Sovereign states and their prey: The new institutionalist economics and state destruction in nineteenth-century West Africa

Carolyn Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


This article examines the economics of institutions approach which purports to explain the rise of sovereign territorial states as the prevalent unit in the international system. According to this institutional analysis, sovereign territorial states emerged as the dominant unit because they were more efficient than other political arrangements in the international system. This argument frames the failure of most non-western policies to become sovereign territorial states by the beginning of the twentieth century as an instance in which institutional structures were effective neither at meeting individuals’ goals, nor at resolving collective action dilemmas, particularly with regard to security and economic exchange. Applying that argument to a nineteenth-century African kingdom, I find that the factors which explain the assigning of colonial, not sovereign, status to that kingdom are of a traditional economic origin, with Cultural biases and relative military capability coming into play when economic competition tightened.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)508-533
Number of pages26
JournalReview of International Political Economy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1998



  • Asante
  • Imperialism
  • New institutionalist economics
  • Sovereign states

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Political Science and International Relations

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