A Relationship in Crisis
Edited by Luigi Burroni, Maarten Keune and Guglielmo Meardi
Chapter 8: States in Transition, Research About the State in Flux
Patrick Le Galès The question of the state remains central in social sciences. Theda Skocpol’s famous ‘Bringing the state back in’ (in Evans et al. 1985) has been remarkably successful; there is no need to do it again. There is no need either to claim ‘new’ debates of the state as such. However, the interest for the state is modified by two intellectual dynamics: first, more and more research deals with the making and evolution of the state in less linear ways in different parts of the world (Vu 2010). In particular, the conditions of creation of states, their dynamics, and examples of state failures all bring in explanations and characterization of states which are more and more divergent from the standard European nation state seen through the experience of France, the UK or Germany. Recent literature from American historians and political scientists emphasize the particular story and characteristics of the US state. In a provocative paper ‘ironies of state building’, King and Lieberman in particular use insights from the making of states in Eastern Europe to characterize the American state (2011). In other words, the accumulation of cases about state creation and transformations and the development of innovative comparative projects reveal a messier but also a stimulating world of social science concerning the state (Zurn and Leipfried 2005). For instance, the dichotomy strong states/weak states (Badie and Birnbaum 1982) has been more or less abandoned in favour of more nuanced typologies or a serious rethinking about key variables...
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