The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions
835 pág.

The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions


DisciplinaCiências Políticas e Teoria do Estado622 materiais7.848 seguidores
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108 r. a. w. rhodes
part iii
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INSTITUTIONS
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c h a p t e r 7
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THE STATE AND
STATE-BUILDING
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bob jessop
The state has been studied from many perspectives but no single theory can fully
capture and explain its complexities. States and the interstate system provide a
moving target because of their complex developmental logics and because there
are continuing attempts to transform them. Moreover, despite tendencies to reify the
state and treat it as standing outside and above society, there can be no adequate
theory of the state without a wider theory of society. For the state and political system
are parts of a broader ensemble of social relations and neither state projects nor state
power can be adequately understood outside their embedding in this ensemble.
1 What is the State?
.........................................................................................................................................................................................
This innocuous-looking question challenges anyone trying to analyze states. Some
theorists deny the state\u2019s very existence (see below) but most still accept that states
are real and provide a valid research focus. Beyond this consensus, however, lies
conceptual chaos. Key questions include: Is the state best deWned by its legal form,
coercive capacities, institutional composition and boundaries, internal operations
and modes of calculation, declared aims, functions for the broader society, or
sovereign place in the international system? Is it a thing, a subject, a social relation,
or a construct that helps to orient political action? Is stateness a variable and, if so,
what are its central dimensions? What is the relationship between the state and law,
the state and politics, the state and civil society, the public and the private, state
power and micropower relations? Is the state best studied in isolation; only as
part of the political system; or, indeed, in terms of a more general social theory?
Do states have institutional, decisional, or operational autonomy and, if so, what
are its sources and limits?
Everyday language sometimes depicts the state as a subject\u2014the state does, or
must do, this or that; and sometimes as a thing\u2014this economic class, social
stratum, political party, or oYcial caste uses the state to pursue its projects or
interests. But how could the state act as if it were a uniWed subject and what could
constitute its unity as a \u2018\u2018thing?\u2019\u2019 Coherent answers are hard because the state\u2019s
referents vary so much. It changes shape and appearance with the activities it
undertakes, the scales on which it operates, the political forces acting towards it, the
circumstances in which it and they act, and so on. When pressed, a common
response is to list the institutions that comprise the state, usually with a core set of
institutions with increasingly vague outer boundaries. From the political executive,
legislature, judiciary, army, police, and public administration, the list may extend
to education, trade unions, mass media, religion, and even the family. Such lists
typically fail to specify what lends these institutions the quality of statehood. This is
hard because, as Max Weber (1948) famously noted, there is no activity that states
always perform and none that they have never performed. Moreover, what if, as
some theorists argue, the state is inherently prone to fail? Are the typical forms of
state failure properly part of its core deWnition or merely contingent, variable, and
eliminable secondary features? Finally, who are the state\u2019s agents? Do they include
union leaders involved in policing incomes policies, for example, or media owners
who circulate propaganda on the state\u2019s behalf?
An obvious escape route is to deWne the state in terms of means rather than ends.
This approach informs Weber\u2019s celebrated deWnition of the modern state as the
\u2018\u2018human community that successfully claims legitimate monopoly over the means
of coercion in a given territorial area\u2019\u2019 as well as deWnitions that highlight its formal
sovereignty vis-a`-vis its own population and other states. This does not mean that
modern states exercise power largely through direct and immediate coercion\u2014this
would be a sign of crisis or state failure\u2014but rather that coercion is their last resort
in enforcing binding decisions. For, where state power is regarded as legitimate, it
can normally secure compliance without such recourse. Even then all states
reserve the right\u2014or claim the need\u2014to suspend the constitution or speciWc
legal provisions and many states rely heavily on force, fraud, and corruption and
their subjects\u2019 inability to organize eVective resistance.
112 bob jessop
Building on Weber and his contemporaries, other theorists regard the essence of
the state (premodern as well as modern) as the territorialization of political
authority. This involves the intersection of politically organized coercive and
symbolic power, a clearly demarcated core territory, and a Wxed population on
which political decisions are collectively binding. Thus the key feature of the state is
the historically variable ensemble of technologies and practices that produce,
naturalize, and manage territorial space as a bounded container within which
political