The State of State Capacity: a review of concepts, evidence and measures

Luciana Cingolani


What is state capacity and how does it affect development? The concept of state capacity acquired centrality during the late seventies and eighties, sponsored by a rather compact set of scholarly works. It later permeated through several disciplines and has now earned a place within the many governance dimensions affecting economic performance. The present article aims to provide a historical account of the evolution and usage of the state capacity concept, along with its various operationalizations. It examines in particular: a) the growing distance in the usage of the concept by different disciplinary and thematic fields; b) the process of `branching out' of the concept from restricted to more multidimensional definitions; c) the problems with construct validity and concept stretching, and d) the generalized lack of clarity that exists regarding the institutional sources of state capacity.

Keywords: state capacity - statebuilding - fiscal performance - bureaucracies - neopatrimonialism

JEL classification: D73 - D74 - H10 - H20

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