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Binding Institutions: Peasants and Nation-State Rule in the Albanian Highlands, 1919–1939

Decentering Social Theory

ISBN: 978-1-78190-726-9, eISBN: 978-1-78190-727-6

Publication date: 7 August 2013


The seminal literature on state formation proposes a model of “co-opt and expand” to explain the rise of centralized nation-states in modern and early modern Europe. Building on this literature’s distinction between direct and indirect rule, other analysts have expanded the scope of this model to explain patterns of state building in the non-Western world, particularly in the construction of centralized authority in postcolonial and postimperial contexts. According to this literature, the failure of central rulers to co-opt local elites has frequently produced weak states lacking capacities of rule in their peripheries. Using archival materials to examine the Albanian state’s relatively successful penetration of the country’s highland communities during its early decades of national independence, this article suggests that state building can proceed along an alternative path called “co-opt and bind,” in which state builders “bind” peasant communal institutions to the institutional idea of the nation-state to legitimize and implement state building goals. The article identifies three mechanisms used by early Albanian state builders to generate legitimacy and institute political order in its remote communities, including disarmament, the institution of new forms of economic dependency, and the invocation of peasant cultural codes of honor.



In the writing and revision of this paper the author has benefited from valuable feedback from George Steinmetz, Howard Kimeldorf, Margaret Somers, Michael Kennedy, Ronald Suny, Philip Gorski, Richard Lachmann, Hiro Saito, Shinasi Rama, Nathalie Clayer, and two anonymous reviewers. The author bears sole responsibility for any and all shortcomings. The author would also like to thank the staff of the Central State Archives of Albania for their valuable assistance.

Research for this paper was supported in part by a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship and a grant from International Research & Exchanges Board with funds provided by the United States Department of State through the Title VIII Program and the IREX Scholar Support Fund. None of these organizations is responsible for the views expressed.


Pula, B. (2013), "Binding Institutions: Peasants and Nation-State Rule in the Albanian Highlands, 1919–1939", Decentering Social Theory (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 25), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 37-70.



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