Otto Hintze, Stein Rokkan and Charles Tilly’s theory of European state-building

Thomas Ertman

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Introduction. The year 1975 marked a turning point in the research on state-building with the publication of The Formation of National States in Western Europe, edited by Charles Tilly. In his contributions to the volume, Tilly reoriented work in this field by asking how it was that a particular form of the state came to dominate in first the West and then across the globe. Tilly's answer was path breaking: ‘Preparation for war has been the great state-building activity’. Or, in an even starker formulation: ‘War made the state and the state made war’. A decade later, in his piece ‘War Making and State Making as Organized Crime’ for the collection Bringing the State Back In, Tilly would reiterate this position: ‘War makes states, I shall claim’. In her famous programmatic essay in the same collection, Theda Skocpol pointed to the intellectual roots of this new focus on the transnational, geopolitical embeddedness of the state in the writings of the historian Otto Hintze (1861–1940). Aided by the publication, also in 1975, of a selection of his essays in English edited by Felix Gilbert, the German author's writings would provide inspiration not only to Tilly, but also to other state-building theorists including Anthony Giddens (1985), Michael Mann (1986) and Brian Downing (1992). Indeed, more recently Philip Gorski has applied the term ‘neo-Hintzean’ to a large group of ‘bellicist’ scholars who stress the causal role of war and preparations for war in the development of the state in Europe. Tilly was soon to move beyond the general formulations on the relationship between war and state-building found in these pieces from 1975 and 1985, which do in fact show a great affinity with arguments put forward in Hintze's early ‘bellicist’ essays such as ‘The Formation of States and Constitutional Development’ and ‘Military Organization and the Organization of the State’, both found in the Gilbert volume. In 1990 he published a far more substantial work, the monograph Coercion, Capital and European States AD 990–1990, dedicated to Tilly's longtime friend Stein Rokkan and greatly influenced by the Norwegian social scientist's ‘conceptual map’ of Europe with its emphasis on the role played by differential starting conditions in the subsequent state-building process.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationDoes War make States?
    Subtitle of host publicationInvestigations of Charles Tilly's Historical Sociology
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    Number of pages19
    ISBN (Electronic)9781316493694
    ISBN (Print)9781107141506
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Social Sciences


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