Journal Article
Problematizing state capacity

The Rwandan case

We argue that the effectiveness of Rwandan governments, both at implementing the 1994 genocide and inducing the current growth miracle, illustrates that the state has high capacity. Yet this capacity is not captured by conventional Weberian concepts, with their focus on taxation and formal bureaucracy.

Rather, the capacity of Rwanda's state relies on its ability to leverage dense social networks which connect it to society. The origins of these networks lie in the construction of the historical state which expanded by merging with local lineages and kinship groups.

Using data on the historical expansion of the Rwandan state as a proxy for the strength of state–society social networks we show they are uncorrelated with measures of Weberian state capacity. In a fieldwork exercise, we show that rule compliance today is positively correlated with our proxy, but uncorrelated with Weberian state capacity.

Journal Article
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