Cultivating Consent: Nonstate Leaders and the Orchestration of State Legibility1


In recent decades, the sociology of the state has become engrossed in the relationship between knowledge and modern statecraft. Heeding recent calls for “society-centered” approaches, this article investigates the role of nonstate leaders in the production of state knowledge. It takes up the following question: How have nonstate leaders (i.e., civil leaders and community advocates) contributed to what James Scott has termed “state legibility”? While historical traces suggest that these actors have worked to lessen opposition to state projects, this activity remains empirically understudied and conceptually underdeveloped. Addressed to this problem, this article introduces the concept of consent building and proposes an analytic approach that focuses on the motivations of nonstate leaders, the obstacles of noncompliance they confront, and the persuasive tactics used to foster public cooperation. To illustrate the purchase of this approach, it presents a case study of local Latino promoters of the 2010 U.S. census. This analysis reveals how nonstate leaders can enable, rather than impede, the capacity to “see like a state.”

Rodríguez-Muñiz, Michael. 2017. “Cultivating Consent: Nonstate Leaders and the Orchestration of State Legibility.” American Journal of Sociology 123: 1-41.