This article seeks to take stock of the insights offered by the fast-growing literature on comparative state formation, which is treated here as a neglected offshoot of the “bringing the state back in” movement of the 1980s. Unlike previous Eurocentric reviews of this literature, this article includes works that range broadly in time and geography. The author focuses particularly on two areas of interest to political scientists: the causes of bureaucratic centralization and the origins of durable democratic/authoritarian institutions. The author also shows how the literature has reconceptualized the state in response to long-standing criticisms directed at this concept. The concept remains useful in political science despite impressions otherwise.
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