This paper seeks to contribute to a more conceptually informed understanding of state-building, adopting a political economy perspective. Very schematically, our main arguments can be summarised as follows: • State-building is now a major issue of concern, but it lacks conceptual clarity, including in language. • There is a broad understanding that state-building is about controlling violence, establishing legitimacy and building capable and responsive institutions so as to foster a shared sense of the public realm. These are all long-term and potentially conflict-ridden processes. • State-building is a leading priority in fragile (and mostly post-conflict) settings, but ongoing state-building challenges persist in states in comparatively more ‘normal’ developing settings. 4 • There has been much debate in international policy circles about state functions in terms of outputs such as social service delivery, economic management and the delivery of justice. While achieving outputs are the key rationale for supporting state-building, it is important to pay sufficient attention to the core or constitutive dimensions of the state – including the political settlement, security and basic administrative structures. If these constitutive domains remain weak, states are not able to deliver output functions in a sustained and reliable way. • This should form the basis for thinking about prioritisation, sequencing, state functions etc.