State Capacity as Power: A Conceptual Framework

Research output: Working paper


This paper reviews the growing literature on “state capacity” in political science and related disciplines and proposes a new conceptualization of state capacity. The paper argues that most existing definitions and theories of state capacity are too closely tailored to explaining a particular set of outcomes – such as economic growth – which limits the applicability of the concept of state capacity arbitrarily and impedes theory development. The idea behind our own conceptualization is that state capacity can be defined as the strength of the causal relationship between the policies that governments adopt and the outcomes that they intend to achieve. We show that this definition makes the concept of state capacity fit in well in a larger family of concepts. We then proceed to develop a theoretical argument about the resources that states deploy in order to increase state capacity – especially financial resources, human capital, and information – and we examine the relationship between these resources and the three main types of policy instruments that states rely on when they seek to control territories and populations: coercion, economic incentives, and propaganda.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


  • state capacity, power, financial resources, human capital, information, policy instruments, coercion, economic incentives, propaganda, conceptualization
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLund
PublisherDepartment of Political Science, Lund University
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2016 May
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

NameSTANCE Working Paper Series

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