This chapter discusses the nature of the state, emphasizing the importance of the relationship the state has with society. This is normally discussed in terms of state ‘autonomy’, but more useful is the notion of interdependence. Along with governmental coherence and power projection, interdependence is one of the key elements of state capacity, which is the principal focus of this book. Capacity is in turn associated with infrastructural power. The state has been paramount during recent decades. The conditions within which millions of people lived were shaped by the state, the role it sought to pursue and the ability it had to pursue that role. The centrality of the state is evident as soon as we look at some of the most important developments of the last century. In the communist countries, states forced through rapid-paced programmes of societal transformation that turned in one case a backward partly industrialized society into a nuclear superpower within 40 years.
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