State and Bureaucracy

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STATE AND BUREAUCRACY. The years between 1450 and 1789 were crucial in the development of the modern European state and state system. Political communities became increasingly centralized, territorialized, and bureaucratized. In much of Europe, state sovereignty displaced imperial and feudal conceptions of authority. These changes meant a reduction in the number and variety of actors participating in what we would now call "international politics." Familiar notions of statecraft, such as the importance of the "balance of power" and "reason of state," gained widespread acceptance, and by the latter part of the seventeenth century, religion was no longer a major factor in interstate relations.

Despite these trends, the states of early modern Europe were very different from our own. Dynastic notions of legitimacy contoured both domestic and interstate politics; the scope of the state's authority remained limited and fragmented by the standards of contemporary advanced industrialized countries. Nationalism and the goal of national self-determination did not emerge as significant forces in European politics until after the French Revolution. Yet many scholars believe that developments in the early modern period explain patterns of authoritarianism and democratization into the early twentieth century.

A number of factors share responsibility for the significant changes in European political institutions that took place in the early modern period. Among these, three kinds of large-scale processes were particularly important. First, frequent and increasingly expensive warfare placed great fiscal pressures upon states and their rulers. These pressures produced political bargains, administrative adaptations, and social struggles that altered the scope and nature of state power. Second, changes in the European economy associated with the rise of preindustrial capitalism and the development of direct trading connectionsoften through imperial expansionwith Asia, Africa, and the Americas brought about shifts in the relative influence and resources of different social actors and, at the same time, led to new sources of revenue and power for many rulers. Third, new ideas and ideologies, particularly those connected with the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment, played important roles in shaping and justifying new and old forms of state power.


It was not until the end of the sixteenth century that the word "state" became a common term to describe governments and their territories. Used in late medieval Europe to refer to the standing of a ruler or the state of his realm, the term gradually came to encompass the territories held by a political community and then the political community itself. The fact that "state" took on its now familiar meaning at the start of the early modern period suggests that the stateas an institutionemerged at roughly the same time.

Our contemporary understanding of the state derives directly from these conceptual innovations and the ways in which they were consolidated in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The "state" may be taken, at a minimum, to refer to the combination of a government, the people it governs, and its territories. Such a thin concept of the state allows analysts to speak of a variety of different kinds of states. For example, Florence, Venice, and Genoa are often called "city-states," although each came to control subservient cities and regions. Some historiansperhaps misleadinglyhave referred to the monarchies of medieval England and France as "feudal states." Many scholars now use the term "composite state," coined by H. G. Koenigsberger, to describe the patchwork quality of early modern states. States have been, and still are, organized in a variety of ways; the states of late medieval and early modern Europe had quite different characteristics from those associated with modern, particularly industrialized, nation-states.

Contemporary accounts of the development of the European state and state system rely heavily upon the work of the German social scientist Max Weber (18641920). According to Weber (pp. 5556), the modern state is "an administrative and legal order subject to change by legislation, to which the organized activities of the administrative staff, which are also controlled by regulations, are oriented." A key feature of the modern state is that rule is impersonal. Political authority derives from the office, not from the person occupying that office. The consistent application of the legal code takes priority over personal relationships, and rulers may only change law through settled procedures. These features entail the rise of professional and meritocratic forms of administration at the expense of patrimonial office holding. In patrimonial systems, offices are "owned" by individuals and their families, who occupy them by right rather than by merit.

Weber also argued that the modern state "claims binding authority, not only over the members of the state, the citizens, most of whom have obtained membership by birth, but also to a very large extent over all action taking place in the area of its jurisdiction. It is thus a compulsory organization with a territorial basis." Indeed, "today, the use of force is regarded as legitimate only so far as it is either permitted by the state or prescribed by it. . . . The claim of the modern state to monopolize the use of force is as essential to it as its character of compulsory jurisdiction and of continuous operation." The modern state exercises territorial sovereignty. No other actor may claim the right to make or enforce rules within the boundaries of a stateat least without the express permission of that state. States also enjoy autonomy with respect to their external relations, exercised through the sole right to make treaties, declare war, and regulate their borders for themselves and their citizens.

Despite the influence and insightfulness of Weber's discussion of the characteristics of the modern state, we need to be careful about how we use it in analyzing historical processes. Indeed, some historians question the usefulness of Weber's definition. They argue that it promotes teleological accounts of European state formation, blinding analysts to the variety of manifestations of the state that have existed over the last few hundred years. It also, critics contend, leads scholars to overestimate the true power that expanding central bureaucracies actually wielded. The existence of an extensive bureaucratic infrastructure does not necessarily indicate a high degree of practical centralization and state power.

Such problems often plague analysis of state formation, but they should not lead us to abandon Weber or his definition of the state. Weber's discussion of the nature of the state is what he calls an "ideal-typical" construction, not a description of actual states. No political community, in any period of human history, has ever perfectly fit his definition of the state. Ideal types are the starting point of discussion and analysis, not descriptions of concrete reality. If we keep this fact in mind, Weber's understanding of the state remains a valuable tool for understanding the development of states in early modern Europe.


The most important source of variation in early modern state formation into the seventeenth century was created by the uneven expansion of princely, or dynastic, power. Trends in this direction date back into the fourteenth century, but their contours began to take shape in the late fifteenth century. In western Europe, particularly in England, France, and Castile, princes expanded their control at the expense of the autonomy of other concentrations of power, such as towns, nobles, and the church. The result, by the beginning of the sixteenth century, was the formation of what some historians call the "new monarchies" of western Europe. At the same time, territorial princes in Germany were in the process of appropriating legislative powerwith mixed successinto their own hands. The trend toward princely power was not limited to kingdoms and principalities. In Italy, where city-states rather than kingdoms predominated, great families were busy establishing their own dynastic control over most formerly independent communes and republics. In all three cases, princes were able to expand their power by successfully manipulating divisions between other political actors, mostly within the nobility and the towns, while also tying the fortunes of both to princely authority.

Elsewhere, attempts to expand princely power met with rather different fates. Until the second half of the seventeenth century, the Danish nobility successfully curtailed princely authoritya situation dramatically reversed in 1660 when an alliance between the Danish King Frederick and the non-noble estates (burghers and clergy) led to the establishment of an absolutist system of government. An open succession in Hungary in 1439 allowed its national assembly to reassert the elective principle of that kingdom's monarchy. Baronial interests ultimately thwarted attempts at centralizing reforms. After the division of the kingdom between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans stabilized in 1541, the relative power of the Habsburgs remained comparatively weak. The ascendancy of the nobility was even more pronounced in Poland, where the powerful diet checked monarchial authority; Poland became a "republic of nobles" with little centralized power.

Variation in the expansion of princely and dynastic power had an impact across three directions of state formation. The first was the eclipse of the influence of nondynastic pathways of state formation. With the exception of the Dutch Republic and the Swiss Confederation, city-states and urban federations gradually ceased to be major players in international politics. The second was the loss of international influence of alternative centers of power within dynastic states, such as cities and nobles. These two trends were related: the same factors that oriented actors' struggles for influence toward the states in which they resided also undermined the viability of nondynastic states. The third trend involved the balance between agglomerative and consolidative impulses in dynasticism, and the ultimate rise of consolidation as the most effective pathway of state formation.


The expansion of princely authority in many regions of Europe made dynastic states the crucial players in European power politics. City-states, city-leagues, and the majority of noblesin other words, those who were not directly implicated in dynastic politicssaw a corresponding reduction in their independent international influence. The crucial question for most of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was not whether dynastic states would expand their preeminence over international politics, but what kinds of dynastic states would predominate in Europe: the relativelywith an emphasis upon "relatively"more centralized, territorially compact dynastic states represented by the English and French monarchies, or the confederal and more expansive forms of dynastic states represented by the Habsburg monarchies.

To understand the significance of this transformation, we need to consider that there were a number of different kinds of international actors contending for power from the late medieval into the beginning of the early modern period. In addition to powerful nobles and towns within kingdoms and principalities, there were a variety of nondynastic states active in international politics. Like dynastic states, most of these were "composite states," cobbled together from heterogeneous institutions, regions, and linguistic groups.

One important type was city-states. These were composite polities dominated by a single urban community. Although the name suggests a city whose borders were coterminous with a state, in reality city-states were, at minimum, made up of a city and attachedusually dominatedregions. Most German city-states were of this type, but their Italian cousins had, by the late medieval period, come to control a number of formerly independent communes. These dominated entities retained their distinctive legal and institutional personalities and were usually accorded some degree of autonomy over certain spheres of rule. In other words, city-states were really empires run by an urban core. This is particularly apparent if we consider the great Italian city-states, such as Venice, that controlled and fought over maritime empires in the Mediterranean.

By the end of the fifteenth century, Venice was the only Italian city-state that had not become integrated into, to borrow a phrase from Richard Mackenney, dynastic micro-empires headed by powerful Italian families such as the Medici. This process was reinforced after the French invasions of Italy began in 1494 and the peninsula became the focus of dynastic competition between the French Valois, on the one hand, and first the Aragonese Trastámara and then the Habsburgs on the other. The growth of princely power in much of Europe combined with the standard operating procedures of dynastsbased upon marriage alliances and dynastic claimsto empower dynasts even in those regions where princely power was less well developed, not only in Italy but in the elective monarchies of eastern Europe. Most German city-states had the status of imperial cities, and their fate was tied up in the consequences of the Protestant Reformation.

Another alternative to dynastic states was federative polities. Federations often had strong urban components, but they also included rural regions and even, as in the case of the German Swabian League (founded in 1385), small principalities, knights, and monasteries. Federations originated as alliances motivated by the commercial and security concerns of political actors unable to fulfill those needs through their own recognizance. Although many federations originated in the Middle Ages, they enjoyed a resurgence in the face of dynastic consolidation in the early modern period. A number of federations, including the Hanseatic League and the Swiss Confederation, amounted, unlike the Italian city-leagues, to more than temporary balancing alliances.

The fate of federations was a bit more complex than that of city-states. The Swiss remained viable in this period and were joined by the Dutch in the latter part of the sixteenth century. In general, the fate of most federations was directly linked to that of princely power. The territories of many federations overlapped with those under the titular rule of princes. As princely power expanded, the relative influence of independent and quasi-independent federations, particularly urban federations, declined. In essence, they were absorbed into consolidating dynastic states. The same trends that favored princely power directly undermined the autonomy of federations. The Hanseatic League, for example, scored its last major victory when its principal city, Lübeck, helped secure Swedish independence from the kingdom of Denmark in 15221523. By the end of the Thirty Years' War in 1648, the league was in precipitous decline.


The rise of dynasticism in this period still left a great deal of room for different manifestations of dynastic states. The expansion of dynastic authority occurred through two processes: consolidation and agglomeration. The former involved the integration of dynastic holding and the latter the accumulation of holdings under a single dynastic line.

The accumulative potential of dynasticism stemmed from the significance of marriage in cementing alliances and brokering relations between different families. Decades, and sometimes centuries, of strategic marriages between important European families and dynastic lines led to intricate webs of hereditary claims to kingdoms, counties, and principalities. Since there was little legal basis by which a dynast could renounce a familial claim to a particular territory, an heir could always invoke such a claim as a justification for political loyalties or outright conquest. For example, long after the English had been routed at the end of the Hundred Years' War, Elizabeth I's royal title still referred to her as the "king of France."

The processes of integration and accumulation interacted in a variety of ways to produce different dynastic configurations. The addition of new holdings brought new institutional arrangements under the auspices of a dynastic line, and could therefore increase the heterogeneous character of a dynastic state. For instance, from 1369 to 1477 the dukes of Burgundy created a "middle kingdom" by conquering or accumulating parts of modern-day Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. The majority of those territories subsequently transferred to Habsburg hands as a result of marriage and inheritance. Early modern France was itself the product of a period of reconstitution and expansion during the later stages of the Hundred Years' War. There, dynastic practices produced a complicated array of institutions and jurisdictions with different rights and exemptions vis-à-vis the monarchy.

But the most profound transformation resulting from the agglomerative possibilities of dynasticism was the sudden creation of a vast confederal empire united through the person of Charles of Habsburg (Emperor Charles V). Starting in 1517, Charles became ruler of a large swath of territories in western, central, and southern Europe. In only a few years, the Habsburg line amassed unparalleled power in sixteenth-century Europe. As Holy Roman emperor and the dynastic head of a vast and heterogeneous collection of territories, Charles's position revived the prospects for universal empire in Latin Christendom. After he abdicated his various titles between 1556 and 1557 (see below), Charles's holdings were divided between his son Philip II of Spain (ruled 15561598) and his brother, Ferdinand I (king of Bohemia and Hungary, 15261564; Holy Roman emperor, 15581564). The rump Habsburg lands of the Spanish monarchy still made Charles the most powerful international actor in Christendom until the dénouement of the Thirty Years' War. Ferdinand also controlled a formidable, and formidably heterogeneous, agglomeration including Austria and the remnant of the Kingdom of Hungary. In the eighteenth century, Austria would emerge as a great power in its own right.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the crucial question of state formation was whether the Habsburg model would prove more significant and enduring than the more compact alternative represented by the French monarchy, or indeed how the balance between consolidation and agglomeration would play out in dynastic states in general. In the end, consolidation, along with a movement toward sovereign territoriality, became the preponderant pathway of state formation in most of Europe.


A combination of three factors influenced the rise of princely power: transformations in the conduct of warfare, developments in the art of rule, and economic changes. The first undermined the ability of towns and lesser nobles to mount effective opposition to princely authority, the second helped to transform social relations and the balance of influence among different groups within states, and the third led to new coalitional possibilities for princes. These factors varied in their configuration, orientation, and timing in different places in Europe. They also interacted with preexisting institutions to produce different results; this helps to explain why some polities saw a decline in princely authority instead of its expansion.

Developments in the nature of warfare had a profound influence on state formation in the entire period under consideration. These changes involved the increasing importance and sophistication of gunpowder artillery in conjunction with new organizational tacticsmost famously associated with the Swiss pike squareand the rise of new fortification techniques designed to cope with the impact of gunpowder artillery on siege warfare. Together they are sometimes called the "military revolution," but more recent scholarship suggests that the changes in warfare in early modern Europe were more evolutionary, and hence more complicated in nature. Two key changes associated with the military-technical revolution, the rise of mercenary forces recruited by independent and quasi-independent contractors and the decline in importance of feudal levies in warfare, actually began in the medieval period, although their importance only grew over time. The development of the revenue expropriation apparatus needed to finance mercenary armies also predates the early modern period.

The introduction of combat-effective handheld gunpowder artillery in the fifteenth century combined with the continued shift toward mercenary armies gave important advantages to those with the power to extract and wield greater fiscal resources. Simultaneously, these changes began to undermine the kinds of armies fielded by lords and their retainers. In practice, the advantage went to princes and regional magnates, but large cities with high concentrations of wealth could also afford to hire mercenaries. Meanwhile, the castles and fortifications of the lesser nobility were obsolete in the face of new siege techniques that made use of gunpowder.

The new reality was that most cities and nobles simply could not, on their own, amass the concentration of wealth and manpower necessary to mount forces capable of challenging princes. If princes could exploit the divisions inherent in composite dynastic statesbetween regional interests and social classesthey were relatively insulated from successful challenges to their power.

To aid them with this task, dynasts had new ideologies and techniques of rule at their disposal. With the growth of patronage as the basis for durable political tiesitself connected to economic changes discussed belowheads of state, particularly in those kingdoms already marked by comparative centralization aided by hereditary rule, found themselves situated at the top of a complex network of patron-client relations. Their prerogatives made a great many of their subjects ultimately dependent upon them for continued financial and status perquisites. This, combined with increasingly sophisticated propaganda drawing upon theories of royal authority, gave princes ideological and material resources with which to prevent the formation of effective coalitions against them.

Finally, economic changes had a crucial impact. Growth in the European economy in the Middle Ages, particularly with respect to long-distance trade, had already contributed to the rise of towns. Where rulers had successfully pivoted between burghers and noblesas in France, Aragon, and Englandthey had already done much to build a position of comparative strength. Population pressures, economic growth in the sixteenth century, the influx of silver from the newly discovered Americas, and numerous other causes of the "price revolution" that accompanied the expansion of preindustrial capitalism in early modern Europe, played a decisive role in accelerating the breakdown of what was left of feudal forms of loyalty. New sources of wealth, changing social classes, and diverging economic interests increased the distributional role of the state in the allocation of money and prestige.

Moreover, these developments generally favored entrepreneurial merchants and the higher nobility. The latter not only benefited from the increasing price of agricultural goods, but could also derive income from patronage and military activity. In western Europe this made them more dependent on the crown, not only with respect to patronage but also because monarchical brokerage became essential to the ability of large landowners to raise rents and squeeze profits from the peasantry. In contrast, lords in northeastern Germany and Poland were particularly powerful and held extensive lands, which meant they did not need to become dependent upon their titular rulers. Indeed, such nobles were able to institute a neo-serfdom far more burdensome than the older variety, and these regions became the principal exporters of grain for an urbanizing western Europe.

As this last point suggests, the conjunction of economic and military factors also exerted strong influence over the early development of bureaucratic elements in state administration. In general, significant aspects of bureaucratic administration first appeared in dynastic holdings that contained concentrations of capital resulting from urban trade, where rulers already had some relative advantage over their domestic competitors, and where rulers were engaged in intensive warfare utilizing newer, more expensive recruitment techniques and military technology. The first two factors provided the means to expand tax collection and the administration of debt, while the last provided the impetus for increasing royal control. Thus, western European kingdoms such as France and Castile developed early aspects of bureaucratic governance. These techniques were insufficient to finance the debts incurred by conflict, and periods of war making were abruptly halted by financial pressures and outright bankruptcies. But the management of debt itself provided a crucial impetus to the kinds of ad hoc administrative arrangements that laid the seeds for later bureaucratization.

Even in the new monarchies of the early sixteenth century, princes were not as strong as their propaganda and their increasingly extravagant court cultures sought to suggest. The smooth functioning of their authority depended upon the cooperation of regional magnates and urban centers, and on preventing coalitions against princely authority from forming between various regional and local actors. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, resentment against the centralizing tendencies of dynasts mixed with religious dissent to plunge large swaths of western and central Europe into political conflict and civil war.


The Protestant Reformation and the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, which marked the end of the Thirty Years' War, were once seen as watersheds in European history that ended the prospects for an intra-European universal empire and established a sovereign-territorial, multistate system. Although some scholars defend qualified versions of this interpretation, there is very little evidence to suggest that the Reformation and Westphalia led directly to the modern state system. In fact, even before the Reformation, the position of the church in many dynastic states was becoming subordinate to the interests of secular rulers.

A more balanced understanding of the role of the Reformation in the emergence of a multistate, sovereign-territorial European order is that it accelerated some trends already caused by military-technical and economic change, while undermining others, particularly aspects of the more confederal, dynastic agglomerative pathway of state formation. In this way, it tilted the balance toward a sovereign, multistate system but was not decisive in its development.

Thus, in the German regions of the Holy Roman Empire, the rise of Protestantism ultimately enhanced the importance of territorial princedoms. Charles V's unwillingness to engage in a long-term compromise on the issue of religious belief convinced many of the princes that they could only preserve Protestantism by relying on self-help. Their eventual victory over Charles led to his abdication and the 1555 agreement at Augsburg that specified, with some qualifications, that each prince would determine the religion of his territory. Augsburg led to a period of confessionalization, in which hardening doctrinal divisions between different sects of Christianity tended to coincide with territorial boundaries.

Some scholars argue that confessionalization, whether through processes of the Reformation or Counter-Reformation, played a major role in expanding the scope, nature, and territorial authority of the state not just in Germany, but throughout Europe. For instance, the state took on oversight of responsibilities such as social welfare concerns that had been largely local and ecclesiastical in the medieval period. Although some of these claims are exaggerated, it is clear that confessionalization forwarded existing trends in those directions.

For its part, the spread of Calvinism into France and the Netherlands temporarily worked to undermine the advantages gained by princes as a result of military-technical change and political institutional effects. Calvinism provided a basis for cooperation that transcended regional and class differences. These differences were crucial components of the divide-and-rule strategies used by dynasts and institutionalized in dynastic composite states. Moreover, the organizational abilities and transnational connections afforded by Calvinismand by militant Catholicism in Franceallowed nonstate actors to gain access to sufficient resources to mobilize competitive military forces.

The Dutch Revolt, in which religious tensions played a decisive role in escalating other grievances against Habsburg rule, led directly to Spanish strategic overextension and contributed a great deal to Spain's eventual failure to maintain European primacy. Moreover, major innovations in fiscal administration developed in Holland during Habsburg rule were expanded during the Dutch Republic's war for independence against Spain (15681648). The Dutch were forced to field continuous and substantial military forces on a predominately mercantile financial base.

In contrast, the French Wars of Religion (15621598) were, in the short term, much more devastating to France's cohesion and international position. Yet they also revealed the advantages that more compact dynastic states had in the context of religious strifeeven when the Huguenots established a "state within a state," secession from the French crown was never a serious option. The experience of the wars provided added impetus for the expansion of sovereign authority in the kingdom, and, somewhat paradoxically, thus led to the growth of a more integrated, centralized state.

The religious conflicts that engulfed various parts of Europe between the promulgation of Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 and the end of the English Civil War in 1648 played some role in important conceptual changes in European statecraft. Their most direct impact can be found in developing ideas about sovereignty. The experience of religious civil war led directly to Jean Bodin's (15301596) and Thomas Hobbes's (15881679) different formulations of sovereignty, as well as to new syntheses of ideas about the right of resistance to unlawful or unjust rulers. These debates, and those that followed from them, were pivotal in making questions about state sovereigntywho ultimately holds it and what its limits area central element of political theorizing.

Religious conflicts also made a significant contribution to the (largely implicit) adoption of Italian notions of "reason of state" in Europe. Reason of state, or, more frequently, "necessity," was the justification for reconciling temporary accommodation of confessional differences or even putting aside religious differences in the support of enemies of one's own dynastic opponents. Of course, it was generally the opponents of religious compromise who accused moderates of adopting Machiavellian attitudes or "politique" positions, but the processes of making these decisions involved formulating the antecedents of ideas about state interests.

Religious struggles were less important in the emerging notion of the "balance of power," which owed more to the propaganda campaign inspired by fears of Habsburg primacy. Since the Habsburgs were the main dynastic backers of the Catholic cause, these debates were often tinged with religious concerns, but the more important concern was the possibility of a more robust Habsburg hegemony or even a Habsburg universal empire in which the other princes of Europe would be subordinate players. The threat of Habsburg hegemony led to a critique of empire that served as a justification for defensive aggression: lesser powers could engage in proactive strategiesfrom alliances to warfareto prevent one actor from accumulating an imbalance of power. These arguments were refined during the wars of Louis XIV in the later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Indeed, France admitted in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht that it was fear of French power that motivated the War of the Spanish Successionthe first mention of the balance of power in a European peace treaty.


The conflicts of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries forced those states that had not been subject to the same opportunities and pressures that initially favored bureaucratization in western Europe to launch their own administrative reforms. In general, states such as Sweden, Brandenburg-Prussia, and Austria lacked the kind of access to domestic capital sources that played an important role in early European bureaucratization. Where princes were comparatively strong, particularly in Prussia, in some of the German principalities, and for more contingent reasons, in Sweden, they built extensive bureaucracies capable of extracting enough resources to compensate for their comparatively poor access to trade revenues. In Poland, by contrast, patrimonial administration persisted and ultimately led to the demise of the commonwealth. Indeed, some argue that the ways in which states financed warfare in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries determined whether they became, in the nineteenth, moderately democratic or authoritarian.

In general, state formation in the second half of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was characterized by a decisive shift toward territorial sovereignty and greater bureaucratization of the state's financial and administrative activities. Enlightenment ideas of rationality and the obligation of rulers to subjects provided an important impetus to these developments, although financial pressures and political interests played perhaps a more decisive role.

A major impetus to additional bureaucratization came from the replacement of mercenary forces with professional militaries. Professional armies and navies were usually recruited from within the state and were always integrated into the state's institutional structure. This greatly expanded the fiscal and administrative costs of warfare, but also increased the reliability of military forces. It was this transformation that placed the means of organized violence beyond the reach of citizens and subjects.

Although these changes meant greater centralization of authority, they did not necessarily lead to particularly efficient or coherent bureaucratic structures. The sale of offices for revenues, problems with particular administrative bureaucracies, and other factors often led to duplicative governmental activity. France developed such patchwork institutions. Indeed, local revolts against royal demands for revenue and greater authority continued to plague French administration in the decades before the French Revolution. Britain, borrowing directly from Dutch innovations and with the advantage of parliamentary oversight, was more successful at creating an efficient fiscal-administrative system.

Brandenburg-Prussia is usually taken to be the most extreme case of this fusion of military and administrative centralization. Prussia's reliance on centralized, coercive fiscal-military institutions stemmed from its precarious geographical position, expansionist foreign policies, and the fact that its resource base lacked extensive trade and capital endowments. These factors meant, initially, that expansion, such as the seizure from Austria of Silesia, and foreign subsidies were crucial to Prussia's ability to sustain its great-power status. Such pressures also led to a bureaucratic framework that lacked the functional specialization found in other European states.

If Prussia represents one extreme, then Austria might be considered another divergent case. Austria remained a relatively confederal dynastic agglomeration. In fact, it had come close to collapsing in 16181620 under the pressure of religious contestation and local rebellion. However, after the War of the Spanish Succession (17011714), the Austrian dynastic empire controlled more territory in Europe than the Spanish monarchy ever had. Starting in the middle of the eighteenth century under Maria Theresa, Austria's Habsburg rulers began to make real progress in administrative reform. But these successes were often checked by assertive local actors, particularly the nobility. Austria's rulers could often squeeze more revenue from their heterogeneous domains, but they generally could not overcome their dependence on cooperation from local elites.

Throughout Europe, direct and indirect rule continued to coexist; by and large, the expansion of bureaucratic administration was often more impressive in a formal sense than a practical one. The erosion of patrimonial officeholding in many parts of Europe did not prevent bureaucratic officeholders from seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of the state. In France, and even at some points in Prussia, rent seeking emerged as an enormous problem for the new bureaucracies.

The early modern period witnessed a decisive transition to territorial sovereignty within Europe, and it saw the emergence of robust bureaucratic forms of governance and the expansion of state administration into a variety of new areas, but it did not mark the triumph of the Weberian bureaucratic state. However, such states, to the extent that they ever existed, were a result of the transformative effects of nationalism and industrial capitalism upon the institutional infrastructures and international political practices developed between 1450 and 1789.

See also Absolutism ; Aristocracy and Gentry ; Authority, Concept of ; City-State ; Divine Right Kingship ; Hansa ; Military ; Monarchy ; National Identity ; Officeholding ; Provincial Government ; Sovereignty, Theory of .


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Daniel Nexon

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