Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

State Building and Late Development

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

State Building and Late Development

Article excerpt


State Building and Late Development, by David Waldner. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999. x + 240 pages. Index to p. 246. $49.95 cloth; $18.95 paper.

Reviewed by Gawdat Bahgat

This is an interesting study of institution-building and economic performance. The main question that this book addresses is the impact of state institutions on the level of economic development a particular country can achieve. Waldner chooses four case studies (Syria, Turkey, Korea, and Taiwan) to prove the connection between these two variables. The main argument is that elite heterogeneity has hindered the economic development of the former two countries while elite homogeneity has contributed to the economic prosperity of the latter two. Waldner's findings notwithstanding, it is important to take into consideration this caveat: the contrast between elite heterogeneity and homogeneity provides only a partial explanation of why some countries progress economically and others do not. That is to say, low intensity of elite conflict is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for economic development.

Probably the greatest contribution of this book is its detailed and thorough theoretical approach. The author carefully introduces a well-established model to make his argument. The model includes an independent variable (level of elite conflict: high vs. low), an intervening variable (economic policy: precocious Keynesianism vs. developmental state) and a dependent variable (economic prosperity: failure vs. success). Another important contribution is the comparative analysis between four different countries, some of which (Syria, in particular) have received little attention by political economists due to a lack of accurate data.

Still, like any other good book, this one has shortcomings. First, although Waldner's treatment of the theory of state building and economic development is adequate, his empirical analysis is not. …

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