Department of Comparative Politics
Stein Rokkan Memorial Lecture

Rokkan Memorial Lecture 2024 - The Sacred and Societal Foundations of the State

The Department of Comparative Politics is proud to present Anna M. Grzymala-Busse as the speaker on the 2024 Stein Rokkan Memorial Lecture "The Sacred and Societal Foundations of the State"


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How do states arise? The canonical answer to this question concentrated on historical warfare and international conflict, and the pressure to extract resources to fund war. This was the dominant paradigm until a recent wave of research has refocused our attention on the religious, cultural, and economic underpinnings of the state, building on Stein Rokkan’s foundational work on state formation in a deeply historical and comparative perspective. In a telling example, the medieval Catholic Church has turned out to be a fundamental force in European state formation. It both competed with medieval monarchs and provided critical templates for governing institutions, the rule of law, and parliamentary representation. In these new accounts of state-building, trade, family law, elite networks, fiscal institutions, and local volunteers all transformed how authority was exercised and legitimated. In ways both direct and attenuated, these forces shaped the long-run development of the state. 

Anna Grzymala-Busse is the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Professor of International Studies in the Department of Political Science, the Director of the Europe Center, and Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute. Her research focuses on the historical development of the state and its transformation, political parties, religion and politics, and post-communist politics. Other areas of interest include populism, informal institutions, and causal mechanisms.She is the author of three books: Redeeming the Communist Past: The Regeneration of Communist Successor Parties; Rebuilding Leviathan: Party Competition and State Development in Post-Communist Europe; Nations Under God: How Churches Use Moral Authority to Influence Politics and Sacred Foundations: the Religious and Medieval Roots of the European State. She is also a recipient of the Carnegie and Guggenheim Fellowships.

Stein Rokkan Memorial Lecture
Both abroad and in Norway there has been a number of intiatives to honour the memory of Stein Rokkan for his great contributions in the development of the social sciences after World War II. The Department of Comparative Politics has, since 1981, arranged an annual Stein Rokkan Memorial Lecture as a tribute to his memory.