Bandits and Bureaucrats
The Ottoman Route to State Centralization
Why did the main challenge to the Ottoman state come not in peasant or elite rebellions, but in endemic banditry? Karen Barkey shows how Turkish strategies of incorporating peasants and rotating elites kept both groups dependent on the state, unable and unwilling to rebel. Bandits, formerly mercenary soldiers, were not interested in rebellion but concentrated on trying to gain state resources, more as rogue clients than as primitive rebels. The state's ability to control and manipulate bandits—through deals, bargains and patronage—suggests imperial strength rather than weakness, she maintains.
Bandits and Bureaucrats details, in a rich, archivally based analysis, state-society relations in the Ottoman empire during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Exploring current eurocentric theories of state building, the author illuminates a period often mischaracterized as one in which the state declined in power.
Outlining the processes of imperial rule, Barkey relates the state political and military institutions to their socal foundations. She compares the Ottoman route with state centralization in the Chinese and Russian empires, and contrasts experiences of rebellion in France during the same period. Bandits and Bureaucrats thus develops a theoretical interpretation of imperial state centralization through incorporation and bargaining with social groups, and at the same time enriches our understanding of the dynamics of Ottoman history.