Rethinking Weberian Approaches to Statebuilding

Nicolas Lemay-Hebert

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

28 Citations (Scopus)
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Political sociology is key to understanding current debates on statebuilding. One’s conception of what to rebuild – the state – will necessarily impact the actual process of statebuilding, whether consciously or unconsciously. Drawing upon the vast contemporary literature on state collapse and statebuilding that has emerged since Helman and Ratner’s pioneer article in 1992–1993, this chapter analyzes the rise of the ‘institutional approach’ to statebuilding, strongly influenced by
the Weberian sociology of the state and legitimacy, and focusing on the capabilities of the state institutions to secure the state’s grip on the society. Three practical implications of the institutional approach will be considered: (1) the claim of forecasting state collapse and the underlying equation between fragile states and ‘underdevelopment’; (2) the hermetic distinction between state and
society, which allows the differentiation between statebuilding activities and ‘nation-building’ ones; and (3) the ‘more is better’ approach that comes as a natural policy prescription – legitimizing intrusive interventions on the ground that they are more efficient for institutional reconstruction. Finally, this chapter will highlight an alternative approach to the state and statebuilding, dubbed here the ‘legitimacy approach’, more concerned with socio-political cohesion of the state than institutional reconstruction per se.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of International Statebuilding
EditorsDavid Chandler, Timothy Sisk
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-203-37037-7
ISBN (Print)978-0-415-67702-8
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Intervention and Statebuilding
PublisherDavid Chandler


  • Weber
  • statebuilding
  • peacebuilding, statebuilding,


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