Guns, Butter or None of the Above: Defining State Capacity in the Long Run

Jari Eloranta, University of Helsinki
Sophy Bergenheim, University of Helsinki
Jeremy Land, University of Helsinki

Recent research in the development of state and fiscal capacity from the early modern period to the modern period continues to become more interdisciplinary and widespread, yet there is limited consensus on what precisely is understood as state capacity, in empirical or analytical terms. This paper surveys scholarship on state development and capacity in order to get an overview of how the topic has been approached. We identify well-researched themes and focal points as well as established analytical and theoretical frameworks, as well as more recent trends in the existing literature. Furthermore, we highlight empirical, theoretical and methodological research gaps. On the basis of our meta-analysis, we suggest new research facets pertaining to historical and analytical conceptions of the interrelated roles of state and society from the early modern to the modern world. In the first section, we will explore the existing literature from multiple disciplines on the subject, seeking to find trends within the field. In the second section, we will discuss what the role of the state looked like in the early modern world, mostly within the Nordic arena. Next, we will examine Nordic corporatist traditions, particularly in relation to welfare state developments and modernization processes during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the final section, we will discuss the lessons and tradeoffs we can learn from the Nordic experience in transitioning from warfare-focused states to primarily welfare-oriented fiscal capacities.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 215. Economics