Munich Personal RePEc Archive

State–society relations in a dynamic framework: The case of the Far East and Sub-Saharan Africa

Benczes, István and Szent-Iványi, Balázs (2010): State–society relations in a dynamic framework: The case of the Far East and Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Abstract

According to the textbook approach, the developmental states of the Far East have been considered as strong and autonomous entities. Although their bureaucratic elites have remained isolated from direct pressures stemming from society, the state capacity has also been utilised in order to allocate resources in the interest of the whole society. Yet, society – by and large –has remained weak and subordinated to the state elite. On the other hand, the general perception of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has been just the opposite. The violent and permanent conflict amongst rent-seeking groups for influence and authority over resources has culminated in a situation where states have become extremely weak and fragmented, while society – depending on the capacity of competing groups for mobilising resources to organise themselves mostly on a regional or local level (resulting in local petty kingdoms) – has never had the chance to evolve as a strong player. State failure in the literature, therefore, – in the context of SSA – refers not just to a weak and captured state but also to a non-functioning, and sometimes even non-existent society, too. Recently, however, the driving forces of globalisation might have triggered serious changes in the above described status quo. Accordingly, our hypothesis is the following: globalisation, especially the dynamic changes of technology, capital and communication have made the simplistic “strong state–weak society” (in Asia) and “weak state–weak society” (in Africa) categorisation somewhat obsolete. While our comparative study has a strong emphasis on the empirical scrutiny of trying to uncover the dynamics of changes in state–society relations in the two chosen regions both qualitatively and quantitatively, it also aims at complementing the meaning and essence of the concepts and methodology of stateness, state capacity and state-society relations, the well-known building blocks of the seminal works of Evans (1995), Leftwich (1995), Migdal (1988) or Myrdal (1968).

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