Grasping the Peripheral State : A Historical Sociology of Nicaraguan State Formation

Abstract: The thesis has two aims. The first one is to contribute to the field of political and historical sociology through an understanding of the processes of state formation in a Third World country. The second aim is to describe and analyze the development of the Nicaraguan state from independence to 1990. In the first part of the dissertation theories of the nation-state and state formation are discussed and criticized. The Eurocentric origin and bias of the nation-state concept is seen as a significant problem in conceptualizing and understanding state formation in the Third World. Taking into consideration the experience of state formation in Western Europe, a theoretical frame work is presented that operationalize the concept of nation-state and the process of state formation. This frame work is further elaborated by discussions of some central aspects pertaining to countries of the Third World that differentiate them from the Western European experience. Nation-state formation is thus seen as a process in the international, "national" and state arenas encompassing the strengthening and the coordination of repressive, extractive and integrative capacities of the state. A central aspect in understanding state capacities is through the conceptual pair of infrastructural and despotic power. The empirical study focuses on the development (state formative processes) of the Nicaraguan state from independence in 1823 until the Sandinista electoral defeat in 1990. The role of the colonial legacy, the world capitalist economy and the international system of states in influencing the shape of the Nicaraguan state is analyzed. Through the history of Nicaraguan state formation, phases are outlined with different state formative characteristics. State disintegrative phases are represented by the city-states of early independent Nicaragua and the protectorate years at the beginning of the 20th century. Reproductive peripheralness is seen as dominant during the second half of the 19th century and the Somoza dynasty. Finally projects of nation-state formation are to be found during the Zelaya regime and during the Sandinista regime. The importance of the agroexport economy, foreign interventions and a fractured social formation is seen as an important factor blocking the development of a Nicaraguan nation-state. Through the notion of the peripheral state and frameworked in the concepts of extractive, repressive and integrative capacities the author provides new theoretical insights on Third World states dynamics in creating and maintaining a national arena, squeezed between international and local forces. The author shows that the peripheral state is not a traditional state form but a modern state form interdependent on the successful consolidation of nation-stateness in the First World.

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