Comparative Politics

Strategic State Capacity: How States Counter Opposition to Climate Policy



When can states implement policies against the opposition from powerful interest groups? Research on state capacity has centered on bureaucratic sources of capacity, leaving unexplained why countries with similar levels of bureaucratic capacity vary in goal attainment. We introduce the notion of strategic state capacity to explain this puzzle. It refers to the ability of the state to mobilize or de-mobilize interest groups in pursuit of policy goals. We identify four general types of strategies states use to counter opposition: recruiting allies, aligning interests, limiting access, and quieting interests. We examine these in cases on climate and clean energy policy-making in California, France, Germany, and the United States. Climate politics is an increasingly important field of distributive politics with powerful policy losers. The idea of strategic state capacity complements bureaucratic notions of capacity to show how the state actively organizes its relations with interest groups to advance policy goals.


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