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Masters of their domains: The role of state capacity in civil wars


  • David Sobek

    () (Department of Political Science, Louisiana State University)


Civil wars are complex events affected by numerous factors. Recent research, however, seems to have concentrated on the rebels and their motivations to the exclusion of how the state can affect the onset and outcome of civil wars. This special issue addresses this lacuna by looking at the role of state capacity. In particular, state capacity is a multi-dimensional concept that encompasses not only the extractive abilities of a state but also economic development and bureaucratic quality. Despite the various ways in which state capacity can be measured, the articles clearly show that strong states have a decreased risk of experiencing a civil war, although there is evidence that civil violence decreases state capacity, implying a reverse causality. In addition, it appears that the capable states that do experience civil violence are more able to credibly commit to a negotiated solution, which increases the possibility of a bargained end to the violence. While these articles do not represent the last word on the subject, they do provide convincing evidence that state capacity plays a critical role in the onset and conduct of civil violence.

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  • David Sobek, 2010. "Masters of their domains: The role of state capacity in civil wars," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 47(3), pages 267-271, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:47:y:2010:i:3:p:267-271

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    Cited by:

    1. Anderton Charles H., 2014. "Killing Civilians as an Inferior Input in a Rational Choice Model of Genocide and Mass Killing," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 20(2), pages 1-20, April.
    2. Syropoulos, Constantinos & Zylkin, Thomas, 2015. "The Problem of Peace: A Story of Corruption, Destruction, and Rebellion," School of Economics Working Paper Series 2015-5, LeBow College of Business, Drexel University.
    3. Matthew R DiGiuseppe & Colin M Barry & Richard W Frank, 2012. "Good for the money," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 49(3), pages 391-405, May.
    4. Silve, Arthur & Verdier, Thierry, 2017. "A theory of regional conflict complexes," CEPR Discussion Papers 11915, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Cingolani L, 2013. "The State of State Capacity : a review of concepts, evidence and measures," MERIT Working Papers 053, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    6. Cingolani, Luciana & Thomsson, Kaj & de Crombrugghe, Denis, 2015. "Minding Weber More Than Ever? The Impacts of State Capacity and Bureaucratic Autonomy on Development Goals," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 191-207.
    7. Rossignoli Domenico, 2016. "Democracy, State Capacity and Civil Wars: A New Perspective," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 22(4), pages 427-437, December.
    8. Berliner, Daniel & Greenleaf, Anne & Lake, Milli & Noveck, Jennifer, 2015. "Building Capacity, Building Rights? State Capacity and Labor Rights in Developing Countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 127-139.


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