A few unconnected recent happenings have reminded me that I’ve meant to do a short post on Charles Tilly, bellocentric (or “bellicist”) theories of state formation, and where all of this stands in 2013.
If you mention “Charles Tilly” and “state formation” to knowledgeable social scientists, their first association is almost always his famous line “war made the state and the state made war” (PDF). Scholars most frequently cite his work on state formation in the service of this line of argument.* Indeed, Tilly’s argument also invariably gets translated into “more war, more state.”
This strikes me as a plausible reading of Tilly’s early work on the subject, but not of Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 990-1990 — let alone his later scholarship. Moreover, I contend that even if Tilly does make something akin to that argument, it isn’t what we should take away from it. Continue reading