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“Coercion, Capital, and European States” by Charles Tilly Essay

What does Tilly mean by “capital-rich” and “coercion-rich” regions of Europe? How does this distinction play out both in terms of social organization as well as state formation? Give one example of each. In the context of your response, explain also what Tilly means by “capitalized coercion”?

As far as state formation and social organizations are concerned, Tilly notes that the rulers of various European empires negotiated with the noble-dominated estates to form alliances. The powerful estates ensured that the royal empire could not collect enough taxes. The revenues were very important in times of war because they could be used to acquire weapons and sustain soldiers. During the ancient times, war was the order of the day.

Hohenzollern Margraves fought with the Prussians in an attempt to ascend to power. Through the war, Brandenburg absorbed more cities that belonged to Pomerania. During the war, they intermarried with their enemies and formed strong international relations as well. Consequently, the formation of alliances and foreign relationships enabled Brandenburg, which was economically weaker to expand to the capital-rich areas of the lower Rhine. The poorer empire negotiated with the rich empires, what Tilly terms as capital-rich estate, to form a strong state. In this sense, capital-rich is a term referring to the regions that had adequate natural resources, but with weaker militaries (Tilly, 45).

Tilly argues further that states had succeeded in arming themselves in the 19th century because of constant conflicts. On the other hand, states ensured that peace prevailed among civilians by disarming those perceived to disturb national security. Tilly notes that there was a relationship between states and cities, which was characterized by capital and coercion. In this regard, it is observed that coercion overran capital while at the same time capital outshined coercion. For instance, the ports of Amsterdam and Barcelona had enormous resources, but with weak security agencies. On the other hand, seats of monarchs, such as Berlin and Madrid, had little resources but with powerful security agencies. Some states developed owing to the formation of coercion-rich alliances. Such states include Brandenburg-Prussia.

Some countries in Europe had enormous resources. Coercion-rich is a term used to refer to countries that had powerful militaries. Such countries include Brandenburg, Berlin, and Madrid. The powerful empires could easily subdue the empires considered weak militarily, but powerful economically. However, countries with powerful militaries opted to negotiate with the rich states in order to form an economically strong state.

The formation of relationships based on military might and the financial capability reshaped the social organizations of many states. For instance, Madrid provided security to Barcelona while Barcelona provided capital. However, the regions that provided security were powerful because they were charged with the responsibility of policy formulation. Since the rich city-states could not withstand pressure from external forces, they had to form alliances with strong city-states in order to survive. Barcelona was the target of many foreign powers, forcing it to enter into an alliance with Madrid, which provided security.

Brandenburg was weaker economically, but it had a stronger military. Through the military, it conquered the lower Rhine, including Prussia. Coercive power was used to form states. In terms of social organization, the regions with strong militaries produced the leadership of the new alliance. Even in the modern society, the regions, which had strong militaries, are still powerful. This has generated a number of conflicts in the international system. Currently, Barcelona is demanding for independence because it is rarely involved in the formulation of policies yet it contributes a lot to the national budget (Tilly, 62).

During state formation, states pursued various strategies related to coercion. Some followed capital-intensive mode while others followed coercive-intensive mode. However, powerful states in the current international system pursued capitalized-coercive mode. This mode entails incorporating the owners of the means of production into the governmental structures. The bourgeoisies were allowed to control the state, but with direct supervision from the political class. France and England are some of the states that pursued capitalized-coercion mode. The states that followed capitalized-coercion mode became nation states earlier as compared to those that followed other forms of coercion.

If European states came into being as a result of war making and preparation for war, how did states become subsequently involved in so many other activities? Describe how Tilly characterizes the state’s “ratchet-effect” expansion into realms such as adjudication, distribution and production? How does this characterization fit within Tilly’s larger point regarding European state formation?

Tilly observes European states were able to develop and grow because of constant wars and conflicts. In Europe, there was a balance of power whereby peace was maintained by the idea that each state had prepared adequately for war. In this regard, states embarked on nation-wide campaigns to ensure that development marched the increasing population. States engaged in other activities other than war in order to raise taxes and be in a position to match the influence of other states. For instance, states embarked on awareness campaigns to kick out all forms of ignorance and diseases. It was perceived that economic capabilities of states were related to military abilities.

In other words, war can only be fought by rich states. Therefore, states ensured that they accumulate wealth in preparation for war. Without financial resources, a state cannot maintain even a simple war. States engaged in technological development because war employs technological strategies. Tilly uses the term ratchet-effect to refer to military mission creep. Mission creep entails expanding the existing projects, policies, and structures.

Mission creep is only pursued after the success of the previous projects, goals, and production. Upon the realization that they were succeeding in strengthening their militaries, states opted to strengthen other sectors of the economy, including the judiciary, commerce, and marketing. Through ratchet-effect, states strengthened various sectors of the economy. This facilitated the formation of many states in Europe.

Works Cited

Tilly, Charles. Coercion, Capital, and European States. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1992. Print.

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""Coercion, Capital, and European States" by Charles Tilly." IvyPanda, 13 Jan. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/coercion-capital-and-european-states-by-charles-tilly/.

1. IvyPanda. ""Coercion, Capital, and European States" by Charles Tilly." January 13, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/coercion-capital-and-european-states-by-charles-tilly/.


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IvyPanda. 2021. ""Coercion, Capital, and European States" by Charles Tilly." January 13, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/coercion-capital-and-european-states-by-charles-tilly/.


IvyPanda. (2021) '"Coercion, Capital, and European States" by Charles Tilly'. 13 January.

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