• democracy;
  • democratisation;
  • state;
  • state building;
  • consequences of democratisation

This review article explores the connection between two key terms in the current international development agenda, namely democratisation and state building. It does so not by looking at the establishment of well-functioning states as a necessary condition for the introduction of democracy, but rather by examining the idea that democratisation may itself play a role in favouring the consolidation of the state. Despite a recent debate on whether democracy or the state comes first, very few empirical studies have addressed the issue of the possible impact of democratic institutions and politics on state development. In the search for additional explanations and empirical evidence concerning this relationship, something more is to be learned as we turn to works that examine the effect of democratic reforms on more specific and partial dimensions, components or indicators of the state, such as violent conflict, corruption or taxation. The inclusion of the latter analyses, however, not only confirms that we still know very little about the democracy–state relationship, thus corroborating the need for new empirical research, but also highlights the conceptual and methodological flaws we must avoid when deciding what notions and measures of state and democracy are most appropriate in tackling this issue.