The State

  • Created by: KDallers-
  • Created on: 03-06-19 02:54

Introduction to the State

A crucial concept to analysis as the state is a KEY ACTOR in political science - represents the 'locus of power'; the apparatus that enables the functioning of society - it is a SOCIAL SYSTEM that may be subject to domination by certain groups - pluralism?

Hoffmann and Graham suggest the state is IMPOSSIBLE TO DEFINE, however Weber describes the operating feature - the 'monopoly on the legitimate use of force'

3 key concepts to the state (McAuley): - set of institutions (to govern); - geographical territory (to control), and; - a monopoly on power - all of this contributes to generate SOVEREIGNTY - however, this requires international recognition (Held) - eventually, a state gains NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY

Influence of the state - even if it is a minimal, 'nightwatchman' state, it INFLUENCES EVERYONE in some way and plays a major role in life - Burnham - "the organisation of domination" - this is a pejorative view, but a major role to play

CONCEPTIONS OF STATE: - nightwatchman (New Right, minimal state); - contractarian (protects citizens - liberal, Locke, Rousseau); - developmental (corporatist) - suggests that the STATE IS DEFINED BY ITS LEVEL OF INTERVENTION

1 of 7

Features of the State

The state aims to SERVE THE PEOPLE, however often the state becomes overly powerful on its own, and is not held accountable - may have the state as an ORGANISM which grows (romantic view), or ultimately as an OPPRESSOR (Marxist view)

- Rules for the operation of the state - a unique + supreme organisation warranting loyalty towards it - has jurisdiction over the territory, is legally supreme, is self-sovereign and has broad assocations (Raphael) - this LEGAL AUTHORITY is crucial, as without this the state cannot realistically enforce its policies

- State + nationalism - a 'dirty word'? The modern conception is a 'nation-state', however this has implications economically, militarily and bureaucratically - a massively powerful body - in the modern period, these functions have become linked to citizenship and nationalism - trying to promote certain decisions being taken

- Globalisation - does this depoliticise the state and cause negative reaction? Do we need a 'new Leviathan'?

FEATURES: - apparatus; - territory; - bureaucracy; - legal system; - authority; - international recognition; - decision making power; - monopoly on violence

2 of 7

Pluralist Model of the State

Pluralism - idea that the state is decentralised and power is held in various different areas simultaneously (a 'polyarchy') - do not like the concept of the 'state' - too centralised and does not reflect the competition between groups (Schumpeter) - should be 'political system' - Easton

- A 'liberal' view of the state - politicians seen as 'dealers in votes' encouraging debate and participation within a 'limited state' - the polyarchy facilitates this; represents non-cumulative power and ensures that NO GROUP CAN DOMINATE - instead, uses democracy to compromise and reach consensus on issues - DEBATE CENTRAL to a pluralist society - power see an fragmented and IN BALANCE within the netural state framework

PLURALIST MODELS: WEATHERVANE - state is seen as a representative of the most popular group; victors of deliberation control the state democratically - they 'blow the state' in their direction

NETURAL - state is 'actively netural' - becomes an impartial umpire of the interests and discussions of the groups - consults to discover the public interest, and seeks to raise this - a 'mediator, balancer and harmoniser' (Dunleavy + O'Leary); state as the ARENA for this

BROKER - Dahl - plural elitism - the bureaucracy promoting their own interests - iron triangles, overload thesis - this is incrementalism - a more Machiavellian view

3 of 7

Elite Model of the State

Elite theory states that power is in the hands of a SELECT GROUP that take all the key decisions and determine where the state is headed - only one section holding power

MOSCA - the elite is 'best suited' and has a 'natural aptitude' for leadership - political leadership is based on your life experiences, meaning there are elite leaders for a reason - suggests a more meritocratic elite theory

PARETO - elites have power so they can pursue their OWN INTERESTS and organise and fulfil their goals - views of 'cunning foxes' and 'brave lions' - a more psychologial and pejorative view

MICHELS - elites exercise the most power and form the 'Iron Law of Oligarchy' - elites TAKE OVER THE STATE and seek to pursue their own personal interests - most pejorative

MODERN - WRIGHT MILLS - there exists a large 'poewr elite' which is part of and controls the state - they take decisions, make decisions and form leadership groups; BOTTOMORE - a 'political elite', but also a wider 'political class' - similar views, but only the elite exercise power - the class is the 'elite in waiting' - both exercise 2nd face of power

SEPARATE FROM MARXIST THEORY - non-economic and not centred around class struggle

4 of 7

Marxist Theory of the State

Marxists believe that the interests of the RULING CLASS dominates the state - state as a 'bourgeois form of organisation (Marx) - seek to reinforce capitalism as a SUPERSTRUCTURE and faciliate the 'organisation of domination' - key fragmentations however:

INSTRUMENTALISM - state is a 'committee of the affairs of the bourgeoisie' and protects bourgeois interests - an instrument of bourgeois oppression; Lenin - 'a special oppressive force'; argues that the state will be COERCIVE - this reflects Gramsican 'hegemony' and further economic oppression - Miliband - supports this view - state = 'domination' of society

STRUCTURALISM - state is a 'capitalist state', but the state unifies the worker group and capitalist bourgeois group; state activity determined by social structure; for example, Poulantzas - workers become citizens, bourgeois are comforted and become richer - state REINFORCES THIS - 'relative autonomy' for all - not pro-bourgeoisie, only pro-capitalism

CRITICISMS: Miliband - are the bourgeoisie as unified as he suggests? (Coates) - far too pejorative and hard to find empirical evidence to prove Miliband's view - Poulantzas much more understandable

- FRACTIONAL MODEL - state representing a 'section of hegemonic capital' ie finance - dominated by special interest

5 of 7

Other Models of the State and Criticisms

CORPORATISTS - hierarchial organisation of interests, which are controlled by the state - for example, Mussolini and worker syndicates; only the elite in big gropus can discuss with the state, and Mussolini appointed these anyway - Middlemas - relevant to UK and unions in 1975; DILEMMA as this promotes economic growth but reduces autonomy of workers

FOUCAULT - power = knowledge, and discourse reflects and produces new power structures - types are generated, but power is decentralised within these - therefore, no mention of a 'centralised state'

PLURALIST CRITICS: - devalues public interest; - BROKER - what of participation in this model

ELITE CRITICS: - what about the moral validity of elitism? Is it OK for this to happen?

MARXISMT: - instrumentalism too cynical, but; - structuralist reifies class structure, which is broken - TOO FRAGMENTED

IS THE STATE LOSING POWER? Jessop - YES - 'hollowing out' of state due to GLOBALISATION - leads to the weakening of sovereignty and lack of control... BUT: 1) Exaggeration (most stuff is controlled); 2) States never had much control, 3) Rise of nationalism

6 of 7

Key Thinkers of The State

Hoffmann + Graham; Weber - definitions of state

Held - critical of sovereignty

Burnham; Marx; Engles; Lenin; Poulantzas; Miliband; Gramsci - Marxist view

Coates - critical of Miliband's view

Coleridge - state as an organism; romantic

McAuley - textbook

Easton; Dahl; Schumpeter - pluralist

Machiavelli; Mosca; Pareto; Michels; Wright Mills; Bottomore - elite view

Middlemas - corporatism

Foucault - postmodernist

Jessop - 'hollowing out of state' - is the state losing power?

7 of 7


No comments have yet been made

Similar Government & Politics resources:

See all Government & Politics resources »See all Intro to Politics resources »