A Theory of State Formation


Wednesday, February 17, 2010, 4:10pm to 5:30pm


124 Mount Auburn, Suite 200-North, Room 226

Carles Boix, Princeton University

About the Seminar
To explain the transition from stateless, relatively equal communities to agrarian, unequal and state-governed societies, that has taken place since about 8,500 BC, this seminar discussed a model with the following traits:

  • income-maximizing agents, who may either choose between a productive strategy or an expropriatory strategy, coordinating on peace without permanent political institutions, provided their economic conditions are relatively equal;

  • as soon as inequality rises (due to a biased technological shock), their spontaneous coordination around peace becomes unfeasible;

  • agents sort out into different types and states are formed, either of a monarchical type (where the more productive agents make a transfer to the less productive ones in exchange for permanent protection) or a republican system (where the former invest directly on some defensive structures to deter the latter from looting them).

The seminar concluded with an exploration of empirical evidence (mostly related to the distribution of health patterns) relating the type of political structure to the internal distribution of economic resources.

You can watch the seminar here.

About Carles Boix
Carles Boix is the professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University.

Democracy Seminar Series
The Democracy Seminar Series brings distinguished speakers to Harvard Kennedy School for the academic year address critical challenges facing democratic governance.