On Migdal: Strong Societies and Weak States: State-Society Relations and State Capabilities in the Third World.
Central questions I will briefly answer are: (1) What are the struggles within the state to define its rules? (2) How does the state deal effectively (or ineffectively) with society; i.e., families, clans, multinational corporations, enterprises…? (3) Why do some states continue to be weak? (4) What are the effects of strong/weak states that permeate the society?
Migdal defines the state as: “an organization, composed of numerous agencies led and coordinated by the state’s leadership (executive authority) that has the ability or authority to make and implement the binding rules for all the people as well as the parameters of rule making for other social organizations in a given territory, using force if necessary to have its way” (19). Basically, the state is the legitimate authority that provides the official rules that people within the borders must follow.
Strong states almost seamlessly are able to guide the rules of society—without threatening opponents. Here, the “rightness of a state’s having high capabilities to extract, penetrate, regulate and appropriate” the rules of society is unchallenged and generally ubiquitous.
Weak states often showcase strongmen whom “offer viable strategies of survival to villages, ethnic groups….” (210). The state is unable to mobilize the population for political purposes and there is often a fragmentation of social control (228). Weak states often add insult to injury, and “dirty tricks” are often employed to gain control (228).
A paradigm within developmental theory was articulated thus: “Effective social control depends first on regulation of resources and services” (80). Midgal fashions globalization via global proletarianization (80) and global taxation (everyone on the globe is taxed). Overall, I think Midgal’s point thus: the stronger the state, then the stronger will be institutional penetration.
Migdal, Joel. 1988. Strong Societies and Weak States: State-Society Relations and State Capabilities in the Third World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.