Splintered Sovereignty and the De-Monopolization of Legitimate Violence in Colonial State Formation and Expansion

Joseph R Weinger, University of California, Los Angeles

This paper reviews sociological theories of state formation with particular regard to how the formation of empires and colonies is explained. It also outlines varied impacts of colonial and imperial administrations on post-colonial state formation. Following this overview, the paper narrows in on one axis upon which a key definitional difference between colonial and nation-states hinges: the monopolization of legitimate violence. Key cases of disjunction between colonial state institutions and settlers are raised in an effort to depict how colonial state formation—particularly the process of territorial expansion—differs in fundamental ways from nation-state formation. Whereas nation-states are said to seize the legitimate exercise of violence as they form, colonial states continuously undergo a splintering and delegation of legitimate violence.

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 Presented in Session 168. State Power and State Development: Bureaucracy and Political Violence