The STEEL-cameralist Manifesto Part 5B The European Minotaur of War II: War Made the State.


1: Summary of Coercion, Capital and State Formation and alternative theories of State Formation.

2: Four Stages of Military-Political Development.

3: War Makes the State.

4: With Guns Take Gold; With Gold Buy Guns.

5: Essentials of Statecraft.

6: Rulers and the Ruled.

7: Obstacles and the Path to Universal Rights and Universal War.

8: The Minotaur’s Revolution.

9: The Age of Nationalism.

10: Special Interests and the Iron Law of Bureaucracies.

11: The Rise of the Soldier.

12: How War Made the State.

13: Cartoon History of Europe.

14: How Coups Occur.



1: Summary of Coercion, Capital and State Formation.

Charles Tilly’s thesis is simple – but severe: war made the state.

Tilly’s theory of state formation compliments Jouvenel’s (which we saw last time).

Like with Jouvenel though, war is centre stage in the state’s development; however, war-making as the cause of the development of the state is given more weight in Tilly than Jouvenel.

The High and Low against Middle dynamic is also present in Tilly’s work and we have presented some of it here, but it has much less prominence and is nowhere near as developed as Jouvenel’s.

Tilly’s work is insightful on many issues and useful in many more, however. Below, you will find interesting observations on the role of capital, the activities of the state and, finally, the rise of military government and how and why coups occur.

The role of “ideologies”, beliefs, values or memes is not explored by Tilly, though it is in Jouvenel. Again, it is better to see both their work as complimentary. Jouvenel’s work is both a work of history and one of philosophical history while Tilly’s is political history and political science.

Tilly’s work has been a major influence upon our Power Selection Theory of Politics and Society.  It is our “reactionary theory of history”.

Alternative Theories of State-Formation.

Power Selection Theory is not just a theory of state-formation however; nevertheless, it is not the only theory of how and why the state came to exist.

In the Coming of the Leviathan a chapter from Francis Fukuyama’s Origins of the Political Order on page 82, Fukuyama sets out other possible explanations for the state, which we will outline below:

1: Social Contract theories.

2: Irrigation.

3: Population pressure.

4: War and violence.

5: Circumscription.

6: Charismatic authority (p.86).

(Fukuyama uses Muhammad and Islam as an example of successful charismatic authority and religion in building a state. Nevertheless, this is still an incomplete explanation, for it was war that ultimately made Muhammad successful.)

Fukuyama rejects all of the above theories (except war) as incomplete. Later, Fukuyama begins his account of “political order” or state formation with an examination of China. Fukuyama says the following in the chapter War and the Rise of the Chinese State:

The political scientist Charles Tilly has famously argued that European state building was driven by the need of European monarchs to wage war. The correlation between war and state building is not a universal one; this process has not, by and large, played out in Latin America. But war was without question the single most important driver of state formation during China’s Eastern Zhou Dynasty. Between the beginning of the Eastern Zhou in 770 B.C and the consolidation of the Qin Dynasty in 221 B.C, China experienced an unremitting series of wars that increased in scale, costliness, and lost human loves. China’s transition from a decentralized feudal state to a unified empire was accomplished entirely through conquest. And virtually every modern state institution established in this period can be linked directly or indirectly to the need to wage war.

Also, Fukuyama describes a number of examples of High and Low against Middle in the Middle Kingdom. For example, Fukuyama writes:

One state in particular, the kingdom of Qin, embarked on a remarkable modernizing project whose direct target was the kinship-based, patrimonial social order of the early Zhou. It democratized the army by bypassing the warrior aristocrats and directly conscripting masses of peasants, it engaged in the large-scale land reform by dispossessing patrimonial landowners and giving land directly to peasant families, and it promoted social mobility by undermining the power and prestige of the hereditary nobility. As “democratic” as these reforms sound, their only purpose was to increase the power of the Qin state and thus create a remorseless dictatorship. The strength of these modern political institutions allowed Qin to defeat all of the other contending states and unify China.

Jouvenel explains this process at great length in his book On Power, as we saw last time. We analysed a contemporary example of this process with Mao’s Cultural Revolution here.

Fukuyama on page 114, after claiming that the Chinese invented bureaucracy, says the following about the origins of Chinese bureaucracy:

Bureaucratization began in the army with the expansion of service from aristocrats to commoners. The army hierarchy needed to conscript, equip, and train large number of people, which required record-keeping and logistics services. The need to fund the army then increased demand for a civilian bureaucracy, in order to collect taxes and ensure the continuity in large conditions of large-scale mobilization. The military bureaucracy also served as a training ground for civilian bureaucrats and facilitated growth of a command-and-control infrastructure.

In summary then, the Imperial Formula of Imperial Energy is:

Man makes war; war makes the state and the state makes fascism.


2: Four Stages of Military-Political Development.

The evolution of State, People and Military are inextricably linked and develop in four stages:

As a first approximation, we can divide the years since AD 990 into four segments, with varying temporal limits from one part of Europe to another:

1 Patrimonalism: a time (up to the fifteenth century in much of Europe) when tribes, feudal levies, urban militias, and similar customary forces played the major part in warfare, and monarchs generally extracted what capital they needed as tribute or rent from lands and populations that lay under their immediate control;

2 Brokerage: an era (roughly 1400 to 1 700 in important parts of Europe) when mercenary forces recruited by contractors predominated in military activity, and rulers relied heavily on formally independent capitalists for loans, for management of revenue-producing enterprises, and for installation and collection of taxes;

3 Nationalism: a period (especially 1700 to 1850 or so in much of Europe) when states created mass armies and navies drawn increasingly from their own national populations, while sovereigns absorbed armed forces directly into the state’s administrative structure, and similarly took over the direct operation of the fiscal apparatus, drastically curtailing the involvement of independent contractors;

4 specialization: an age (from approximately the mid-nineteenth century to the recent past) in which military force grew as a powerful specialized branch of national government, the organizational separation of fiscal from military activity increased, the division of labor between armies and police sharpened, representative institutions came to have a significant influence over military expenditures, and states took on a greatly expanded range of distributive, regulatory, compensatory, and adjudicative activities.

We are now in (4) and part of the crisis of the State (such as USG) is that it can no longer carry out its most central function: (defeating external enemies and providing domestic security).


3: War Makes the State.

How War Made States, and Vice Versa

Despite the current forty-year lull in open war among the world’s great powers, the twentieth century has already established itself as the most bellicose in human history.

We have also made the claim that violence, crime and war has increased, not decreased, in the last century here. Given our thesis, it is not surprising then that the 20th Century is the century of totalitarian fascism.

Internal and external politics; war-making and state-making:

At the same time, the state’s expansion of its own armed force began to overshadow the weaponry available to any of its domestic rivals. The distinction between “internal” and “external” politics, once quite unclear, became sharp and fateful link between war making and state structure strengthened.

Exactly how civilian disarmament proceeded depended on its social setting: in urban regions, the installation of routine policing and the negotiation of agreements between municipal and national authorities played a major part, while in regions dominated by great landlords the disbanding of private armies, the elimination of walled, moated castles, and the interdiction of vendettas alternated between co-optation and civil war.

As a result, it has become almost impossible for a dissident faction to seize power over a Western state without the active collaboration of some segments of the state’s own armed forces.

From AD 990 onward, major mobilizations for war provided the chief occasions on which states expanded, consolidated, and created new forms of political organisation.     

Why did wars occur at all? The central, tragic fact is simple: coercion works; those who apply substantial force to their fellows get compliance, and from that compliance draw the multiple advantages of money, goods, deference, access to pleasures denied to less powerful people.

The three conditions of war making:

Some conditions for war varied, however. Every state’s particular brand of war making depended on three closely-related factors: the character of its major rivals, the external interests of its dominant classes, and the logic of the protective activity in which rulers engaged on behalf of their own and dominant classes’ interests.

In the fragmented sovereignty of Europe, rivals – whether kinsmen or not – were always close at hand, but so was a coalition nearly always available to keep any particular centre from expanding indefinitely. For a long time, furthermore, larger states such as Burgundy and England always harbored internal rivals to the current sovereign, armed groups who had also some claim to rule and who sometimes served as implicit or explicit allies of external enemies.

War was the dominant activity of European states:

…They also suggest that preparation for war, paying for it, and mending its damage preoccupied rulers throughout the five centuries under scrutiny. In the five centuries before 1500, furthermore, European states concentrated even more exclusively on the making of war. Over the millennium as a whole, war has been the dominant activity of European states. State budgets, taxes, and debts reflect that reality. Before 1400, in the era of patrimonialism, no state had a national budget in the understood sense of the word. Taxes existed in Europe’s more commercialized states, but rulers everywhere acquired most of their revenues from tribute, rents, dues, and fees. Individual sovereigns borrowed money, but usually in their own names and against real collateral. During the sixteenth century, as war multiplied expenditures through most of the continent, European states began to regularise and expand  budgets, taxes, and debts alike. States’ future revenue began to serve as security for long-term debt.

As Jouvenel points out, every progressive advance is progressive for war:

If war drove states, it did not exhaust their activity. On the contrary: as a by-product of preparations for war, rulers willy-nilly started activities and organisations that eventually took on lives of their own: courts, systems of taxation, regional administration and more.

Again, as Jouvenel makes clear, the key conflict is between what we call “Elites” and their “Essentials”; this is because Elites depend upon their Essentials for war-making; however, Essentials often rebelled:

Well into the seventeenth century, most large European states, by virtue of their reliance on armed and partly autonomous regional magnates for domestic rule, faced recurrent threats of civil war as magnates took up arms against rulers. During the critical centuries from 1400 to 1700, rulers spent much of their effort disarming, isolating, or co-opting rival claimants to state power.

War wove the European Network of nation states, and preparation for war created the internal structures of the state within it.

The rise of the mercenary:

In Venice, that great maritime power, the resident nobility long provided its own military commanders on sea and land; they recruited their soldiers and sailors, furthermore, largely from the Venetian population. But by the end of the fourteenth century Venice, like its Italian neighbours, was hiring mercenary captains, condottieri, who recruited their own troops and fought the city-state’s wars for a handsome price. Since a condotta was a contract to make war for a particular sovereign, condottiere meant, essentially, contractor.

War did not merely entail recruiting and paying troops. Warmaking states had to supply them as well. During the later seventeenth century, a typical army of 60,000 men, with its 40,000 horses, consumed almost a million pounds of food per day – some carried with the army, some stored in magazines, the great bulk procured wherever the army was located, but all of it requiring massive expenditure and organization…


4: With Guns take Gold; With Gold buy Guns.

In 1502 Robert de Balsac, veteran of the Italian campaign, concluded a treatise on the art of war with advice to any prince: “most important of all, success in war depends on having enough money to provide whatever the enterprise needs. 

Credit, taxes and coercion:

 Although various forms of conscription have continued to our own time, European states generally moved toward a system of collecting taxes in money, paying for coercive means with the money thus collected and using some of the coercive means to further the collection of taxes. Such a system only worked well under two very demanding conditions: a relatively monetized economy, and the ready availability of credit.

Capitalism and credit:

In an economy where only a small share of goods and services are bought and sold, a number of conditions prevail: collectors of revenue are unable to observe or evaluate resources with any accuracy, many people have claims on any particular resource, and the loss of that resource is hard for the loser to repair. As a result, any taxation imposed is inefficient, visibly unjust, and quite likely to stir up resistance. When little credit is available, even in a monetized economy, current spending depends on cash on hand, and surges in spending can only occur after careful hoarding. In these circumstances, any ruler who cannot seize the means of war directly from his subject population or acquire it without payment elsewhere is hard pressed to build up his state’s armed force. After 1500, as the means of successful warfare became more and more expensive, the rulers of most European states spent much of their time raising money. Where did the money come from? In the short run, typically from loans by capitalists and levies on local populations unlucky enough to have troops in their vicinity.


Consider the “petro-dollar”, war what we read next:

Historically, few large states have ever had to pay for their military expenditures out of current revenues.

Instead, they have coped with the shortfall by one form of borrowing or another: making creditors wait, selling offices, forcing loans from clients, borrowing from bankers who acquired claims on future governmental revenues. If a government and its agents can borrow, they can separate the rhythm of their expenditures from that of their income; and spent ahead of their income….a state that borrows quickly, furthermore, can mobilize faster than its enemies, and thus increase its chances of winning a war. The availability of credit depends on a state’s previous repayment of its debts, to be sure, but it depends even more on the presence of capitalists.

Capitalists are players in the King’s Game:

Capitalists serve states, when they are willing to do so, as lenders, as mobilizers of loans, and as managers or even collectors of revenues to repay the loans. European capitalists sometimes combined all these activities in the much-hated figure of the tax farmer, who advanced money to the state in anticipation of taxes he himself collected with the authority and military force of the state, and charged a handsome cut of the taxes as his payment for credit, risk, and effort. But even more often capitalists served as major organizers and holders of public debt.

Death and taxes:

Whether they borrowed heavily or not, all rulers faced the problem of paying for their wars without destroying the ability of their sources to pay again in the future. They adopted very different fiscal strategies. Governmental revenues in general (“taxes,” in a loose sense of the word) fall into five broad categories: tributes, rents, payments on flows, payments on stocks, and income taxes.

Commerce and control:

A state attempting to collect exactly the same amount from the same tax in a less commercialized economy faces greater resistance, collects less efficiently, and therefore builds a larger apparatus of control in the process. If two states of similar size but different degrees of commercialization go to war and attempt to extract comparable sums of money from their citizens by means of the same sorts of taxes, the less commercialized state creates a bulkier state structure as it wars and pays for war. The more commercialized state, on the average, makes do with a slimmer administrative organization.

Wars grow the scope and scale of the state:

A major war effort generally produced a permanent expansion of the state’s central apparatus.


5: Essentials of Statecraft.

The essential activities of the State are statemaking, warmaking, protecting and then extracting:

A state’s essential minimum activities form a trio: statemaking: attacking and checking competitors and challengers within the territory claimed by the state; warmaking: attacking rivals outside the territory already claimed by the state; protection: attacking and checking rivals of the rulers’ principal allies, whether inside or outside the state’s claimed territory. No state lasts long, however, that neglects a crucial fourth activity: extraction: drawing from its subject population the means of state making, warmaking, and protection.

At the minimum, tribute-taking states stayed close to this indispensable set of four activities, intervening in the lives of their nominal subjects chiefly to impose ruling-class power and to extract revenues. Beyond a certain scale, however, all states found themselves venturing into three other risky terrains:

Adjudication: authoritative settlement of disputes among members of the subject population;

distribution: intervention in the allocation of goods among members of the subject population;

production: control of the creation and transformation of goods and services by members of the subject population.

Warmaking and state making reinforced each other, indeed remained practically indistinguishable until states began to form secure, recognized boundaries around substantial contiguous territories. Both led to extraction of resources from the local population.


6: Rulers and the Ruled.

As rulers drew more and more resources for war and other coercive enterprises from their local economics, the major classes within those economies successfully demanded more and more state intervention outside the realm of coercion and war.

State activities therefore had profound implications for the interests of the general population, for collective action, and for the rights of citizens. As rulers and agents of states pursued the work of warmaking, statemaking, protection, extraction, adjudication, distribution, and production, they impinged on well-defined interests of people who lived within their range of control; the impact was often negative, since states repeatedly seized for their own use land, capital, goods, and services that had previously served other commitments. Most of the resources that kings and ministers used to build armed might came ultimately from the labor and accumulation of ordinary people, and represented a diversion of valuable means from pursuits to which ordinary people attached much higher priority. Although capitalists sometimes invested gladly in state finances and in the protection that state power gave to their business, and although regional magnates sometimes allied themselves with kings in order to hold off their own enemies, most people who had an investment in the resources that monarchs sought to seize resisted royal demands tenaciously.

State intervention in everyday life incited popular collective action, often in the form of resistance to the state but sometimes in the guise of new claims on the state. As authorities sought to draw resources and acquiescence from the subject population, state authorities, other powerholders, and groups of ordinary people bargained out (however lopsidedly) new agreements concerning the conditions under which the state could extract or control, and the kinds of claims that powerholders or ordinary people could make on the state. The bargaining and the claims changed fundamentally with the movement from patrimonialism to brokerage to nationalization to specialization…

The translation from class structure to state organization occurred through struggle.

The tax rebellions that shook much of western Europe during the seventeenth century sprang from the competing claims of kings, regional powerholders, local communities, and individual households to land, labor, ‘commodities, cattle, tools, credit, and household wealth that could not serve all ends at once.

When resistance to taxation aligned the claims of great lords with those of local communities, as it often did in early seventeenth-century France, it threatened the very viability of the crown. But even on a smaller scale, day-today individual and collective action against the growing state’s extractive efforts posed serious challenges to every ruler.

To the extent that a state’s population was segmented and heterogeneous, the likelihood of large-scale rebellion declined, but the difficulty of imposing uniform administrative arrangements increased.

The logic of uniformity:

In a homogeneous, connected population, an administrative innovation installed and tested in one region had a reasonable chance of working elsewhere, and officials could easily transfer their knowledge from one locality to another. In the period of movement from tribute to tax, from indirect to direct rule, from subordination to assimilation, states generally worked to homogenize their populations and break down their segmentation by imposing common languages, religions, currencies, and legal systems, as well as promoting the construction of connected systems of trade, transportation, and communication.

When those standardizing efforts threatened the very identities on which subordinate populations based their everyday social relations, however, they often stirred massive resistance.

It also created rights – recognized enforceable claims – of states with respect to their citizens. The core of what we now call “citizenship,” indeed, consists of multiple bargains hammered out by rulers and ruled in the course of their struggles over the means of state action, especially the making of war.


7: Obstacles and the Path to Universal Rights and Universal War.


A widespread movement from indirect to direct rule occurred with the nationalization of military power. It offered a seductive but costly opportunity to ordinary people. After 1750, in the eras of nationalization and specialization, states began moving aggressively from a nearly universal system of indirect rule to a new system of direct rule : unmediated intervention in the lives of local communities, households, and productive enterprises.

Before the seventeenth century, every large European state ruled its subjects through powerful intermediaries who enjoyed significant autonomy, hindered state demands that were not to their own interest, and profited on their own accounts from the delegated exercise of state power.

The intermediaries were often privileged members of subordinate populations, and made their way by assuring rulers of tribute and acquiescence from those populations. In southeastern Europe especially, the presence of multiple populations mixed by centuries of conquest and Mediterranean trade combined with the characteristic forms of Muslim rule through semi-autonomous subordinates to produce a vast zone of indirect rule whose traces remain today in the region’s cultural heterogeneity and its continuing struggles over the rights of minorities.

Crucial intermediaries included clergy, landlords, urban oligarchies, and independent professional warriors, in proportions that varied along the continuum from capital-intensive to coercion-intensive regions. The centrality of these various intermediaries identified alternative systems of indirect rule. Any system of indirect rule set serious limits on the quantity of resources rulers could extract from the ambient economy.

Beyond that limit, intermediaries acquired an interest in impeding extracting, even in allying themselves with ordinary people’s resistance to state demands.

High and Low against Middle:

In the same circumstances, however, rulers developed an interest both in undermining the autonomous powers of intermediaries and in making coalitions with major segments of the subject population.

High undermines the Middle in order to make use of the Low for war-making purposes:

As war demanded greater resources, emphatically including manpower, and as the threat of conquest by the largest states grew more serious, ever more rulers bypassed, suppressed, or co-opted old intermediaries and reached directly into communities and households to seize the wherewithal of war. Thus national standing armies, national states, and direct rule caused each other.

Power comes in the guise of the “Good”, but it is only to gain more power for war:

As a result of exploitation by middlemen, an alliance with the distant king or his agents often seemed an attractive alternative to exploitation close at hand; villagers then appealed to royal agents, took their cases against landlords to royal courts, and cheered the curtailment of urban privileges.

In the short run, they sometimes gained by these choices. But in the long run, the destruction of intermediate barriers made them more vulnerable to the state’s next round of war-generated demands. The growth of domestically recruited standing armies offered a strong stimulus to direct rule.

War and the costs of war provide the incentives for universal education, health and conscription:

The domestic recruitment of large standing armies entailed serious costs. While discharged mercenaries had few enforceable claims on any states, veterans of a national force did, especially if they had incurred disabilities in the nation’s service. Families of dead or wounded warriors likewise acquired benefits such as preference in the state-run sale of tobacco and matches. The garrisoning of troops within the country involved military officials and their civilian counterparts in food supply, housing, and public order.

Eventually the health and education of all young males, which affected their military effectiveness, became governmental concerns. Thus military reorganization entered a wedge for expansion of state activity into what had previously been local and private spheres.

The “trade-offs” between homogeneity and diversity:

From a ruler’s point of view, a linguistically, religiously, and ideologically homogeneous population presented the risk of a common front against royal demands; homogenization made a policy of divide and rule more costly. But homogeneity had many compensating advantages: within a homogeneous population, ordinary people were more likely to identify with their rulers, communication could run more efficiently, and an administrative innovation that worked in one segment was likely to work elsewhere as well.

The Protestant Reformation gave rulers of smaller states a splendid opportunity to define their nation’s distinctness and homogeneity vis-a-vis the great empires, not to mention a chance to co-opt the clergy and their administrative apparatus in the service of royal ends. Sweden set an early example, with large chunks of public administration placed in the hands of Lutheran pastors. (Today’s Swedish historians still benefit from the long series of parish registers, complete with information about literacy and changes of residence, those pastors prepared faithfully from the seventeenth century onward.) Over and above any possible influence on beliefs about the state’s legitimacy, a shared clergy and a common faith linked to the sovereign provided a powerful instrument of rule.


8: The Minotaur’s Revolution.


European states began forcing the choice between local and national loyalties during the eighteenth century. Although Enlightenment “reforms” often had the effect of reinforcing direct rule, the most sensational move in that direction was no doubt the work of the French Revolution and Empire. French actions from 1789 to 1815 forwarded the general European transition from indirect to direct rule in two ways: by providing a model of centralized government that other states emulated, and by imposing variants of that model wherever France conquered.

What happened to France’s system of rule during the revolutionary years?

Before 1789 the French state, like almost all other states, ruled indirectly at the local level, relying especially on priests and nobles for mediation. From the end of the American war, the government’s efforts to collect money to cover its war debts crystallized an anti-governmental coalition that initially included the Parlements and other powerholders, but changed toward a more popular composition as the confrontation between the regime and its opponents sharpened.

The state’s visible vulnerability in 1788-9 encouraged any group that had a stifled claim or grievance against the state, its agents, or its allies to articulate its demands and join others in calling for change. The rural revolts – Great Fear, grain seizures, tax rebellions, attacks on landlords, and so on – of spring and summer 1789 occurred disproportionately in regions with large towns, commercialized agriculture, and many roads.

Their geography reflected a composite but largely bourgeois-led settling of scores. At the same time, those whose social survival depended most directly on the Old Regime state – nobles, officeholders, and higher clergy are the obvious examples – generally aligned themselves with the king.

Thus a revolutionary situation began to form: two distinct blocs both claimed power and both received support from some significant part of the population. With significant defections of military men from the crown and the formation of militias devoted to the popular cause, the opposition acquired force of its own. The popular bloc, connected and often led by members of the bourgeoisie, started to gain control over parts of the state apparatus. The lawyers, officials, and other bourgeois who seized the state apparatus in 1789-90 rapidly displaced the old intermediaries: landlords, seigneurial officials, venal officeholders, clergy, and sometimes municipal oligarchies as well.

“It was not a rural class of English-style gentlemen,” declares Lynn Hunt, “who gained political prominence on either the national or the regional level, but rather thousands of city professionals who seized the opportunity to develop political careers”.

At a local level, the so-called Municipal Revolution widely transferred power to enemies of the old rulers; patriot coalitions based in militias, clubs, and revolutionary committees and linked to Parisian activists ousted the old municipalities. Even where the old powerholders managed to survive the Revolution’s early tunnoil (sic), relations between each locality and the national capital altered abruptly. Village “republics” of the Alps, for example, found their ancient liberties – including ostensibly free consent to taxes – crumbling as outsiders clamped them into the new administrative machine.

Origins of the police state:

The revolutionaries changed things. With respect to ordinary people, they moved from reactive to proactive policing and information-gathering: instead of simply waiting until a rebellion or collective violation of the law occurred, and then retaliating ferociously but selectively, they began to station agents whose job was to anticipate and prevent threatening popular collective action.

During the Revolution’s early years, Old Regime police forces generally dissolved as popular committees, national guards, and revolutionary tribunals took over their day-to-day activities. But with the Directory the state concentrated surveillance and apprehension in a single centralized organization. Fouche of Nantes became minister of police in the year VIIh 799, and thenceforth ran a ministry whose powers extended throughout France and its conquered territories. By the time of Fouche, France had become one of the world’s most closely-policed countries.

War, debt and revolution:

Going to war accelerated the move from indirect to direct rule. Almost any state that makes war finds that it cannot pay for the effort from its accumulated reserves and current revenues. Almost all warmaking states borrow extensively, raise taxes, and seize the means of combat – including men – from reluctant citizens who have other uses for their resources. Pre-revolutionary France followed these rules faithfully, to the point of accumulating debts that eventually forced the calling of the Estates General. Nor did the Revolution repeal the rules: once France declared war on Austria in 1 792, the state’s demands for revenues and manpower excitedl resistance just as fierce as that which had broken out under the Old Regime. In overcoming that resistance, revolutionaries built yet another set of centralized controls.


9: The Age of Nationalism.


Note that the expansion of liberalism moved in lock-step with the expansion of militarism:

The most dramatic expansion of nonmilitary state activity began in the age of military specialization after 1850 or so. In that period, which extends to the recent past, military organization moved from a dominant, partly autonomous segment of state structure to a more subordinated position as the largest of several differentiated departments under control of a predominantly civilian administration. (That subordination was, of course, greater in peace than in war, greater in Holland than in Spain.) The nationalization of military forces during the previous century had already drawn most European states into bargaining with their subject populations over the yielding of conscripts, war materials, and taxes; immense citizen armies like those of the Napoleonic Wars entailed an unprecedented invasion of everyday social relations by the predatory state.

As they say in Europe today, though not for the same reason, “we” are building an ever more “closer” union:

As direct rule expanded throughout Europe, the welfare, culture, and daily routines of ordinary Europeans came to depend as never before on which state they happened to resist.

Internally, states undertook to impose national languages, national educational systems, national military service, and much more. Externally, they began to control movement across frontiers, to use tariffs and customs as instruments of economic policy, and to treat foreigners as distinctive kinds of people deserving limited rights and close surveillance. As states invested not only in war and public services but also in economic infrastructure, their economies came to have distinctive characteristics, which once again differentiated the experiences of living in adjacent states.


10: Special Interests and the Iron Law of Bureaucracies.


Struggle over the means of war produced state structures that no one had planned to create, or even particularly desired.

Because no ruler or ruling coalition had absolute power and because classes outside the ruling coalition always held day-to-day control over a significant share of the resources rulers drew on for war, no state escaped the creation of some organizational burdens rulers would have preferred to avoid.

A second, parallel process also generated unintended burdens for the state: as rulers created organizations either to make war or to draw the requisites of war from the subject population – not only armies and navies but also tax offices, customs services, treasuries, regional administrations, and armed forces to forward their work among the civilian population – they discovered that the organizations themselves developed interests, rights, perquisites, needs, and demands requiring attention on their own.

A third process likewise added to the state’s burdens. Classes outside the state found they could turn institutions that originated with a narrow range of activities into solutions for problems that interested them seriously, even when the problems interested state officials very little.

In order to build the coalitions required to get their own work done, officials accepted the broadening of institutions. Courts originally convened to enforce the king’s writ with respect to arms and taxes became vehicles for the settlement of private disputes, army regiments became convenient places to lodge the nobility’s incompetent younger sons, registry offices set up to receive fees for the certification of documents became sites of negotiation over inheritances.


11: The Rise of the Soldier.


Most analysts thought, with Edward Shils, that “Military rule is one of the several practicable and apparently stable alternatives when parliamentary, democratic regimes falter. The inherited and the newly engendered obstacles over which these regimes have been stumbling are more determinative than the aspirations of the military elites of these states, although the latter are not unimportant.”

In the next post, we will take a closer look at Huntington’s work:

Thirty years ago, Samuel Huntington argued that civilian control over the military occurred through two different processes, one unstable and one stable.

The unstable process was a power struggle in which one civilian group or another subordinated the military to a governmental institution, a constitution, or a particular social class; Huntington gave it the odd name of “subjective” control. “Objective” control, in his eyes, resulted from maximizing military professionalism and recognizing an independent military sphere outside of politics. “Historically,” said Huntington, “the demand for objective control has come from the military profession, the demand for subjective control from the multifarious civilian groups anxious to maximize their power in military affairs”.

Factors in civilian control of the military and military control of the state:

Paradoxically, civilians who sought to increase their own power by interfering in military professionalization thereby promoted military seizure of power.

A pro-military ideology, low military political power, and high military professionalism, by this argument, promote civilian control, while anti-military ideology, high military political power and low military professionalism promote military control.

The insertion of military political power into the explanation of military control introduces an element of circularity into the argument, but we can break the circle by checking the factors Huntington considers to promote political power: personal affiliation of the military with other powerful groups and resources placed directly under the control of the officer corps, hierarchical interpenetration of the officer corps with civilian power structures, prestige and popularity of the officer ‘corps and its leaders.

Thus we would expect an officer corps to have relatively little political power if it recruited chiefly from outside the ruling classes, had few non-military resources at its disposal, held few non-military offices, and had little popular following.


12: How War Made the State.

Tilly’s summary of how war made the state consists of five reasons:

Think back to the central paradox of European state formation: that the pursuit of war and military capacity, after having created national states as a sort of by-product, led to a civilianization of government and domestic politics.

That happened, I have argued, for five main reasons:

because the effort to build and sustain military forces led agents of states to build bulky extractive apparatuses staffed by civilians, and those extractive apparatuses came to contain and constrain the military forces;

because agents of states bargained with civilian groups that controlled the resources required for effective warmaking, and in bargaining gave the civilian groups enforceable claims on the state that further constrained the military;

because the expansion of state capacity in wartime gave those states that had not suffered great losses in war expanded capacity at the ends of wars, and agents of those states took advantage of the situation by taking on new activities, or continuing activities they had started as emergency measures;

because participants in the war effort, including military personnel, acquired claims on the state that they deferred during the war in response to repression or mutual consent but which they reactivated at demobilization;

and finally because wartime borrowing led to great increases in national debts, which in tum generated service bureaucracies and encouraged greater state intervention in national economies.


13: Cartoon History of Europe.

In a cartoon history of Europe, the story would appear in four panels.

In the first panel, the king wears armor and carries a sword, recruiting and commanding his own army and navy, which maintain personal loyalty to his service.

In the second, the king bears glorified military garb, but contracts with a condottiere for the hire of mercenaries to fight his battles.

In the third panel, the king, fitted out in a grand costume utterly unsuitable for fighting wars, consults with generals and ministers of war who find their places in a complex, civilian-dominated structure.

In the last scene we see a king (who may now be a president or prime minister in disguise) sporting a business suit and negotiating not only with his staff but also with duly constituted representatives of major civilian interests and of the population at large.


14: How Coups Occur.

With growing military establishments, is the process of civilianization that European experience might lead us to expect continuing?

We have some indications that it is not.

Suppose we call “military control” the presence of any of these: key political leadership by military officers, existence of martial law, extrajudicial authority exercised by security forces, lack of central political control over the armed forces, or occupation by foreign military forces.

The absence of all of these elements constitutes civilian control of the state; civilianization occurs when any of these happens: decline in political leadership by military officers; end of martial law; curbing of security forces’ extrajudicial authority; increase of centralized control over armed forces; end of occupation by foreign military forces.


The role that a “crisis” plays in the military gaining power:

In any case, such an explanation holds less weight in much of South Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Concerning Latin America, according to J. Samuel Fitch: A growing consensus has emerged regarding the preconditions for military coups. Coups occur when military officers believe a crisis situation exists.

Public disorders and public opinion hostile to the government, threats to the military’s institutional interests, violations of the constitution by civilian presidents, evident inability of the incumbent administration to manage a serious economic crisis, or a significant “Communist threat” will increase the military’s sense of crisis.

Personal ambitions and personal ties may influence individual officers, but the decision to stage a military coup is generally an institutional decision, reflecting the collective evaluation of government performance within the upper ranks of the armed forces as a whole.

On a world scale, then, we can only hope to identify conditions that made military power easier or more probable before turning to the particular histories of states and regions for the examination of precise paths to military hegemony.

Three main possibilities come to mind.

First, civilian-dominated institutions might be failing with sufficient frequency in the Third World that the military take over by default.

Second, the disproportionate support that outside powers give to Third World military organizations might be lending those organizations extra strength vis-avis their competitors within their own states.

Third, the process of negotiation and containment of the military that occurred widely in the West may not be occurring, because states acquire their military means from great powers outside the state, in return for commodities or political subordination. Or all three could be happening at once.

Military intervention:

A careful analysis of military intervention in politics within 35 African states between 1960 and 1982 indicates that these factors promoted intervention:

domination of the army by a single ethnic group;

high military expenditure combined with frequent sanctions against government opponents;

absence of political pluralism;

low electoral turnout before independence;

low proportion of the population in agriculture;

rapid increase in the population of the capital city;

slow increase in industrial jobs and in GNP;

low proportion of exports to GNP;

decreasingly diversified commodity exports.

Despite the miscellaneous character that infects many such statistical searches for causes, the list sounds some recurrent themes.

More than anything else, it portrays a combination of military ‘autonomy and economic crisis as favourable to military involvement. The authors themselves conclude that “social mobilization” favors military intervention and “political participation” works against it.

Coercion, Capital and State Formation.Charles Tilly.


Next Time.

In the next post, we examine origins, growth and development of USG’s military-industrial-complex in the American Minotaur of War.





14 thoughts on “The STEEL-cameralist Manifesto Part 5B The European Minotaur of War II: War Made the State.

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