The role that state capacity plays in development has been the subject of growing cross-disciplinary research. The state capacity concept has faced criticism on numerous fronts, with scholars recently devoting serious efforts to overcome it. This article offers a rich overview of the concepts’ journey in terms of its theoretical roots, its uses by different disciplines, its definitions and measurements, and the empirical evidence around the impact of state capacity on development outcomes. It argues in favor of an optimistic view of the field’s advances by showing: (a) convergence in conceptualizations and (b) high-quality innovations in measurements. The article also contributes to the field by offering a definition of state capacity that consolidates all elements of the dominant strand and further tackles a number of issues that remain weak and should take priority in a future agenda.

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