Conflict, geography, and natural resources: The political economy of state predation in africa

Cameron G. Thies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This paper develops a modified version of predatory theory by merging three literatures pertinent to the explanation of the capacity of states in sub-Saharan Africa to extract resources from their populations in the form of taxation. The first and oldest of these literatures builds on the claim that war and other forms of interstate conflict act as a catalyst for states to increase their extraction from populations under their control. The primary finding from this line of research is that the lack of interstate war has limited the African state's ability to extract, though recent contributions suggest that other forms of conflict may have a stimulative effect on extraction. The second literature suggests that aspects of physical geography, including the size and shape of states, the allocation of citizenship, and land tenure, among other factors, are responsible for the poor ability of African states to extract from their societies. Finally, the third literature examines the impact of primary commodities on insurgents' abilities to initiate and sustain civil wars, and has important implications for African state extractive capacity. This paper tests the primary hypotheses derived from the synthetic theoretical framework through a cross-sectional time-series analysis. The test produces substantial support for the modified version of predatory theory as applied to the region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-488
Number of pages24
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Interstate conflict
  • Natural resource wealth
  • Political geography
  • Predatory theory
  • Sub-Saharan Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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