Hendrik Spruyt, The Sovereign State and its Competitors (1994).

Main Argument:
Spruyt attempts to answer the following questions: How did the sovereign state arise? How does this affect IR? The present international system, composed for the most part of sovereign, territorial states, is often viewed as the inevitable outcome of historical development. Spruyt argues that there was nothing inevitable about the rise of the state system. Examining the competing institutions that arose during the decline of feudalism- among them urban leagues, independent communes, city states, and sovereign monarchies – Spruyt disposes of the familiar claim that the superior size and war-making ability of the sovereign nation-state made it the natural successor to the feudal system.
Spruyt’s Questions:
First, why did a variety of new institutional forms emerge in medieval Europe? The old forms (feudalism, the church, and empires) were suddenly supplemented with new forms (kings, city-leagues, and city-states). Second, why is it that territorial kingship emerged as the dominant form?
== Notes ==
Theory:
*  Modern state is based on internal hierarchy and external autonomy (3)
*  Common conceptual problems:
a) theorists who see change as unidirectional
b) not an efficiency argument (5)
c) Change in institutions impose costs therefore social and political actors are unwilling to experiment with change without a serious external shock (7)
* Punctuated equilibrium: response to a powerful environmental change (7)
Flaws with existing interpretations:
*  If you look at the emergence of the state – there is no variation in the DV (institutional change), therefore, you can’t truly select among rival IV’s (11)
*  Waltz (interpreting Durkheim):under anarchy, people will purse self-interest
*  Ruggie: neo-realism fails; jurisdictions overlap
*  Structural theory critiques neo-realism for not taking it account structure/state formation
*  Post-structural theory: advocates archaeology of a state (13)
*  Critiques neo-realism for looking at states as discrete units
*  Spruyt: post-structuralism has no underlying theory (14); agent-structure problems
*  Durkheim: interaction of internal social actors/environment
*  Weber: monopoly on violence; ability to wage war
*  Gould\’s version of evolutionary theory argues that evolution occurs in a two-step process. First, a variety of new forms emerges; second, some environmental pressure selects the fittest for survival  this is also Spuyt’s method
Spruyt’s theory:
*  Focuses on interaction of individual and state (14)
*  State is an agent embedded in a structure of a system that imposes constraints upon it
*  Feudalism had cross-cutting structures and power relations
*  Changes in unit type are simultaneously changes in domestic and external politics (17)
*  Uni-linearity assumes continuity. It is incorrect because:
1) It neglects variation in unit types;
2) It fails to differentiate between emergence of institutional types and causes of subsequent selection;
3) The efficiency arguments fail;
4) Some of the literature imputes preferences for outcomes;
5) It isn’t military or economic changes so much as it is bargaining among individuals;
6) institutions need not be optimal – instead institutional survival is based on competitiveness among other options (21)
*  Different material interests and belief systems of social groups and political actors lead to variations in political alliances
Sovereign authority proved to be more successful in organizing domestic society and structuring external affairs.
Institutional variation –> social coalitions that follow economic change
The ability to wage war –> product of institutions
Methodology:
*  Model of change: occurs after broad exogenous shock leading to social and political realignments (22)
*  Gould: punctuated equilibrium: institutional outcomes don’t need to be optimal; there are good reasons for static institutions – transaction costs of change are high (25)
*  Broad based external change has internal repercussions (25)
DV: Institutional variation (unit change)
IV : Trade and commerce (economic change) & Social bargaining
== Cases: ==
France: Sovereign State
*  Alliance between kings and towns (urban-monarchy alliance) (106)
*  Creation of hierarchy subservient to the king –> prevost, field agents, bailiffs –> eventually became more specialised
*  Goal was to extend authority to counter feudalist tendencies (contra the strength of landed nobles)
*  Shift to Roman Law (codified, not personalised, over a strict territorial basis, emphasis on personal prosperity)
*  Exclusivity of Roman Law – anti-feudal/church
Germany: Hanseatic League
*  Alliance between towns and lords (weak kings weren’t able to interfere)
*  All cities were of a modest size
*  Prevention of feudalism/centralised economic organisation
*  No burgher-king alliance (ie. No sovereign state)
*  Instead: Leagues arose that organised trade practices and waging war
*  No clear territorial borders or hierarchical structure (129)
Italy: City States
*  Early noble/burgher coalition
*  Already was les feudal than Germany and France  open to trade
*  Creation of Podesta and Signoria roles to manage behaviour within city states (142)
*  No central authority because of 1) Existence of trade routes; 2) Strong commitment to trade culture/nature of trade (route monopolies); 3)strong landed aristocracies; 4) factionalism in towns (149)
Two facets of Sovereign Organisation:
1) Internal hierarchy;
2) territorial demarcation (154)
Selection of institutions:
1) Survival of the fittest;
2) Mutual empowerment;
3) Mimicry and exit (158)
Importance of currency (162) & advance of mercantilism
Similarity of Institutions:
*  Isomorphism through competition; Agent-driven choices; Copying ensures relative success
*  Institutional change not related to war (intermediary cause only) (178)
*  According to Spruyt, evolution of sovereignty  adaptation (179) NOT CONFLICT!
*  Depends on nature of coalition  Different institutional outcome (184)
Conclusions:
*  State change/transformation is infrequent
*  Significant learning and start up costs in institutional change
*  Barriers for non-sovereign organisations to participate in IR (192)
Critiques:
1. Nature of Institutional Change: Is change sporadic (186 – cf Gould) or incremental? Is it a punctuated equilibrium? There appears to be no real turning point.
2. Is it institutional change or individual preferences for institutional change (184)
3. Is this a book about IR? Or the sovereign state. The linkage isn’t always clear.
4. The efficiency argument isn’t clear (20). Spruyt says that the state is more efficient than feudalism, but so were the city states and city leagues. Counterfactual.