Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Jon Shefner

Committee Members

Harry F. Dahms, Paul K. Gellert, Robert A. Gorman


Most studies on Africa that analyzed the institution of the state emphasized the colonial origins of state formation, tracing the crisis of socioeconomic and political development to that specific historical trajectory. Colonialism has shaped the characteristics of modern African states, but it is also important to address institutional factors, methods of governance, and state-society relations in the post independence period. As Ethiopia was not directly constituted by European colonialism, a study of the Ethiopian state provides an opportunity to look at how the state has performed, and how it relates to its own society, without the colonial baggage. This case study explores the characteristics of the Ethiopian state employing neopatrimonialism as a theoretical framework. It addresses the system of personalization, hybridization, patronage, coercion and external factors in the exercise of state power.

According to both Weberian and Gramscian theories of the state, the legitimacy of states is contingent upon the tacit acceptance of its authority by the majority of the population under its jurisdiction. Coercion is used as a threat and a last resort when all other persuasive and ideological methods have failed or become inadequate. Yet, the case study shows the use of coercion as an enduring feature of some states. The Ethiopian state has been consistently challenged internally and isolated regionally. Consequently, it has depended on a combination of coercion and external patronage as a survival strategy. This strategy has further complicated internal cohesion, and external patronage has also served as a disincentive to accommodate internal demands for inclusion. The endurance of violence and internal challenges to the authority of states is a general characteristic of states with contested legitimacy.

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