Charles Tilly (1929-2008) was an American sociologist, political scientist, and historian who wrote on the relationship between politics and society. He argues that war is a fundamental strategy of state making and that the states and state agents were often the primary perpetrators of violence.
Tilly focused his attention on Europe after the decline of the Roman Empire. During this period, state organization was mostly informal and the work of local lords who controlled relatively small areas. Peasants gave up revenue in order to benefit from the security and protection offered by a powerful local lord. Over time, these feudal lands consolidated and required bigger armies in order to offer protection from both internal and external threats. Larger armies proved more effective and subsequently, more money was needed to pay these armies. Feudal lands continued to develop and combine into larger kingdoms ruled by kings. Kings then demanded money in the form of taxes. To impose these taxes, they required a protocol for counting and enforcing collections, so they set up formal state institutions.
The powerful statement of Charles Tilly is that war made the state, the state made war. The prevalence of war directly promoted political modernization. Competititon forced monarchs to build the military strength. The creation of military strength required national unity, the expansion of armies and bureaucracies, and major increase in state revenues therefore, war was the most stimulus of state building.
While Tillys thesis is based on the analysis of the European experiences alone, wars role in state building process is not only sub-issue of the impact of the external factors on domestic politics, but also a sub-issue of the positive in human progress.
According to Charles Tilly, the main characteristic of the state is to use coercion to sustain its existence. He then talks about the war as a part of state politics and this reminds us the famous quote of Carl von Clausewitz, ”War s merely the continuation of policy by other means.
Tilly argues that the state carry out the following activities, war making, extraction and capital accumulation work together to shape European state making. Instead, the people who controlled European states and states in making warred in order to check or overcome their competitors and thus to enjoy the advantages of power within a secure or expanding territory. To make more effective war, they attempted to locate more capital.
Tilly argues that states carry out the following four activities: Firstly, war making which is the act of eliminating rivals or potential external threats outside of its own territories. Secondly, state making which is the act of eliminating internal rival forces and insurgents from within its own territories. Thirdly, protection which is the act of eliminating potential threats to their population. Lastly, extraction which is the act of securing the means to execute the previous three activities, such as the collection of taxes of revenue. Moreover, these four activities can take on a number of forms, and Tilly was interested in examining these activities through the lens of organized violence, claiming that these activities are analogous to protection rackets carried out by organized criminal organizations. This comprises a predatory theory of state- building.
War as International Relations
In these circumstances, war became the normal condition of the international system of states and the normal means of defending or enhancing a position within the system. Why war? No simple answer will do; war as a potent means served more than one end. But surely part of the answer goes back to the central mechanisms of state making: The very logic by which a local lord extended or defended the perimeter within which he monopolized the means of violence, and thereby increased his return from tribute, continued on a larger scale into the logic of war. Early in the process, external and internal rivals overlapped to a large degree. Only the establishment of large perimeters of control whin which great lords had checked their rivals sharpened the line between internal and external. George Modelski sums up the competitive logic cogently.
Global power strengthened those states that attained it relatively to all other political and other organizations. What is more, other states competing in the global power game developed similar organizational forms and similar hardiness: they too became nation-states-in a defensive reaction, because forced to take issue with or to confront a global power, as France confronted Spain and later Britain, or in imitation of its obvious success and effectiveness, as Germany followed the example of Britain in Weltmacht, or as earlier Peter the Great had rebuilt Russia on Dutch precepts and examples. Thus not only Portugal, the Netherlands, Britain and the United States became nation-states, but also Spain, France, Germany, Russia and Japan. The short, and the most parsimonious, answer to the question of why these succeeded where most of the European efforts to build states failed is that they were either global powers or successfully fought with or against them.
In conclusion, other scholars differ with Tilly, for example, the Marxist theory on the other hand, explained war as quasi-economic in that it states all modern wars are caused by competition for resources and markets between great imperialist powers, claiming these wars are a natural result of the free market and class system. Part of the theory is that war will disappear once a world revolution, over-throwing free markets and class systems, has occurred.