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The Strong and the Weak: Ups and Downs of State Capacity in Southeast Asia


  • Tomas Larsson

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    • Tomas Larsson is a Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge. He received a PhD in Government from Cornell University in 2007. He is the author of Land and Loyalty: Security and the Development of Property Rights in Thailand (Cornell University Press, 2012).


Why are some Southeast Asian states strong and others weak? This article addresses this question by mapping state capacity across the region on two dimensions—fiscal and legal-administrative—and then exploring alternative explanations. It argues that variation in state capacities relates to differences in regime type and industrial structure. The region's democracies have greater fiscal state capacity than authoritarian regimes, and economies dependent on capital inflows associated with complex exports have greater legal-administrative state capacity than those dependent on other types of capital inflows.

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