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A Study Of Costa Rican Exceptionalism Within The Realm Of State Formation

1102 words - 5 pages

The study of the creation of Central American states is a topic that has seen relatively few academic endeavors. Early on in the academic sphere, there was a tendency towards studying the formation of states in Europe the in order to understand the nature and process of state making. However, state formation in Central America differed greatly in many ways to rest of the world, even the rest of Latin America.

This paper will focus on the process of state formation as it refers to the Republic of Costa Rica. Anyone who possesses a cursory understanding of the Costa Rican case has no doubt heard of the so-called Costa Rican Exceptionalism. It has been the term used to both summarize and ...view middle of the document...

According to Weber a state is a community whose “administrative staff successfully upholds the claim to the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order” within a given territory (Weber 1978). For the purposes of this paper this definition of state will be expanded to include the collection of institutions that dictate and regulate the means by which individuals or groups come into power. Based on this understanding of the definition of a state, the following review of its formation in Costa Rica will look to analyze the process of political centralization and the establishment of political legitimacy, in the eyes of the inhabitants of the national territory as well as in the eyes of the international community. Both of these should be considered necessary preconditions to the creation of a State.

In the development of this paper the reader will be able to identify an emphasis in the period of liberal reform in Costa Rica as a significant stage in the process of state formation. This emphasis within a study of Costa Rican Exceptionalism aligns with James Mahoney’s theory that the liberal reform period was a critical juncture in the origin of regimes in Central America. Mahoney states that unlike the colonial period, the depression of the 1930s and the social and political reform period of the 1940s and 1950s in most Central American states, the liberal reform was a period characterized by plasticity and contingency when key decisions were made that had an important impact on the development of enduring political institutions and structures. As such the author describes the period as the critical to the explanation of divergent political outcomes in Central America (Mahoney 2001).

In addition the reader will also benefit from the ideas put forward by Samuel Stone in his book, La Dinastía de los Conquistadores. One proposition in particular, of use to understand the process of political centralization, is the reason behind why San Jose would become the bedrock for some the most advanced ideas in the country and as such the inevitable location of the capital of the state being created. Stone suggests that when certain circumstances in the later colonial period hindered the endeavors of the local population into promising economic activities, some members of the...

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