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Edited by Jens Bartelson, Martin Hall and Jan Teorell

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Ellen Ravndal

From their establishment in the nineteenth century, international (intergovernmental) organizations (IOs) have been intimately linked to both international and domestic aspects of state making. This chapter examines non-European IO membership in the nineteenth century and argues that joining an IO could strengthen a state’s claim to statehood in two ways. First, IOs provided an arena of international politics where non-European states could participate on the basis of formal sovereign equality with the European great powers. Second, joining IOs and implementing their agreements on postal services, telegraphs, intellectual property, and other new technologies and government services, further offered a way for non-European states to prove that they were doing what ‘modern’ states were supposed to do. IO membership thus offered the possibility for non-European states both to gain international recognition as sovereign equals, and a means for them to display their progress in extending their domestic jurisdiction within their territories. The chapter problematizes the Westphalian unilinear view of state making, as well as the English school expansion thesis, by examining the agency of non-European entities and how their decisions to join IOs both strengthened individual states’ claims to statehood, and contributed to changes in international society.

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Jens Bartelson and Jan Teorell

In this concluding chapter, we first provide a thematic summary of the contributions to this volume from the perspective of their temporal and geographical de-centering. We then explore in more depth how they address three key challenges in the literature on state making: how to (1) conceptualize the state; (2) theorize state making; and (3) how to bridge comparative and international perspectives. We conclude by sketching the contours of a new emerging agenda for research on states and their making. In brief, we argue for the need to conceptualize the state as both a materialist and ideational variable; not only to theorize war-centric but also other drivers of state making; and for taking a historical perspective.

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Janis Grzybowski

If traditional accounts of the origins of the state and state system have put a European path to state formation and international society at their center, accounts that de-center state making from ‘Westphalia’ and ‘Europe’ rewrite global pasts and presents. However, as this contribution argues, the de-centering move is paradoxically enabled by an ontological recentering of the state and the state system. While explorations of contingencies and varieties in historical state formation tend to presuppose the international state system, investigations of the spread of international society and the acquisition of sovereign status tend to presuppose individual states. By thus holding on to the forms of the state and the state system, but to some extent liberating them from the Weberian straitjacket and entrenched Eurocentric hierarchies, the de- and recentering opens up a critical space between the narrow state-centric constraints of traditional approaches and attempts to escape the state tout court.

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Arthur Learoyd

During the long nineteenth century, international relations were conducted between entities of a variety of types, including those described, at the time, as ‘semi-sovereign’. Such polities, from Belgium and the Ionian Islands, to Egypt and the Indian ‘princely’ states, were found throughout the international society of the period, across a range of temporal, spatial and institutional settings. This chapter focuses on this important but often overlooked group of international actors, seeking to explain their characteristics and constitution, from a comparative and historical perspective. It argues that different semi-sovereigns manifested different combinations of four ‘social logics’: law, management, suzerainty and cultural differentiation. Drawing principally on ideas from ‘relational’ theory, the chapter demonstrates how the social relations at the heart of each logic were productive and constitutive of diverse semi-sovereign polities. These relations interacted with each other, with alternative ‘configurations’ of the logics representing pathways to various modes of semi-sovereignty.

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Jonathan K. Hanson

This chapter examines what leads to the growth or decline of state capacity in the contemporary period by developing propositions drawn from a variety of perspectives in the scholarly literature and subjecting them to large-sample empirical tests using the State Capacity Dataset. In the process, the chapter contributes to the de-centering of the study of state formation and state capacity-building in three ways. First, by focusing on states in the contemporary period, it tests the extent to which foundational theories in the literature generalize beyond the historical contexts in which they were developed. Second, the approach is geographically inclusive, moving beyond Eurocentric accounts. Third, the approach does not give war primacy over any other factor that may affect the formation and growth of states.

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Ted Svensson

The chapter explores conceptions during the early twentieth century regarding the required and desired underpinnings of a post-imperial India – one in which both British India and the indirectly ruled princely states were first, by the British, proposed and then, through the work of the Indian Constituent Assembly, made to constitute a federation. It specifically enquires into India’s federal origins – that is, what enabled the push towards federalism and what was it foremost an answer to – and the extent to which the findings confirm Europe-centered accounts and expectations. In the chapter, India is found to equal an exemplary case when we address the manner in which notions of proper and full-fledged statehood developed as part of imperial and decolonizing undertakings. India’s federal origins, moreover, attest to the restricted validity of regarding state making in Europe as unaffected by imperial commitments and the rest of the world as equivalent to a ‘diffused Europe.’

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De-Centering State Making

Comparative and International Perspectives

Edited by Jens Bartelson, Martin Hall and Jan Teorell

Bridging the gap between international relations and comparative politics, this book transposes Eurocentric theories and narratives of state-making to new historical and geographical contexts in order to probe their scope conditions. In doing this, the authors question received explanations of the historical origins and geographical limits of state-making, questioning the unilinear view of the emergence of the modern state and the international system. Theoretically and methodologically eclectic, the volume explores a range of empirical cases not often discussed in the literature.
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Annika Björkdahl

The state-building processes of the Western Balkans reveal that the construction of the state is often a contested and fluid process. Zooming in on the post-war space of Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH) we can study three clashing state-building projects and the interplay between war making, peace making and state making. By focusing on the ‘becoming’ of a state the continuities of state building are revealed. Conceptually, this chapter explores how states are socially constructed spaces, imagined and performed by those who perceive themselves as belonging to that state. Empirically, it investigates the state-building processes of Republika Srpska (RS) and Herceg-Bosna undertaken in parallel with the state building of BiH. It taps into the debate on the immaterial and material dimensions of state building and asks, through what imaginaries and performative practices does a state come into being? This sharpens our eyes to the imaginary quality of every state.

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Jens Bartelson, Martin Hall and Jan Teorell

This introduction outlines the main problem areas addressed by this volume. In academic international relations, comparative politics and historical sociology, the study of state making has traditionally been focused on the emergence of states in early modern Europe. The introduction makes the case for a de-centering of the study of state making, by shifting its focus to other historical and geographical contexts. It also elaborates on the preconditions for such de-centering, by discussing how the anachronism and Eurocentrism widespread within this field are best overcome. The authors conclude that this is best accomplished by aligning the concerns of comparative politics and international relations more closely, by moving beyond the tendency to accord primacy to warfare when explaining the making of states, and, finally, by overcoming the divide between materialistic and ideational approaches to state making. This is followed by a brief overview and discussion of individual contributions.