The Origins of State Authority: Theory and Evidence from Chile

maximiliano vejares, Johns Hopkins University

Foundational theories of state-building emphasize states’ perpetual appetite for extraction and standardization. But these theories ignore two things: first, state-building is a costly, uncertain endeavor that ruling coalitions prefer to avoid. Second, peripheries have different appeals, including a variety of economic and political endowments. This paper introduces a theory that focuses on state-building in periods of financial crises—episodes that uproot preexisting deals of indirect rule—and regions’ attributes—mainly ecological, military, and clientelistic—to explain subnational trajectories in bureaucratic and patrimonial rule. Since state-building aims to dismantle local notables’ power in regions that can offer valuable economic resources, it also severs ties of political support between them. Consequently, rulers are compelled to seek support from other peripheries, dynamic that leads to various outcomes that range from the reinforcement of patrimonialism to the imposition of bureaucratic rule. I assess the case of Chile, a successful case of capacity-building in the absence of war-related incentives. Prompted mainly by the Panic of 1857, the central government launched state-building projects to offset the fiscal deficit. Using original data, I show that while the state successfully garnered political authority, regions’ attributes explain various subnational outcomes.

No extended abstract or paper available

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