State Infrastructural Power: Approaches to Conceptualization and Measurement

  • Hillel Soifer


Michael Mann’s infrastructural power is a concept often applied but rarely rigorously conceptualized and precisely measured. Three distinct analytical lenses of infrastructural power can be derived from his definitions: infrastructural power as the capabilities of the central state, as the territorial reach of the state, and as the effects of the state on society. Exemplary texts applying each of these approaches are used to demonstrate their connection to Mann’s ideas, the relationships between these dimensions, and the boundaries between this and other aspects of the state’s strength. Moving from conceptualization to measurement, the paper shows the costs of common errors in the measurement of infrastructural power, and develops guidelines for its proper empirical application.


State infrastructural power State building State-society relations 


  1. Adcock R, Collier D. Measurement validity: a shared standard for quantitative and qualitative research. Am Polit Sci Rev. 2001;95(3):529–46.Google Scholar
  2. Boone C. Political topographies of the African state: territorial authority and institutional choice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2003.Google Scholar
  3. Caplan J, Torpey J, editors. Documenting individual identity: the development of state practices in the modern world. Princeton: Princeton University Press; 2001.Google Scholar
  4. Centeno MA. Blood and debt: war and the state in Latin America. State College, PA: Penn State Press; 2002.Google Scholar
  5. Corrigan P, Sayer D. The great arch: English state formation as cultural revolution. Oxford: Blackwell; 1985.Google Scholar
  6. Darden K, Grzymala-Busse A. The great divide: literacy, nationalism, and the communist collapse. World Polit. 2006;59:83–115. October.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Di John J. Conceptualizing the causes and consequences of failed states: a critical review of the literature. Crisis States Research Centre, Working Paper no.25; 2008.Google Scholar
  8. Ertman T. Birth of the Leviathan: building states and regimes in medieval and early modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1997.Google Scholar
  9. Evans P, Skocpol T, Rueschemeyer D. Bringing the state back in. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1985.Google Scholar
  10. Fearon J, Laitin D. Ethnicity, insurgency and civil war. Am Polit Sci Rev. 2003;97(1):75–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Foucault M. Discipline and punish. New York: Vintage; 1977.Google Scholar
  12. Foucault M. Governmentality. In: Burchell G, et al, editors. The Foucault effect: studies in governmentality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 1991.Google Scholar
  13. Gallo C. Taxes and state power: political instability in Bolivia 1900–1950. Philadelphia: Temple University Press; 1991.Google Scholar
  14. Goertz G. Social science concepts: a user’s guide. Princeton: Princeton University Press; 2005.Google Scholar
  15. Goldhagen D. Hitler’s willing executioners: ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. New York: Vintage; 1996.Google Scholar
  16. Goldstone JA. A historical, not comparative method: breakthroughs and limitations in the theory and methodology of Michael Mann’s analysis of power. In: Hall JA, Schroeder R, editors. An anatomy of power: the social theory of Michael Mann. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2006. p. 263–82.Google Scholar
  17. Goodwin J. No other way out: states and revolutionary movements 1945–1991. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1999.Google Scholar
  18. Hall JA, Schroeder R. An anatomy of power. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2006.Google Scholar
  19. Helmke G, Levitsky S, editors. Informal institutions and democracy in Latin America. Johns Hopkins University Press; 2004.Google Scholar
  20. Herbst J. States and power in Africa. Princeton: Princeton University Press; 2000.Google Scholar
  21. Herrera Y, Kapur D. Improving data quality. Polit Anal. 2007;15:365–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Joseph GM, Nugent D. Popular culture and state formation in revolutionary Mexico. In: Joseph GM, Nugent D, editors. Everyday forms of state formation: revolution and the negotiation of rule in modern Mexico. Durham, NC: Duke University Press; 1994. p. 3–23.Google Scholar
  23. Kalyvas SN. The logic of violence in civil war. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2006.Google Scholar
  24. Knight A. The weight of the state in Modern Mexico. In: Dunkerley J, editor. Studies in the formation of the nation-state in Latin America. London: ILAS; 2002. p. 212–53.Google Scholar
  25. Lieberman ES. Taxation data as indicators of state-society relations: possibilities and pitfalls in cross-national research. Stud Comp Int Dev. 2002;36(4):89–115. (Winter).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Loveman M. The modern state and the primitive accumulation of symbolic power. Am J Sociol. 2005;110(6):1651–83. (May).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mahoney J. Revisiting general theory in historical sociology. Soc Forces. 2004;83(2):459–89. (December).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mallon FE. Reflections on the ruins: everyday forms of state formation in nineteenth century Mexico, Chapter 3. In: Joseph GM, Nugent D, editors. Everyday forms of state formation: revolution and the negotiation of rule in modern Mexico. Durham, NC: Duke University Press; 1994. p. 69–106.Google Scholar
  29. Mamdani M. When victims become killers: colonialism, nativism, and the genocide in Rwanda. Princeton: Princeton University Press; 2002.Google Scholar
  30. Mann M. The autonomous power of the state. Oxford: Blackwell; 1984. (reprinted in Mann, States, War, and Capitalism, 1988).Google Scholar
  31. Mann M. The sources of social power, vol 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1993.Google Scholar
  32. Mann M. The sources of social power revisited: a response to criticism. In: Hall JA, Schroeder R, editors. An anatomy of power: the social theory of Michael Mann. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2006. p. 343–96.Google Scholar
  33. Migdal J. Strong societies, weak states. Princeton: Princeton University Press; 1988.Google Scholar
  34. Migdal J, Kohli A, Shue V. State power and social forces: domination and transformation in the Third World. New York: Cambridge University Press; 1994.Google Scholar
  35. Migdal J. State-in-society: studying how states and societies transform and constitute one another. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2001.Google Scholar
  36. Morriss P. Power: a philosophical analysis. 2nd ed. Manchester: Manchester University Press; 2002.Google Scholar
  37. Nugent D, Alonso AM. Multiple selective traditions in agrarian reform and agrarian struggle: popular culture and state formation in the Ejido of Namiquipa, Chihuahua. In: Joseph GM, Nugent D, editors. Everyday forms of state formation: revolution and the negotiation of rule in modern Mexico. Durham, NC: Duke University Press; 1994. p. 209–46.Google Scholar
  38. O’Donnell G. On the state, democratization and some conceptual problems: a Latin American view with glances at some postcommunist countries. World Dev. 1993;21:1355–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rotberg RI, editor. When states fail: causes and consequences. Princeton: Princeton University Press; 2004.Google Scholar
  40. Scott JC. Seeing like a state: how certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed. New Haven: Yale University Press; 1998.Google Scholar
  41. Shue V. The reach of the state: sketches of the Chinese body politic. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press; 1988.Google Scholar
  42. Skocpol T. States and social revolutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1979.Google Scholar
  43. Snider LW. Identifying the elements of state power: where do we begin. Comp Polit Stud. 1987;20(3):314–56. October.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Snyder R. Scaling down: the subnational comparative method. Stud Comp Int Dev. 2001;36(1):93–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Soifer HD. Authority over distance: explaining variation in state infrastructural power in Latin America. Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University; 2006.Google Scholar
  46. Soifer HD. State power and the redistributive threat: rethinking the effects of inequality on regime type. Paper presented at Midwest Political Science Association Meetings, April 2008; 2008.Google Scholar
  47. Straus S. The order of genocide. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press; 2006.Google Scholar
  48. Tilly C, editor. The formation of national states in Western Europe. Princeton: Princeton University Press; 1975.Google Scholar
  49. Tilly C. Coercion, capital, and European states AD 990–1992. Oxford: Blackwell; 1992.Google Scholar
  50. Vaughan MK. Cultural politics in revolution: teachers, peasants, and schools in Mexico, 1930–1940. Tuscon, AZ: University of Arizona Press; 1997.Google Scholar
  51. Waldner D. State building and late development. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press; 1999.Google Scholar
  52. Walker CF. Smoldering ashes: Cuzco and the creation of Republican Peru, 1780–1840. Durham, NC: Duke University Press; 1999.Google Scholar
  53. Weber E. Peasants into Frenchmen. Stanford: Stanford University Press; 1976.Google Scholar
  54. Yashar D. Democracy, indigenous movements, and the postliberal challenge in Latin America. World Polit. 1999;52(1):76–104.Google Scholar
  55. Yashar D. Constructing citizenship in Latin America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2005.Google Scholar
  56. Ziblatt DF. Structuring the state. Princeton: Princeton University Press; 2006.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PoliticsPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

Personalised recommendations