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Why States Go To War: In Conversation With The Great Sociologist, Charles Tilly (Thanks to M.A. for the Research Paper)

Forget everything, leave everything, and spend at least half an hour, but I reckon for some might be an hour length more, as attached research paper written by the great sociologist, Charles Tilly, and sent to me by Mark (our sincere gratitude), is highly demanding in intellectual comprehension.

Before we proceed to the paper, I would like to say, in brief, the origin of this article is an extension of yesterday’s post, on the ”Laws To Undermine Warfare”, that which can be located below (or here: https://geopoliticalintelligence.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/help-required-please-add-your-thoughts-to-this-legal-framework-list-on-the-laws-to-undermineregulate-the-use-of-force-in-the-international-national-relations/), and also please see e-library for the greatest intellectual and academic work ever written in the our time, Empire, by Michael Hardt and Thomas Negri (a pdf file, pp.500), examining the new neo-imperial age, under the auspice or veil of international institutions not states. can be located here directly, https://geopoliticalintelligence.wordpress.com/selected-contemporary-political-essays-by-ss-salem/michael-hardt-antonio-negri-empire/.

Charles Tilly examining in acceptable detail what is, and the why, it is so, of the ‘symbiotic relationship’ between the state-making and war-making, in other words, state and war. His point of view, state under ‘governments’ are ‘protectionists racketeers’, they will threat you with violence, or shielding you from one through payments, taxes etc, writing:

”It protection rackets represent organised crime at its smoothest, then war risking and state making – quintessential protection rackets with the advantage of legitimacy – qualify as our largest examples of organised crime.”

The research study is an absolute must read, and it will open ones mind wide in contemplating the reasons behind ”why state go to war?”.

I have copied and pasted few general and interesting quotes from the paper for those with no time to spare, mind you, the paper is only ten-pages (pdf);


”To a lesser extent, war making likewise led to state making through the expansion of military organization itself, as a standing army, war industries, supporting bureaucracies, and (rather later) schools grew up within the state apparatus. All of these structures checked potential rivals and opponents. In the course of making war, extracting resources, and building up the state apparatus, the managers of states formed alliances with specific social classes. The members of those classes loaned resources, provided technical services, or helped ensure the compliance of the rest of the population, all in return for a measure of protection against their own rivals and enemies. As a result of these multiple strategic choices, a distinctive state apparatus grew up within each major section of Europe.”


”What Do States Do?

As should now be clear, Lane’s analysis of protection fails to distinguish among several different uses of state-controlled violence. Under the general heading of organized violence, the agents of states characteristically carry on four different activities:

1. War making: Eliminating or neutralizing their own rivals outside the territories in which they have clear and continuous priority as wielders of force

2. State making: Eliminating or neutralizing their rivals inside those territories

3. Protection: Eliminating or neutralizing the enemies of their clients

4. Extraction: Acquiring the means of carrying out the first three activities – war making, state making, and protection

Each of the major uses of violence produced characteristic forms of organization. War making yielded armies, navies, and supporting services. State making produced durable instruments of surveillance and control within the territory. Protection relied on the organization of war making and state making but added to it an apparatus by which the protected called forth the protection that was their due, notably through courts and representative assemblies. Extraction brought fiscal and accounting structures into being. The organization and deployment of violence themselves account for much of the characteristic structure of European states.”


”As Jan de Vries says of the period after 1600:

Looking back, one cannot help but be struck by the seemingly symbiotic relationship existing between the state, military power, and the private economy’s efficiency in the age of absolutism. Behind every successful dynasty stood an array of opulent banking families. Access to such bourgeois resources proved crucial to the princes’ state-building and centralizing policies. Princes also needed direct access to agricultural resources, which could be mobilized only when agricultural productivity grew and an effective administrative and military power existed to enforce the princes’ claims. But the lines of causation also ran in the opposite direction. Successful state-building and empire-building activities plus the associated tendency toward concentration of urban population and government expenditure, offered the private economy unique and invaluable opportunities to capture economies of scale. These economies of scale occasionally affected industrial production but were most significant in the development of trade and finance. In addition, the sheer pressure of central government taxation did as much as any other economic force to channel peasant production into the market and thereby augment the opportunities for trade creation and economic specialization.”


”What distinguished the violence produced by states from the violence delivered by anyone else? In the long; run, enough to make the division between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” force credible. Eventually, the personnel of states purveyed violence on a larger scale, more effectively, more efficiently, with wider assent from their subject populations, and with readier collaboration from neighboring authorities than did the personnel of other organizations. But it took a long time for that series of distinctions to become established. Early in the state-making process, many parties shared the right to use violence, the practice of using it routinely to accomplish their ends, or both at once. The continuum ran from bandits and pirates to kings via tax collectors, regional power holders, and professional soldiers.

The buying manifested itself in exemptions from taxation, creations of honorific offices, the establishment of claims on the national treasury, and a variety of other devices that made a magnate’s welfare dependent on the maintenance of the existing structure of power.

In the long run, it all came down to massive pacification and monopolization of the means of coercion.

As economic historian Frederic Lane put it twenty-five years ago, governments are in the business of selling protection … whether people want it or not. Lane argued that the very activity of producing and controlling violence favored monopoly, because competition within that realm generally raised costs, instead of lowering them. The production of violence, he suggested, enjoyed large economies of scales.”


”Apologists for particular governments and for government in general
only argue, precisely, that they offer protection from local and external
violence. They claim that the prices they charge barely cover the costs of
protection. They call people who complain about the price of protection
“anarchists,” “subversives,” or both at once. But consider the definition of a
racketeer as someone who creates a threat and then charges for its reduction.

Governments’ provision of protection, by this standard, often qualifies as
racketeering. To the extent that the threats against which a given government
protects its citizens are imaginary or are consequences of its own activities, the
government has organized a protection racket. Since governments themselves
commonly simulate, stimulate, or even fabricate threats of external war and
since the repressive and extractive activities of governments often constitute the
largest current threats to the livelihoods of their own citizens, many governments
operate in essentially the same ways as racketeers. There is, of course, a
difference: Racketeers, by the conventional definition, operate without the

sanctity of governments.

How do racketeer governments themselves acquire authority? As a
question of fact and of ethics, that is one of the oldest conundrums of political
analysis. Back to Machiavelli and Hobbes, nevertheless, political observers
have recognized that, whatever else they do, governments organize and,
wherever possible, monopolize violence. It matters little whether we take
violence in a narrow sense, such as damage to persons and objects, or in a

broad sense, such as violation of people’s desires and interests; by either
criterion, governments stand out from other organisations by their tendency to
monopolize the concentrated means of violence. The distinction between
“legitimate” and “illegitimate” force, furthermore, makes no difference to the fact.
If we take legitimacy to depend on conformity to an abstract principle or on the
assent of the governed (or both at once), these conditions may serve to justify,
perhaps even to explain, the tendency to monopolies force; they do not
contradict the fact.”

The Finale:

”Here is a preview of the most general argument: Power holders’ pursuit
of war involved them willy-nilly in the extraction of resources for war making
from the populations over which they had control and in the promotion of capital
accumulation by those who could help them borrow and buy. War making,
extraction, and capital accumulation interacted to shape European state making.
Power holders did not undertake those three momentous activities with the
intention of creating national states – centralized, differentiated, autonomous,
extensive political organizations. Nor did they ordinarily foresee that national

states would emerge from war making, extraction, and capital accumulation.

Instead, the people who controlled European states and states in the
making warred in order to check or overcome their competitors and thus to
enjoy the advantages of power within a secure or expanding territory. To make
more effective war, they attempted to locate more capital. In the short run, they
might acquire that capital by conquest, by selling off their assets, or by coercing
or dispossessing accumulators of capital. In the long run, the quest inevitably
involved them in establishing regular access to capitalists who could supply and

arrange credit and in imposing one form of regular taxation or another on the
people and activities within their spheres of control.
As the process continued, state makers developed a durable interest in
promoting the accumulation of capital, sometimes in the guise of direct return to
their own enterprises. Variations in the difficulty of collecting taxes, in the

expense of the particular kind of armed force adopted, in the amount of war
making required to hold off competitors, and so on resulted in the principal
variations in the forms of European states. It all began with the effort to
monopolies the means of violence within a delimited territory adjacent to a
power holder’s base.

And Closing with a Sentence:

”If citizens in general exercised effective ownership of the government – O
distant ideal! ”



About s.s.salim: Geopolitical Analyst

Political & Strategy Defence & Security Intelligence & Communications


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