The state - What is the state?

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  • Created on: 11-04-13 14:42
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The State
What is the state?
A state is a central authority that exercises legitimate control over a given territory. It exercises sovereign power and
authority over all individuals and groups within a defined territory. It is an abstract and permanent body that does
not change when a new government is elected or when political leaders are replaced. It has the power of consensus
or if needed coercion to effect its policies.
The boundaries of the state are not necessarily identical with its land mass. For example, Britain claims jurisdiction
over the air space above the UK and 200 miles of surrounding sea extending beyond its shoreline. The British state
also controls territory around the world, including the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic and Gibraltar. It can use
political violence against its own citizens to enforce social order. Moreover, it may use force against other states to
protect both its territory and citizens.
State power depends on legitimacy as well as the potential for coercion or force. This means that its citizens
recognise that the state has the authority or right to exercise power over those who live within the boundaries of its
Abercrombie and Warde:
Note the state is made up of a combination of major social institutions that organise and regulate British
Argue the state is characterised by 6 significant, far reaching power:
o It has almost unlimited ability to make and enforce law, although final appeals can now be made to
European Courts.
o It is able to raise large sums of money via taxation.
o It employs about one-fifth of the UK's total labour force.
o It is a major landowner.
o It controls instruments of economic policy, especially control over currency exchange and interest
o It regulates the quality of provision of both services and commodities on behalf of the general
Argue that legitimacy is essential because the UK is far too complex a society to be governed by force.
Weber's concept of `rational ­legal' legitimacy is often used to explain the origin and nature of state power. This
means that in the exercise of power, both the state and the people agree that rules and procedures must be
followed, especially those laws passed by Parliament.



A good and concise summary of the concept of the state. Providing some background and some relevant key theorists , this can be used as a template for those who like their notes in that format and can be colour coded to identify the key terminology and relevant theorist.

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