Posted by: hobbesonafob | April 24, 2009

Tilly’s Attributes for “Stateness”

I’ll outline the four Tillian characteristics of the state and provide examples. 


Tilly’s notion of warmaking is quite straightforward. It is the act of eliminating or neutralizing one’s rivals outside a defined territory, where it is expected that the state agents have the prerogative to use force. Warmaking is easily imagined as occurring between states, but it is also an action that is available to “coercive nonstate actors” (CNAs). In terms of warmaking, warlords in various countries have amassed forces to conduct war against other warlords and even other states (1).

 Another example is the ability of the Taliban to wage war against the International Security Assistance Force, the Afghan National Army, and the Pakistan Army Corps (2). 

 If all of the Tillian attributes were ranked accordingly by their “stateliness,” then warmaking would be placed at the apex because the coordination and resources required to conduct a full-scale war against another state is considerable. 


Statemaking occurs when agents of the state eliminate or neutralize rivals within the territory of the state. This has recently been demonstrated by militants in the Pakistani tribal area of Bajaur where a bomb was detonated during a tribal elder meeting, eliminating potential rivals (3).

These selective assassinations weaken the traditional tribal structures in these territories and, in turn, empower CNAs in the region. In 2006 alone, 120 tribal elders were assassinated by militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan (4).

Violence between rival crime syndicates is another example of statemaking or even the selected assassinations of state agents. Potential rivals also include other CNAs and agents of the state. 


The more complicated Tillian idea of “protection” involves outlining who the CNA’s clients are. The “clients” who benefit from the protection differ depending on the type of state. If one agrees that North American states are “Jeffersonian Democracies,” then the clients are the citizens of the country. If one agrees that North American states are owned by a dominant class, the dominant class will be the clients and, in turn, have their enemies eliminated or neutralized (5).

Tilly writes that a population is divided into “enemy classes and the state extends its favours partially to one class or another, statemaking actually reduces the protection given [to] some classes” (6).

 A look at the enforcement of any state’s written or unspoken laws, will help reveal who the state’s clients are. 

From the perspective of a CNA, it also has its clients and supporters to protect. In the case of Charles Taylor, his clients were other rivals benefiting from the illegal trade of ivory, timber, and diamonds. When Taylor made his dramatic 1989 Christmas Eve appearance as the leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, he began to attack the patronage network of the Liberian president of the time. Taylor encouraged other strongmen to seek security and cooperation with him and to desert the president (7).

It can also be argued that insurgents under an individual’s control can be characterized as clients. Jeremy Weinstein’s study of a rebellion’s organization depicts two types of militants: 1) high-commitment individuals; 2) low-commitment individuals. The former are characterized as “investors” willing to “make costly investments…in return for the promise of rewards in the future.” On the other hand, low-commitment individuals are “consumers” that seek short-term gains from participating in the rebellion (8).

Both types of militants are essentially fulfilling their own interests; these interests are then fulfilled by actors within the group. The end result may consist of neutralizing enemies, protecting militants from state prosecution, or subduing populations that may reject the militants’ rule.  

Resource Extraction

The final attribute Tilly uses to define state-building is resource extraction. Resources and forms of wealth will vary between different societies, but the common bond between all CNAs is that these resources provide them with the means to carry out warmaking, statemaking, and protection. CNAs have been known for their ability to extract resources whether it be through selling natural resources or product, through cooperation with civilians (prostitution, gambling, narcotics trafficking, etc.) or by employing coercive tactics to extract resources from civilians as exemplified in racketeering.

 Furthermore, the ability of a CNA to engage in warmaking, statemaking, and protection is directly proportional to the resources it can leverage. Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler’s study reveals that weak states with easily extractable natural resources have a higher propensity for rebel groups to engage in conflict, because of the immediate wealth that can be obtained from the conflict (9).

In these territories, where resources are easily extracted, there are often contentious relationships between the state and those extracting the resources without the state’s authorization. For example, in Zimbabwe, panners were able to extract diamonds up to 15 carats. The state ordered police officers to monitor the area, but the police were quickly compromised when the illegal miners formed syndicates with the police officers. The Zimbabwean state sent in soldiers in an operation called Hakudzokwi kumunda (Operation you would never go back to the diamond fields). The operation succeeded in clearing the diamond mine from illegal miners and resulted in the death of 106 miners. According to one witness, “It was hell on earth. The soldiers are shooting to kill” (10)

The extraction of resources is but one of the many activities that cause friction between CNAs and the state. 


1. Charles Taylor was able to support and control the Revolutionary Unity Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone and conduct war against the Sierra Leonese state. Taylor also use the RUF as a means to extract wealth from the Sierra Leone in 1991. See, William Reno, Warlord Politics and African States (Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc., 1998), 113. 

2. It should be noted that the term “Taliban” does not simply designate one group. As Hamish MacDonald reports, some groups fight under the Taliban leadership but do not consider themselves the Taliban nor due the think of themselves as al-Qaeda. Despite the lax nomenclature, the groups have waged successful military operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. See, Hamish Macdonald, “February 24, 2009: Kunar Province,” Al Jazeera.

3. BBC, “Bomb hits Pakistan tribal elders.” November 7, 2008.

4. Ahmed Rashid, Descent into Chaos (New York: Penguin Books Ltd, 2008), 278. 

5. See Charles Tilly, “War-Making and State-Making as Organized Crime,” available at:

6. Ibid.

7.  William Reno, Warlord Politics and African State  (Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc., 1998), 90-1. 

8. Jeremy Weinstein, Inside Rebellion: the Politics of Insurgent Violence (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 9. 

9. Tilly. 

10. Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler, “On Economic Causes of Civil War.” Oxford Economic Papers 50, no. 4 (1998): 571.

11. David Farira, “Eerie silence at Zimbabwe mine,” BBC, Dec 4, 2008.



  1. […] This quote from King Louis XIV reveals that he never imagined a time when there would be social groups (Contentious and Coercive Non-state actors: CCNAs) that could counter the state’s power by engaging in the Tillian characteristics of stateness. […]

  2. […] the heterogeneity of social contracts in a given state is explained by Charles Tilly’s notion of protection. A brief study of the legal aftermath from 9/11 brings to light how different contracts between the […]

  3. […] resource extraction by the state or  contentious and coercive nonstate actors (CCNAs)? ALL of the Tillian attributes of “stateness” can be viewed within the purview of […]

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