States as Racketeers

“To the extent that the threats against which a given government protects its citizens are imaginary or are consequences of its own activities, the government has organized a protection racket.”

Charles Tilly, “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime”

  • Protection racket–a scheme that involves generating threats and then demanding payments to be protected against those threats

States act as racketeers in three ways:

  1. Generating threats through warfare
  2. Fabricating or exaggerating external threats
  3. Threatening citizens directly themselves

“War makes states and states make war.”

Charles Tilly, Coercion, Capital and European States: 990-1992

Europe: 1000 CE

Europe: 1648 CE

Europe: 1911 CE


  • State capacity is closely linked to conflict and the need to fight wars

  • State-building takes a long time

  • The sources of state wealth have an impact on how coercive and bureaucratic a state become

Critical States

Challenges to legitimacy of African states:

Large countries
Dispersed populations
Arbitrary borders

Power projection

Economic Consequences

Security Consequences