American Sociological Association

Internal Wars, Taxation, and State Building

This article addresses the question of whether and how internal wars can lead to state building. I offer a new conceptual framework for understanding the varied effects of internal conflict on state capacity, as measured through taxation. Contrary to the general scholarly consensus that internal wars make states fail, I hypothesize that like external wars, internal wars can lead to increased taxation when they enhance solidarity toward the state among the elite and motivate the state to strengthen and territorially expand the tax administration. Elite solidarity, in turn, depends on the degree to which elites perceive the risks of war as real, decide to protect their interests with the help of the state, and feel a sense of patriotism. However, due to the existence of insurgent actors with taxing capacity, the positive effect of internal wars on state building may be hampered. I use this framework to make sense of the cases of Colombia, Malaysia, and Singapore, where internal wars, despite their otherwise destructive effects, resulted in state building instead of state failure.


Rodriguez-Franco, D.





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