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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women have been excluded
from the public sphere and subordinated to men in the private. Yet men\u2019s
independence as citizens and workers rests on women\u2019s role in caring for them at
122 bob jessop
home. Moreover, even where women win full citizenship rights, their continuing
oppression and subjugation in the private sphere hinders their exercise and enjoy-
ment of these rights. A third area of feminist criticism focuses on the links between
warfare, masculinity, and the state. In general terms, as Connell (1987) notes, \u2018\u2018the
state arms men and disarms women.\u2019\u2019
In short, feminist research reveals basic Xaws in much malestream theorizing.
Thus an adequate account of the state must include the key feminist insights into
the gendered nature of the state\u2019s structural selectivity and capacities for action as
well as its key role in reproducing speciWc patterns of gender relations (for attempts
to develop such an approach, see Jessop 2004).
7 Discourse Analysis and Stateless
State Theory
.........................................................................................................................................................................................
Some recent discourse-analytic work suggests that the state does not exist but is,
rather, an illusion\u2014a product of political imaginaries. Thus belief in the existence
of the state depends on the prevalence of state discourses. It appears on the political
scene because political forces orient their actions towards the \u2018\u2018state,\u2019\u2019 acting as if it
existed. Since there is no common discourse of the state (at most there is a
dominant or hegemonic discourse) and diVerent political forces orient their action
at diVerent times to diVerent ideas of the state, the state is at best a polyvalent,
polycontextual phenomenon which changes shape and appearance with the politi-
cal forces acting towards it and the circumstances in which they do so.
This apparently heretical idea has been advanced from various theoretical or
analytical viewpoints. For example, Abrams (1988) recommended abandoning the
idea of the state because the institutional ensemble that comprises government can
be studied without the concept of the state; and the \u2018\u2018idea of the state\u2019\u2019 can be
studied in turn as the distinctive collective misrepresentation of capitalist societies
which serves to mask the true nature of political practice. He argues that the \u2018\u2018state
idea\u2019\u2019 has a key role in disguising political domination. This in turn requires
historical analyses of the \u2018\u2018cultural revolution\u2019\u2019 (or ideological shifts) involved
when state systems are transformed. Similarly, Melossi (1990) called for a \u2018\u2018stateless
theory of the state.\u2019\u2019 This regards the state as a purely juridical concept, an idea that
enables people to do the state, to furnish themselves and others with a convenient
vocabulary of motives for their own (in)actions and to account for the unity of the
state in a divided and unequal civil society. Third, there is an increasing interest in
state and state-building 123
speciWc narrative, rhetorical, or argumentative features of state power. Thus case
studies of policy making suggest that state policies do not objectively represent the
interests located in or beyond the state or objectively reXect \u2018\u2018real\u2019\u2019 problems in the
internal or external environments of the political system. Policies are discursively-
mediated, if not wholly discursively-constituted, products of struggles to deWne
and narrate \u2018\u2018problems\u2019\u2019 which can be dealt with in and through state action. The
impact of policy-making and implementation is therefore closely tied to their
rhetorical and argumentative framing. Indeed, whatever the precise origins of the
diVerent components of the modern state (such as the army, bureaucracy, taxation,
legal system, legislative assemblies), their organization as a relatively coherent
institutional ensemble depends crucially on the emergence of the state idea.
Such discourse-theoretical work clearly diVers from state-centered theorizing
and Foucauldian analyses. On the one hand, it rejects the reiWcation of the state;
and, on the other, it highlights the critical role of narrative and rhetorical practices
in creating belief in the existence of the state. This role is variously deWned as
mystiWcation, self-motivation, pure narrativity, or self-description but, regardless
of standpoint, discourses about the state have a key constitutive role in shaping the
state as a complex ensemble of political relations linked to society as a whole.
8 The \u2018\u2018Strategic-relational
Approach\u2019\u2019
.........................................................................................................................................................................................
An innovative approach to the state and state-building has been developed by Jessop
and others in an attempt to overcome various forms of one-sidedness in the Marxist
and state-centered traditions. His \u2018\u2018strategic-relational approach\u2019\u2019 oVers a general
account of the dialectic of structure and agency and, in the case of the state, elaborates
Poulantzas\u2019s claim that the state is a social relation (see above). Jessop argues that the
exercise and eVectiveness of state power is a contingent product of a changing
balance of political forces located within and beyond the state and that this balance
is conditioned by the speciWc institutional structures and procedures of the state
apparatus as embedded in the wider political system and environing societal rela-
tions. Thus a strategic-relational analysis would examine how a given state apparatus
may privilege some actors, some identities, some strategies, some spatial and tem-
poral horizons, and some actions over others; and the ways, if any, in which political
actors (individual and/or collective) take account of this diVerential privileging by
engaging in \u2018\u2018strategic-context\u2019\u2019 analysis when choosing a course of action. The SRA
124 bob jessop
also introduces a distinctive evolutionary perspective into the analysis of the state and
state power in order to discover how the generic evolutionary mechanisms of
selection, variation, and retention may operate in speciWc conditions to produce
relatively coherent and durable structures and strategies. This implies that oppor-
tunities for reorganizing speciWc structures and for strategic reorientation are
themselves subject to structurally-inscribed strategic selectivities and therefore
have path-dependent as well as path-shaping aspects. For example, it may be neces-
sary to pursue strategies over several spatial and temporal horizons of action and to
mobilize diVerent sets of social forces in diVerent contexts to eliminate or modify
speciWc constraints and opportunities linked to particular state structures. Moreover,
as such strategies are pursued, political forces will be more or less well-equipped to
learn from their experiences and to adapt their conduct to changing conjunctures.
Over time there is a tendency for reXexively reorganized structures and recursively
selected strategies and tactics to co-evolve to produce a relatively stable order, but this
may still collapse owing to the inherent structural contradictions, strategic dilemmas,
and discursive biases characteristic of complex social formations. Moreover, because
structures are strategically selective rather than absolutely constraining, there is always
scope for actions to overXow or circumvent structural constraints. Likewise, because
subjects are never unitary, never fully aware of the conditions of strategic action,
never fully equipped to realize their preferred strategies, and may always meet oppos-
ition from actors pursuing other strategies or tactics; failure is an ever-present