the importance of historical processes. In many other sciences we can see a similar pattern where A causes B which then leads to ‘increasing returns’, as portrayed by the drug example. However these examples often do not include such a heavy reliance on history, and are often not as irreversible as processes in politics or economics. Therefore the terms path dependence and positive feedback processes may be used interchangeably in political science, but cannot be used interchangeably in many other sciences.