The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions
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The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions

DisciplinaCiências Políticas e Teoria do Estado622 materiais7.848 seguidores
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power is then exercised to achieve various, more or less well integrated,
and changing policy objectives. A system of formally sovereign, mutually recog-
nizing, mutually legitimating national states exercising sovereign control over large
and exclusive territorial areas is only a relatively recent institutional expression of
state power. Other modes of territorializing political power have existed, some still
coexist with the so-called Westphalian system (allegedly established by the
Treaties of Westphalia in 1648 but realized only stepwise during the nineteenth
and twentieth centuries), new expressions are emerging, and yet others can be
imagined. For example, is the EU a new form of state power, a rescaled \u2018\u2018national\u2019\u2019
state, a revival of medieval political patterns, or a post-sovereign form of authority?
And is the rapid expansion of transnational regimes indicative of the emergence of
global governance or even a world state?
Another inXuential theorist, the Italian Communist, Antonio Gramsci, deWned
the state as \u2018\u2018political society þ civil society;\u2019\u2019 and likewise analyzed state power in
modern democratic societies as based on \u2018\u2018hegemony armoured by coercion.\u2019\u2019 He
deWned hegemony as the successful mobilization and reproduction of the \u2018\u2018active
consent\u2019\u2019 of dominated groups by the ruling class through the exercise of political,
intellectual, and moral leadership. Force in turn involves the use of a coercive
apparatus to bring the mass of the people into conformity and compliance with the
requirements of a speciWc mode of production. This approach provides a salutary
reminder that the state only exercises power by projecting and realizing state
capacities beyond the narrow boundaries of state; and that domination and
hegemony can be exercised on both sides of any oYcial public\u2013private divide
(for example, state support for paramilitary groups such as the Italian fascisti,
state education in relation to hegemony) (Gramsci 1971).
Building on Marx and Gramsci, a postwar Greek political theorist, Nicos
Poulantzas (1978), developed a better solution. He claimed that the state is a social
relation. This elliptical phrase implies that, whether regarded as a thing (or, better,
an institutional ensemble) or as a subject (or, better, the repository of speciWc
political capacities and resources), the state is far from a passive instrument or
neutral actor. Instead it is always biased by virtue of the structural and strategic
selectivity that makes state institutions, capacities, and resources more accessible to
some political forces and more tractable for some purposes than others. Poulantzas
interpreted this mainly in class terms and grounded it in the generic form of the
capitalist state; he also argued that selectivity varies by particular political regimes.
state and state-building 113
Likewise, since it is not a subject, the capitalist state does not, and indeed cannot,
exercise power. Instead its powers´ (plural) are activated by changing sets of
politicians and state oYcials located in speciWc parts of the state in speciWc
conjunctures. If an overall strategic line is discernible in the exercise of these
powers, it is due to strategic coordination enabled through the selectivity of the
state system and the role of parallel power networks that cross-cut and unify its
formal structures. Such unity is improbable, according to Poulantzas, because the
state is shot through with contradictions and class struggles and its political agents
must always take account of (potential) mobilization by a wide range of forces
beyond the state, engaged in struggles to transform it, determine its policies, or
simply resist it from afar. This approach can be extended to include dimensions
of social domination that are not directly rooted in class relations (for example,
gender, ethnicity, \u2018\u2018race,\u2019\u2019 generation, religion, political aYliation, or regional
location). This would provide a bridge to non-Marxist analyses of the state and
state power (see below on the strategic-relational approach).
2 The Origins of the State and
State formation is not a once-and-for-all process nor did the state develop in just
one place and then spread elsewhere. It has been invented many times, had its
ups and downs, and seen recurrent cycles of centralization and decentralization,
territorialization and deterritorialization. This is a rich Weld for political
archeology, political anthropology, historical sociology, comparative politics,
evolutionary institutional economics, historical materialism, and international
relations. Although its origins have been explained in various monocausal ways,
none of these provides a convincing general explanation. Marxists focus on the
emergence of economic surplus to enable development of specialized, economic-
ally unproductive political apparatus concerned to secure cohesion in a
(class-)divided society (see, classically, Engels\u2019 (1875) Origins of the Family, Private
Property, and the State); military historians focus on the role of military conquest in
state-building and/or the demands of defense of territorial integrity in the expan-
sion of state capacities to penetrate and organize society (Hintze\u2019s (e.g. 1975) work
is exemplary; see also Porter 1994). Others emphasize the role of a specialized
priesthood and organized religion (or other forms of ideological power) in giving
symbolic unity to the population governed by the state (Claessen and Skalnik
1978). Feminist theorists have examined the role of patriarchy in state formation
114 bob jessop
and the state\u2019s continuing role in reproducing gender divisions. And yet other
scholars focus on the \u2018\u2018imagined political communities\u2019\u2019 around which nation
states have been constructed (classically Anderson 1991).
The best approach is multicausal and recognizes that states change continually,
are liable to break down, and must be rebuilt in new forms, with new capacities and
functions, new scales of operation, and a predisposition to new types of failure. In
this context, as Mann (1986) notes, the state is polymorphous\u2014its organization and
capacities can be primarily capitalist, military, theocratic, or democratic in character
and its dominant crystallization is liable to challenge as well as conjunctural
variation. There is no guarantee that the modern state will always (or ever) be
primarily capitalist in character and, even where capital accumulation is deeply
embedded in its organizational matrix, it typically takes account of other functional
demands and civil society in order to promote institutional integration and social
cohesion within its territorial boundaries. Whether it succeeds is another matter.
Modern state formation has been analyzed from four perspectives. First, the
state\u2019s \u2018\u2018historical constitution\u2019\u2019 is studied in terms of path-dependent histories or
genealogies of particular parts of the modern state (such as a standing army,
modern tax system, formal bureaucracy, parliament, universal suVrage, citizen-
ship rights, and recognition by other states). Second, work on \u2018\u2018formal constitu-
tion\u2019\u2019 explores how a state acquires, if at all, its distinctive formal features as a
modern state, such as formal separation from other spheres of society, its own
political rationale, modus operandi, and distinctive constitutional legitimation,
based on adherence to its own political procedures rather than values such as
divine right or natural law. Third, agency-centered theorizations focus on state
projects that give a substantive (as opposed to formal) unity to state