In 1993, John Foran argued that theorizing about social revolution was entering into a “fourth wave.” What distinguished the new wave from its predecessors, he said, was its emphasis on culture and contingency, and its critical stance towards class-based and structuralist accounts. The books reviewed in this essay suggest that a similar trend may now be underway in work on early modern state formation. Until quite recently, research in this area was completely dominated by neo-Marxist and neo-Hintzian scholars, who emphasized the impact of economic and/or geopolitical factors on the structure of early modern states and regimes and saw state power in purely fiscal and military terms, i.e., as a function of taxes and soldiers (Anderson 1974; Wallerstein 1974; Tilly 1975; Brewer 1989; Tilly 1990; Downing 1993; Bonney 1995; Ertman 1997; Barbera 1998; Bonney 1999; Brewer and Hellmuth 1999). Over the last decade, however, a growing number of sociologists and historians have begun to criticize these theories as too narrow and one-sided (Gorski 1993; Adams 1994; Ikegami 1995; Wilson 1995; Mukerji 1997; harbingers of this shift included Vann 1984 and Corrigan and Sayer 1985). Drawing on a variety of theoretical perspectives, including Foucauldianism, gender theory and cultural sociology, they have argued that there is more to state power than coercion and extraction, and more to state formation than economics and geopolitics. The books reviewed here continue the revisionist trend towards more nuanced understandings of state power and less deterministic accounts of state formation. They suggest that a third wave of theorizing has begun.
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