A Developing State

The state is the sum of legitimate institutions that create and enforce the norms of society.  Evans[i] explains that he will study how the state will promote industrial growth, while Migdal[ii] researches variables that differentiate a strong state from a weak state. For Migdal, strong states have strong central governments that may permeate society at will.  According to Evans, “Migdal’s polarity is state versus society” and Migdal’s “focus is social control rather than economic transformation” (37).  Evans, on the other hand, focuses on the state, its bureaucracy and economic development (or lack thereof).

For example, Migdal would call Zaire a weak state because “it has little capacity of transforming the economy and social structure…” (45).  Evans, however, shows that the lack of a bureaucracy can be crippling to the state structure, and that an efficient and embedded bureaucracy is the answer to such as weak country as Zaire—“it is the key to the developmental state’s effectiveness” (49).  Here, the relationship between the elites, bureaucrats and the state “is in scarcity, not excess” (71).  If there was a real bureaucracy, such as in Japan or Korea, then the state would function and increase the productiveness of the economy.

According to Evans, embeddedness is as important as autonomy and embeddedness “implies a concrete set of connections that link the state intimately and aggressively to particular social groups with whom that state shares a joint project of transformation” (59).  Thus, the bureaucracy will be most efficient and productive when it asserts its legitimate authority within society in order to transform it. The embedded autonomy is as autonomous as far as the society’s ability to influence the decisions and future institutional actions of the bureaucracy. Finally, culturally, Japan and Korea have excellent bureaucracies precisely because they recruit the top 1-2 percent of college graduates. This adds legitimacy and respect to the institution.

Stepan, Linzand Yadav’s central point is that diversity within countries requires diverse solutions to political and cultural issues.[iii]  Whereas sometimes a more authoritarian form of government may be the short term solution, a democratic government like India’s may be more malleable than America’s in those diverse and troubled societies. In order to solve the political problems of the failing state, cultural approaches should be thoughtfully examined, followed by institutional approaches.


[i] Evans, Peter. 1995. Embedded Autonomy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

[ii] Smith, B. C. 2009. Understanding Third World Politics: Theories of Political Change and Development, 3rd Edition. IndianaUniversity Press.

[iii] Stephan, Alfred, Juan Linz and Yogendra Yadav 2010 “The Rise of the State-Nation” Journal of Democracy 21(3): 50-68.

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