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Measuring state capacity: Theoretical and empirical implications for the study of civil conflict


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  • Cullen S Hendrix

    (Department of Political Science, University of North Texas; and Centre for the Study of Civil War, International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO))

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    This article identifies and addresses key conceptual and measurement issues raised by measures of state capacity in studies of civil conflict. First, it reviews competing definitions and operationalizations of state capacity, focusing specifically on those that emphasize (1) military capacity, (2) bureaucratic administrative capacity, and (3) the quality and coherence of political institutions. Second, it critically assesses these measures on the basis of construct validity, focusing attention on whether they accurately capture the theoretical concept of state capacity, and whether they allow the researcher to differentiate between competing causal mechanisms. Third, it employs principal factor analysis to identify the underlying dimensionality of 15 different operationalizations of state capacity. State capacity is characterized by low dimensionality, with three factors - or dimensions of state capacity -explaining over 90% of the variance in the 15 measures. While the first factor, rational legality, captures bureaucratic and administrative capacity, the second, rentier-autocraticness, and third, neopatrimoniality, capture aspects of state capacity that cut across theoretical categories. The article concludes by suggesting a multivariate approach to modeling state capacity, and that (1) survey measures of bureaucratic quality, and (2) tax capacity are the most theoretically and empirically justified.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Peace Research Institute Oslo in its journal Journal of Peace Research.

    Volume (Year): 47 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 3 (May)
    Pages: 273-285

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    Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:47:y:2010:i:3:p:273-285

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    Keywords: civil conflict; construct validity; factor analysis; state capacity;


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    Cited by:
    1. Knutsen, Carl Henrik, 2013. "Democracy, State Capacity, and Economic Growth," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 1-18.
    2. Andrei Melville & Mikhail Mironyuk & Denis Stukal, 2012. "Trajectories of Regime Transformation and Types of Stateness in Post-Communist Countries," HSE Working papers WP BRP 02/PS/2012, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
    3. K. Kivanç Karaman & Sevket Pamuk, 2011. "Different Paths to the Modern State in Europe: The interaction between domestic political economy and interstate competition," Europe in Question Discussion Paper Series of the London School of Economics (LEQs) 7, London School of Economics / European Institute.
    4. Feger, Thuto & Asafu-Adjaye, John, 2014. "Tax effort performance in sub-Sahara Africa and the role of colonialism," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 163-174.
    5. Daron Acemoglu & Suresh Naidu & Pascual Restrepo & James A. Robinson, 2013. "Democracy, Redistribution and Inequality," NBER Working Papers 19746, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Patrick Bayer & Johannes Urpelainen, 2013. "External sources of clean technology: Evidence from the Clean Development Mechanism," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 81-109, March.
    7. Tobias Böhmelt, 2013. "A closer look at the information provision rationale: Civil society participation in states’ delegations at the UNFCCC," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 55-80, March.


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