The origins, development, and possible decline of the modern state

Hendrik Spruyt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Some contemporary states seem subject to aggregational dynamics that bring them together in larger regional associations, whereas others fall prey to centrifugal forces that pull them apart. The autonomy of all states has been drawn into question by the globalization of trade and finance. For these reasons, scholars have returned to examining the historical origins and development of the modern state in the hope that this may shed light on its furore, and on the process through which new logics of organization may be emerging that might displace the state. This essay discusses various accounts of the emergence and development of the modern state, comparing security, economic, and institutionalist approaches. It then links these approaches to insights regarding contemporary statehood. Arguments regarding the autonomy of the state must be distinguished from discussions of territorial sovereignty as a constitutive principle of international relations. The latter, juridical notion of sovereignty as a regulative device in international relations has retained its influence, even if the autonomy of the state has declined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-149
Number of pages23
JournalAnnual Review of Political Science
StatePublished - 2002


  • Capstone government
  • Institutionalism
  • Quasi-states
  • Sovereignty
  • Westphalia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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