the modern state

revision notes on the state

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The Modern State
Max weber says the modern state is a human community that successfully claims the
monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.
In other words the state is a
1. Created by people
2. The state can use force legitimately other violence in society is illegitimate.
3. The state rules over a clear geographical area in our case the UK.
The state is traditionally made up of 4 institutions
1. The government, who makes laws
2. The civil service, who implement laws
3. The police, who enforce laws
4. The armed forces, which protect the territory from threats from outside.
The government is often divided into 3 branches:
The legislature
The executive
The Judiciary
1. The legislature passes laws. In the UK, the parliament (the House of
Commons and the House of Lords) is the legislature.
2. The executive suggests new laws, and runs the country. The executive is often
called the government.
3. The judiciary interprets laws. The courts are the Judiciary.
In modern times, the state has extended its role into health care, education
and nationalised (staterun) industries.
Pluralists see the modern state as a neutral arena for debate
1. Pluralists see the power of the modern democratic state as legitimate and
acting in the interests of society in general, pluralists see the state as a
neutral arena where competing interest and pressure groups lobby for

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They say the state arbitrates ( settles arguments) between
competing interest groups, but it's neutral itself.
2. Pluralists say the modern state is democratic because of the multiparty
system, and because of the participation of interest and pressure groups.
Dahl (1961)
Looked at the role of interest groups in local politics in the USA, and found
that several groups have influence.
Hewitt (1974)
Shows the crucial role of interest groups and pressure groups in influencing parliament.…read more

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Ideology a set of ideas by which the state gains approval and consent by
persuading people to accept ruling class values.
Neo Marxist Gramsci (18911937)
Called this kind of domination hegemony. Gramsci, Althusser and populantzas
all extend the definition of the state to other institutions which pass on values e.g.
churches, mass media and the family.…read more

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The influence of neoliberal thinking, along new right ideas, can be seen in
the conservative governments of Mrs Thatcher which privatised state
industries, lowered taxation and reduced universal benefits.
4. The traditional challenge to the neoliberal view is the reformist socialist view
the view that the state should intervene in the economy in order to improve
social welfare and equality. The reformist socialist vi9ew is associated with
old labour e.g. the post war labour government which created the welfare
state.…read more

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There's a trend towards internationalism of politics, which has reduced
the influence of nation states. For example, some important decisions are
taken by the European union rather than by its member states.…read more


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