Political scientists are increasingly returning to the discipline’s original fascination with the state as an institution, but today they use more sophisticated empirical tools than the discipline’s founders did. Ganguly and Thompson searched far and wide for the best measures of the three key components of state capacity that they list in their subtitle. When the measures are applied to India, the findings are informative but not surprising: India is an “in-between power,” with high regime legitimacy, low extractive capacity, and weak control over violence. They assess the state’s ability to overcome its deficiencies by comparing India’s economic, social, and political circumstances with those of previous rising powers and contemporary competitors. The sobering conclusion they reach is that for India to achieve its potential, a great deal would have to change in the country’s inefficient bureaucracy, corrupt and reform-resistant politics, deficit-ridden budgeting process, fragile infrastructure, and weak educational and health-care systems.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.