Mariano Sánchez-Talanquer is an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies and an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics–“CIDE”–in Mexico City. He holds a PhD in Government from Cornell University. His research interests include state formation and political development, political representation, and the politics of inequality, with a particular interest in Latin America. His current book project examines state-building across Mexico and Colombia during the twentieth century, focusing on various dimensions of the state and the forces shaping the geography of state power. His research has been funded by Fulbright, the Social Science Research Council, and Mexico’s National Council for Research and Technology. He previously served as head of staff for Mexico City’s Minister of Economic Development and as an advisor to the Executive Secretary in Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute (IFE).
In States Divided, Mariano Sánchez-Talanquer takes on an especially critical and challenging question in the study of territorial politics. Why in so many countries is the state much stronger and more capable in some parts of the territory than in others? In recent years, most of the attention focused on uncovering the sources of cross-national variation in the overall strength of the state. What is largely missing are studies that provide convincing accounts of how and why states are characterized internally by such different levels of strength and types of capacity within the same country and across the territory that they govern.
Mariano reminds us that the “construction of states is carried out by political actors involved in political battles, and for political purposes,” and convincingly shows how attention to partisan conflict can unravel the puzzle of the state’s territorially uneven development. In Mexico, for example, he demonstrates how post-revolutionary governments heavily delegated security roles to rural militias in those parts of the territory where they were challenged by anti-revolutionary catholic forces, “a strategy that had fateful consequences for state capacity in the long run, as it stunted the development of civilian security and justice institutions at the local level.” In Colombia, Mariano shows that the Liberal party beginning in the 1930s disproportionately invested in the state’s fiscal capacity in those areas that it dominated politically, whereas the Conservative party during the period of its political hegemony was able to design education policy and literacy requirements in ways that simultaneously reinforced the Church’s role in education and disadvantaged Liberal municipalities.
Mariano’s use of both historical analysis and statistical methods provides an unusually strong empirical foundation for his theoretical claims about the impact of political cleavages, both partisan and religious, on the territorial quality of the state.
The committee congratulates Mariano on a dissertation that shows real intellectual ambition and sophistication as well as first-rate archival skills and the kind of persistence and dedication that is necessary to create original data sets in data-poor environments.