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War, State Formation, and Culture

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 October 2013

Daniel Neep*
Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University, Washington D.C.; e-mail:


Historical sociology has long been concerned with the study of organized state violence. Since the mid-1970s, a substantial body of work has come to focus on the importance of warfare to historical processes of state formation. The first generation of this literature proposed that the relentless existential struggle between the warring polities of medieval Europe had favored the survival of states that could adopt ever more efficient means to extract and mobilize resources from the local population to feed the war effort. Early states therefore evolved the institutions to collect taxes and administer territory largely as a functional byproduct of interstate military competition. From this perspective, the logic of war making was the driving force behind the rise of the modern state in Europe.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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1 I use historical sociology in its broadest sense to refer to the full range of historically oriented social sciences. In U.S. political science, for example, the term encompasses historical institutionalism and comparative historical analysis as well as interpretive approaches. In the United Kingdom, historical sociology has largely moved out of sociology departments and into the discipline of international relations. Despite disciplinary divides that conventionally place history beyond the social sciences, historians also contribute to the field to the extent that their work actively engages with concepts and themes in historical sociology. Classic examples of historical sociology in Middle East studies include Anderson, Lisa, The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 1830–1980 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986)Google Scholar; Bromley, Simon, Rethinking Middle East Politics (Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, 1994)Google Scholar; Ayubi, Nazih N., Over-Stating the Arab State: Politics and Society in the Middle East (London: I. B. Tauris, 1996)Google Scholar; and Halliday, Fred, The Middle East in International Relations: Power, Politics and Ideology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 Tilly, Charles and Ardant, Gabriel, eds., The Formation of National States in Western Europe (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1975)Google Scholar; Tilly, Charles, “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime,” in Bringing the State Back In, ed. Evans, Peter B., Rueschemeyer, Dietrich, and Skocpol, Theda (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985)Google Scholar; Tilly, , Coercion, Capital and European States: AD 990–1992 (Oxford: Wiley, 1992)Google Scholar.

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