States, State Capacity and State Fragility


In module 2.1, we will be discussing state capacity and state building. We will begin our discussion by addressing some basic definitional questions about states. First of all, what is a state? How is this concept used in the field of comparative politics and how should we define it? What does it mean to say that a state has more or less capacity? What aspects of state capacity are we most concerned with in our analysis of modern nation-states? Finally, what does it mean to say that a state is ‘fragile’ or that a state has ‘failed’? What are some examples of failed states and what are some the implications of state failure and fragility?

In module 2.2 we will continue with our discussion of state capacity and asking why some states are stronger than others. We will start with the rise of the modern state in Europe, where we will focus on Charles Tilly’s analysis of Europe. We will then move on to state building in Africa, where we broaden our scope beyond the western European experience. You will complete a Two-by-Two diagram to help you compare and analyze two states.

In both modules you will be reading relevant articles and textbook chapters, as well as watch lecture and supporting videos that relay important information about the concepts listed above. You will then take a quiz to ensure you have understood what you read. These quizzes will help prepare you for the final exam.


By the end of unit, you should be able to:

Identify the basic functions of a state. (Course objectives 1, 3, & 4) Identify measures of state capacity. (Course objectives 1, 3, & 4) Analyze the relationship between a state and its citizens. (Course objectives 1, 3, & 4) Explain why some states fail while others succeed. (Course objectives 3, 4, & 6)

Lecture Slides

Module 2.1 Slides

Module 2.2 Slides