How and Why Should We Measure and Compare State Capacity of Different Countries? Theoretical and Methodological Foundations

Akhremenko A.S.,

Professor of Faculty of Social Sciences, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Programme Academic Supervisor of Master’s Programme “Applied Politics”,

elibrary_id: 124097 | ORCID: 0000-0001-8002-7307 | RESEARCHER_ID: L-3000-2015

Gorelskiy I.E.,

MA student of Master’s Programme “Applied Politics” of Faculty of Social Sciences, National Research University Higher School of Economics,

ORCID: 0000-0001-8489-0562 | RESEARCHER_ID: V-3961-2018

Melville A.Yu.,

Professor, Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences, National Research University Higher School of Economics,

elibrary_id: 251142 | ORCID: 0000-0002-1414-5783 | RESEARCHER_ID: B-1152-2014

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2019.02.02
For citation:

Akhremenko A.S., Gorelskiy I.E., Melville A.Yu. How and Why Should We Measure and Compare State Capacity of Different Countries? Theoretical and Methodological Foundations. – Polis. Political Studies. 2019. No. 2. P. 8-23. (In Russ.).


This article discusses the theoretical and methodological foundations of the state capacity, which is defined as the ability of a state to choose and effectively implement its own decisions, changing domestic and foreign policy. The authors emphasize that one of the distinctive features of the concept is its multidimensionality, which leads them to the idea of considering state capacity as a complex phenomenon, a set of interrelated “capacities” that a modern state possesses. In accordance with this assumption, the authors dwell on three main dimensions of state capacity: coercive (ensuring external security and internal order), extractive (financial resources available to the state) and administrative-bureaucratic (quality of administrative and bureaucratic institutions) capacities of the state. The choice of measurements was based primarily on the idea that any modern state has key (“umbrella”) functions, which in turn can serve as a criterion for comparative studies. During the process of operationalization, the authors emphasize the particular importance of striking a balance between “maximalist” and “minimalist” approaches to the selection of indicators. Within the framework of the study, some rationales for the use of a set of indicators of state capacity are given (data on military expenditures and an aggregate measure of control over violence for coercive capacity, tax extraction and total government revenues (both in percent of GDP) for extractive capacity and an aggregate indicator of governance and institutional quality and the level of shadow economy for administrative-bureaucratic capacity), and it will serve as the basis for conducting an empirical study and identifying the selection ofstable structures typical for certain groups of countries. 

state capacity, power and inf luence, methodology, measurement, quantitative and qualitative methods, institutional quality, control of violence, legal economy, state taxes and revenues, comparative analysis.


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Content No. 2, 2019

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