ASTK15326U SUMMER15: The rise of the modern state: emergence, consolidation, transformation: China and Europe compared

Volume 2015/2016

Master level: 7.5 ECTS 
Bachelor level: 10 ECTS 


The modern state may be defined as a political body with a monopoly on the legitimate use of the means of violence, and primacy in making laws within a given territory. It has become the dominant social institution globally since its origins, in Europe, in the sixteenth century and has been subject to a continuing process of development in its structures and functions from then into the twentieth century. This course is designed to give students the knowledge and conceptual apparatus in order to understand the factors that gave rise to this institution and have shaped its subsequent development. It will consider the modern state both as an idea, a specific way of conceptualising power, and as a fact, a set of institutions and procedures. Particular attention is given to the presentation of different theories with different epistemological and ontological assumptions and thus stressing different form of explanation. Many of the theories emphasize the impact of war/international relations (bello-centric theories), to the interaction between military power and the states’ control over society, to the evolution of state institutions and the relationship between state, society, and the individual. Other theories will point to economic factors (econo-centric theories) being the most central to understand state formation processes.

We will mainly focus on historical sociological theories that study state formation processes, state consolidation, state formation and implications for society and societal institutions – and vice versa the implications of socio-economic processes for the consolidation of an international system of states. In particular, the state-society relationship is important and we shall look into a number of theories which have concentrated on this issue.

Competency description

This course enhances the students’ ability to understand the state formation processes in a comparative perspective. The course provides the student with a multi-disciplinary perspective since the course draws upon international relations, comparative politics, sociology, economic history, and public administration. It gives the student a knowledge of institutional change and stability. Also the students will be able to reflect upon the complex relationship between internal and external factors of social change. The course is a good starting point for other projects in the programme and is relevant to students who aim for a career in, for example, international organisations, diplomacy, global companies and public administration.

Learning Outcome

Goal description for a course and graded seminar (seven-point scale)

The objective of the course/seminar is to enable the students to:

The course’s aims are:

• to enable students to develop and deepen their understanding of the conceptual and theoretical bases involved in the study of state formation processes during a long time span, as well as to allow students to engage with debates concerning methods of historical inquiry, and in general to expand their domains of knowledge about key processes in relation to state and society formation and transformation.

• to assist students in developing and deepening their skills of critical evaluation and analysis with respect to ideas drawn from comparative politics, history, political theory, economic analysis, and historical sociological traditions of scholarship.

• to enable students to develop and extend their intellectual skills as a foundation for personal development, professional employment or further academic study by requiring them to adapt these skills to the study of core historical debates and key theoretical positions on the nature of political, military, and economic change.

Students successfully completing this course should be able to:

• apply critically the main theories, models and concepts used in the study of politics, history, and sociology to the analysis of the spread of such key institutions as the modern state and such contested issues as its impact on, and adaptability to non-western contexts.

• demonstrate an understanding and substantive knowledge of political processes and/or social and political theory, especially as these relate to longer-term phenomena, such as the development of the modern state, the emergence of empires and the alleged decline of the nation state.

• evaluate different interpretations of political and social issues, events and developments that are introduced through the course’s historical case material, including an ability to relate to both western and non-western contexts.

In addition, students will have further developed such transferable skills as analytical investigation, written and oral presentation and teamwork.

Suggested readings for ‘The Bello-centric approach I’

Elias, N. 1982[1939]. Power and Civility. The Civilizing Process: Vol. II. New York: Pantheon Books.

Hintze, O., & Berdahl, R. M. (1975). The historical essays of Otto Hintze. F. Gilbert (Ed.). New York: Oxford University Press [EXCERPTS].

Schmitt, Carl. 1976. The Concept of the Political. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Von Clausewitz, C. (2004). On war. Digireads. com Publishing [EXCERPTS].


Suggested readings for ‘The Econo-centric approach I’

Braudel, F. (1982). Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century: The perspective of the world (Vol. 3). Univ of California Press.

Marx, K. (2008). The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. Wildside Press LLC.

Polanyi, K. (1946). Origins of our time: the great transformation. Victor Gollancz.

Smith, A. (1776). An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. London: George Routledge and Sons.


Suggested readings for ‘European State Formation before 1850’

Anderson, P. 1987 [1974]. Lineages of the Absolutist State. London: Verso.

Ertman, Thomas. 1997. The Birth of Leviathan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tilly, C. 1992. Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 990-1990. Oxford: Blackwell.

Tilly, C. 1993. European Revolutions, 1492-1992. Oxford: Blackwell


Suggested readings for ‘Chinese state formation before 1850’

Hui, V. T. B. (2005). War and state formation in ancient China and early modern Europe (p. 9). Cambridge: Cambridge University

Wittfogel, K. A. (1957). Chinese society: An historical survey. The Journal of Asian Studies16(03), 343-364.

Wong, R. B. (2002). The search for European differences and domination in the early modern world: a view from Asia. The American Historical Review107(2), 447-469.


Suggested readings for ‘The Bello-centric approach II’

Mann, M. 1988. States, War and Capitalism. Oxford: Blackwell.

Mann, Michael. 1993. The Sources of Social Power. vol II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Weber, M. (1978). Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology. Univ of California Press.


Suggested readings for ‘The Econo-centric approach II’

Spruyt, H. (1996). The sovereign state and its competitors: an analysis of systems change. Princeton University Press.

Teschke, B. (2003). The myth of 1648: class, geopolitics, and the making of modern international relations. Verso.

Wallerstein, I. (2011). The modern world-system I: capitalist agriculture and the origins of the European world-economy in the sixteenth century, with a new prologue (Vol. 1). Univ of California Press.


Suggested readings for ‘Europe 1850-1989’

“Constitutional Problems and Constitutional Development in the Nineteenth Century”, In Ernst W. Böckenförde (1991), State, Society and Liberty, Berg Publishers: Oxford, pp. 71-86 [prescribed reading]

Marshall, T.H. (1949), Citizenship and Social Class. London: Pluto Press.


Suggested readings for ‘China 1850-1989’

Johnson, C. A. (1962). Peasant nationalism and communist power: the emergence of revolutionary China, 1937-1945. Stanford University Press.

Meisner, M. (2007) "The Place of Communism in Chinese History: Reflections on the Past and Future of the People's Republic of China," Macalester International: Vol. 18, Article 8. Available at: http:/​/​​macintl/​vol18/​iss1/​8 

Selden, M. (1995). Yan'an communism reconsidered. Modern China, 8-44.



Suggested readings for ‘Europe since 1989’

Egan, M. (2013), The Single Market’ in the 4th edition of Michelle Cini and Nieves Perez-Solorzano Borragan (eds) European Union Politics (Oxford University Press 2013), pp. 254-267


Suggested readings for ‘China since 1989’

Arrighi, G. (2007). Adam Smith in Beijing. Lineages of the Twenty-First Century, London. New York.

ten Brink, T. (2014). Paradoxes of Prosperity in China’s New Capitalism. Journal of Current Chinese Affairs42(4), 17-44.


Other relevant readings a list will come in Absalon



The course will be taught in 14 sessions plus two sessions reserved for supervision. The course will last 9 days. It is taught by a combination of lectures and discussion. Classes will typically begin with a lecture of about 60 minutes in length which will identify the main themes and debates for each given topic. It is expected that all students will have read the required reading for each class and be prepared to participate. The quality of the classes depends above all on the quality of student preparation.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner