[PAST EVENT] Book Launch & Talk by Berhanu Abegaz

April 11, 2019
Reves Center for International Studies, The Reves Room
200 S Boundary St
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
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  • Open to the public
Readings in the Reves Room

A Tributary Model of State Formation: Ethiopia, 1600-2015 addresses the perplexing question of why a pedigreed Ethiopian state failed to transform itself into a nation-state. Using a comparative-institutionalist framework, this book explores why Ethiopia, an Afroasian civilizational state, has yet to build a modern political order comprising a sturdy state, the rule of law, and accountability to the ruled. The book provides a theoretical framework that contrasts the European and the Afroasian modes of state formation and explores the three major variants of the Ethiopian state since 1600 (Gondar, Shewa, and Revolutionary). It does this by employing the conceptual entry point of tributarism and teases out the implications of this perspective for refashioning the embattled postcolonial African political institutions. The primary contribution of the book is the novel framing of state formation through the lens of a landed Afroasiatic peasantry in giving rise to a fragile state whose redistributive preoccupation preempted the emergence of a productive economy to serve as a buoyant revenue base. Unlike feudal Europe, the dependence of the Afroasian state on arm’s-length overlordship rather than on tightly-managed landlordship incentivized endemic extractive contests among elites with the capacity for violence for the non-fixed tribute from independent wealth producers. Tributarism, I argue here, stymied the transition from a resilient statehood to a robust nation-statehood that befits an open-order society.

Berhanu Abegaz received his A.B. from Princeton University in 1977 and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1982. He has a wide range of teaching interests including courses on macroeconomic theory, regional economic integration, comparative economics, and development economics. His research interests include issues of industrialization, manpower development planning, reform in transition economies, and African economic development. His research program encompasses wide-ranging issues including structural convergence in manufacturing industries between leaders and latecomers, the role of diversified business groups in emerging economies, the challenges facing African industrialization, and Ethiopia's agrarian economy. He was recently a Senior Fulbright Scholar in Vietnam.

This event is sponsored by the Reves Center for International Studies, the Global Research Institute, and the Center for African Development.