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“Power to” or “Power over”?: Rethinking State Strength

Jon Pierre

The increasing interest in new models of governance challenges existing theories of State strength. The notion of the State as a coordinator and facilitator rather than the sole responsible structure for service production and societal coordination highlights the interactive nature of contemporary governance.  This document explores this interactive governance and its ramifications on the structure and organization of the State.

Particularly, this work compares three types of State reform -State-centered reform, market-based reform and participatory reform- with respect to how they affect State strength and the role of the State in contemporary governance. The general argument elaborated in the paper is that the increasingly enabling and regulatory role of the State urges us to rethink what constitutes “State strength”. Previously, such strength was seen as harboured in institutional capabilities and the ability of the State to impose its will on society. In the more recent model of State strength, it is rather believed to be derived from the ability of the State to wield resources from all segments of society to pursue collective goals and interests.

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