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Title: The%20Origins%20of%20the%20State

The Origins of the State
  • THE STATE is a central concept in the study and
    practice of politics
  • State (Websters Dictionary a form or mode of
    being, a condition). From Latin status
    (literally standing)
  • The political term the state conveys the idea
    of an impersonal and sovereign political order
    in society
  • (letat in French, das Staat in German, lo
    stato in Italian, estado in Spanish)
  • ____________
  • David Held, Introduction. In States and
    Societies. Edited by David Held et al. Oxford
    Basil Blackwell, 1985, p.1

  • Society and the State
  • Human society predates the state. 200,000 years
    of human existence passed without the state
  • The state arises at a certain stage in social
  • when human society becomes bigger, more complex,
    more productive, more divided by private property
  • and when the very existence of society begins to
    require a special mechanism for coordination and
    use of social power

  • Human history can be described as a process of
    social evolution
  • Just as biological evolution is development of
    simpler forms of life into more complex and
    highly organized forms of life,
  • social evolution (or social development) is a
    process of
  • growth of complexity and differentiation of
    social organization (cooperation between human
    beings, coordination of human activities)
  • See Stephen Sanderson, Social Transformations.
    Blackwell, 1995, Ch. 1 - and
  • Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel The Fates
    of Human Societies. Norton, 1997, 1999
  • For an interesting discussion of theories of
    social evolution, go to
  • Science and Society OVERVIEW PAGE

  • In other words,
  • It is a process of creation and development of
    new, more complex, and more effective forms of
    social organization.
  • It takes place under the influence of ecological,
    demographic, technological and economic factors

From band to state
  • The human journey
  • http//

The prehistoric band
  • Band a small community bound by blood ties
  • Not centralized, egalitarian (low inequality),
    low division of labour (mostly gender-based),
  • Decisions are made collectively.
  • Unity is based on customs and traditions
  • Hunter and gatherer societies

The tribe
  • Tribe a group of bands united for a common
  • In order to survive, humans tend to form bigger
  • Also egalitarian power is dispersed throughout
    the tribe.
  • Leaders are first among equals, they dont have
    the means to compel tribesmen to obey. Custom,
    tradition, ritual, religious belief are the main
    tools to maintain social order.
  • Agricultural societies (farming, animal husbandry)

The chiefdom
  • Chiefdom a transitional form on the way from
    tribe to state.
  • A larger society with more developed division of
    labour, higher productivity, which means that
    there is surplus product to use beyond mere
  • Private property appears, inequality grows,
    people are more and more divided by class.
  • Power is increasingly separate from society, as
    power over society.
  • Authority is formalized (institutionalized) in
    the office of the chief, which can be filled by
    different people. The chief has means of
    compelling members of society (military force)
  • Develops in agricultural societies, which
    increasingly rely on slave labour
  • Appears about 10,000 years ago

  • State a highly structured organization of power
    over a more developed, more complex,
    class-divided society.
  • The state is capable of performing massive tasks
  • suppressing social revolts,
  • waging wars,
  • organizing construction of fortresses, dams and
  • minting money.
  • It has the power to tax and to punish those who
    break the law
  • The city is the seat of state power
  • First states appear in Egypt, Babylon, Assyria
    and Persia (Iran), beginning around 5,000 years

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God Horus symbol of Pharaohs supreme power
The Pharaoh
The Pharaohs enemy
Tax collector
Enemy soldiers killed
Ancient Egypt image of the state
Ancient Babylon
Ancient Egyptian kinglist
  • From Band to State Summing Up
  • -- As societies become more complex,
    differentiated, populous, and technologically
    advanced, their political organizations become
    more centralized and separate from society
  • -- As societies develop from band to state, they
    become less egalitarian and less democratic
  • -- As societies become more complex, the power of
    community decreases and the power of the state


From Antiquity to Modernity Antiquity 3000
B.C.E. (Before Common Era) 5th century C.E.
(Common Era). Middle Ages 5th 15th
centuries C.E. (from the fall of Rome to the
beginning of Renaissance) Modern Age 15th
century (or, are we in a post-modern age
already?) (Note all dates are approximate, based
on certain pivotal events, while in real life,
the transitions from one age to another were
usually slow and gradual) Old
term B.C. (before Christ) Old term A.D.
(Anno Domini)
  • Anthony Giddens
  • Modernity is...a shorthand term for modern
    society, or industrial civilization. Portrayed in
    more detail, it is associated with
  • (1) a certain set of attitudes towards the world,
    the idea of the world as open to transformation,
    by human intervention
  • (2) a complex of economic institutions,
    especially industrial production and a market
  • (3) a certain range of political institutions,
    including the nation-state and mass democracy

  • Largely as a result of these characteristics,
    modernity is vastly more dynamic than any
    previous type of social order. It is a
    societymore technically, a complex of
    institutionswhich, unlike any preceding culture,
    lives in the future, rather than the past.
  • Giddens, Anthony. The Consequences of Modernity.
    Stanford Stanford University Press, 1998, p. 94

Rise of productivity of human labour Per capita
income growth in Europe 700-1700 (in 1,000
years) Grew at 0.11 a year, doubling every 630
years. 1820-1990 (in 170 years) Grew by 10
times in Britain, by 15 times in Germany, by 18
times in USA, and by 25 times in
Japan. William J.Baumol, Sue Ann Batey
Blackman, and Edward N.Wolff, Productivity and
American Leadership The Long View (Cambridge
MIT Press, 1989), p.12 Angus Maddison, Dynamic
Forces in Capitalist Development (New York
Oxford University Press, 1991), pp.6-7
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The Population Explosion --10,000 years ago
5-6 million people lived on Planet Earth --1,000
BCE 150 million (grew by 30 times in 9,000
years, result of the agricultural
revolution) --1700 CE 500 million (grew by 3.3
times in 2,700 years --Today about 7 billion
(grew by 13.5 times in 300 years, result of the
industrial revolution) Follow this link to the
current count http//
ockworld.html See Krishan Kumar, The Rise of
Modern Society, Basil Blackwell, 1988, p.13
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Urbanization The city appears in history 5,000
ago as a product of the Agricultural
Revolution. 1500 75 cities with total
population of 7.5 million (est.) 1800 3 of the
worlds population lived in cities 2000 47 of
the world lived in cities (411 cities with
population of 1 million or more, 41 megacities
with population of 5 million or more) 2030
(forecast) 60 will live in cities
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Global urban populations, mln. people
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Modernization Development of industrial, urban,
capitalist (with important exceptions) societies,
organized in nation-states, guided by belief in
reason, science, and progress, and undergoing
constant change A long, uneven, tumultuous and
often violent process that starts in Western
Europe and gradually reshapes the entire
world Wars, intense struggles for power,
revolutions Colonial conquests Development of
global markets The West captures global

The state plays a crucial role in the
development of modern societies As Europe enters
the Modern Age in the 15th-16th centuries, the
state exists in its traditional
forms City-states, feudal systems, patrimonial
empires, etc. The new type of state, the modern
state, gradually emerges (through evolution and
revolution) to manage the transition to
modernity For an additional reading on the rise
of the modern state, go to http//
  • Three definitive features of the modern state
  • (See Max Weber, Politics as a Vocation)
  • Monopoly on force has the right and ability to
    use violence, in legally defined instances,
    against members of society, or against other
  • Legitimacy its power is recognized by members
    of society and by other states as based on law
    and some form of justice.
  • Territoriality the state exists in a defined
    territory (which includes land, water and air)
    and exercises authority over the population of
    that territory

  • The state and government
  • The term the state has a broader meaning,
    referring to the entire set of social relations
    concerning the use of political power
  • Government is a narrower term referring to how
    a state is organized
  • We say government when we refer to
  • a particular group exercising political power at
    the moment (e.g. the Conservative Government)
  • institutions of a state (e.g. the Federal
  • Ontario has a government, but it is not a state.
    Ontario is a part of the Canadian state
  • Canada is a state, and it has a government

  • In the United States, a state is one of the 50
    territorial units which form the Union. Each
    State has its State Government. The Federal
    Government exercises authority over the entire
    American territory.
  • To avoid confusion, Americans tend to use the
    term the government both in the narrower sense
    and when they mean the state. Still, one can
    use the expression the American state (but not
    an American state) to refer to the entire
    American system of government. Official
    description of the US President is chief of
  • Governance usually refers to the process of

  • Analyzing the state 3 main traditions
  • (See Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics
  • Issues
  • --Where does the power of the state come from?
    Or, what is the source of sovereignty?
  • --How much power should the state have over
  • --How can society control the state to make sure
    that the state always serves societys interests?
  • --How should the state be organized?
  • Three main traditions

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
  • Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651
  • Hereby it is manifest that during the time men
    live without a common power to keep them all in
    awe, they are in that condition which is called
    war and such a war as is of every man, against
    every man.
  • The only way to erect such a common power, as
    may be able to defend them from the invasion of
    foreigners, and the injuries of one another, and
    thereby to secure them in such sort, as that by
    their own industry, and by the fruits of the
    earth, they may nourish themselves and live
    contentedly is, to confer all their power and
    strength upon one man, or upon one assembly of
    men, that may reduce all their wills, by
    plurality of voices, unto one will and therein
    to submit their wills, every one to his will, and
    their judgments, to his judgment.
  • (continued on the next page)

  • This done, the multitude so united in one
    person, is called a COMMONWEALTH, in Latin
    CIVITAS. This is the generation of that great
    LEVIATHAN, or rather (to speak more reverently)
    of that mortal god, to which we owe under the
    immortal God, our peace and defence.
  • (continued on the next page)

  • For by this authority, given him by every
    particular man in the commonwealth, he hath the
    use of so much power and strength conferred on
    him, that by terror thereof, he is enabled to
    form the wills of them all, to peace at home, and
    mutual aid against their enemies abroad...And he
    that carrieth this person, is called SOVEREIGN,
    and said to have sovereign power and every one
    besides, his SUBJECT
  • And the covenants, without the sword, are but
    words, and of no strength to secure a man at
  • Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, pp.629, 631, 641

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  • The oldest ideas about the state. Value order
    above freedom.
  • --The state is like a living body, a powerful
    organic entity which always dominates society
    it controls
  • --Policies of the state are motivated, above
    all, by the interests of the state (raison detat
    Fr.), which are considered the same as the
    interests of society. Stress social unity.
  • --Reflect the experience of ancient and medieval
    empires, absolute monarchies of the Modern Age,
    right-wing and left-wing dictatorships of the
    last century.

  • Hobbes actually represents a modernized variety
    of statism by placing the source of state power
    in society
  • And statist practices exist in all democratic
  • --Statism is invoked to justify expansion of
    state power in times of national emergency
  • war
  • severe economic crisis
  • civil disorders
  • ecological disasters
  • --It is reflected in the legal and political
    notion of public interest, which is usually
    considered as supreme over private interests.

Philip II, King of Spain, 1527-1598
Louis XIV, King of France from 1643 to 1715
Peter the Great, Emperor of All Russias,
George III, King of England and Ireland, 1760-1820
  • A different view of the state
  • What is government more than the management of
    the affairs of a nation? It is not, and from its
    nature cannot be, the property of any particular
    man or family, but of the whole community, at
    whose expense it is supported Sovereignty, as a
    matter of right, appertains to the nation only,
    and not to any individual and a nation has at
    all times an inherent indefeasible right to
    abolish any form of government it finds
    inconvenient, and establish such as accords with
    its interest, disposition, and happiness Every
    citizen is a member of the sovereignty, and, as
    such, can acknowledge no personal subjection and
    his obedience can be only to the laws.
  • (Continued on the next page)

  • Great part of that order which reigns among
    mankind is not the effect of government. It has
    its origins in the principles of society and the
    natural constitution of man. It existed prior to
    government, and would exist if the formality of
    government was abolished. The mutual dependence
    and reciprocal interest which man has upon man,
    and all the parts of a civilized community upon
    each other, create that great chain of connexion
    which holds it together.
  • Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man. 1791 In
    David Held et al (ed.) States and Societies,

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
  • David Hume, Scottish philosopher, Of the
    Original Contract, 1852
  • http//

  • Dominant today serve as the basis for the theory
    and practice of liberal democracy. Value freedom
    above order.
  • --View the state not as a living organism but
    as a contract between members of society.
    Government is elected by citizens and is
    accountable to them.
  • --View the state as a political market - a
    neutral arena for constant competition between
    different societal interest groups (farmers,
    businesses, unions, women, minorities, retirees,
    taxpayers, etc.).

  • --Policies of the state reflect, above all, the
    results of this competition.
  • --Accept competition among members of society as
    a normal condition.
  • --Seek to limit state power over society.
  • In real practices of states, pluralism coexists
    and interacts with statism

  • Yet another view of the state
  • Because the state arose from the need to hold
    class antagonisms in check, but because it arose,
    at the same time, in the midst of the conflict of
    these classes, it is, as a rule the state of the
    most powerful, economically dominant class,
    which, through the medium of the state, becomes
    also the politically dominant class, and thus
    acquires new means of holding down and exploiting
    the oppressed class.
  • By way of exception, however, periods occur in
    which the warring classes balance each other so
    nearly that the state power, as ostensible
    mediator, acquires for the moment a certain
    degree of independence of both.
  • Friedrich Engels, The Origin of the Family,
    Private Property, and the State . In David Held
    et al (ed.) States and Societies, p. 104

Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels
(1820-1895) a monument in Berlin, Germany
  • Since mid-19th century, have influenced
    development of political thought,
  • and provided ideological fuel for socialist
    movements. Value social justice and equality
    above order and freedom
  • --View the state as the tool used by the
    dominant class to maintain its domination.
  • --Policies of the state reflect, above all, the
    interests of the dominant class, rooted in
    private ownership of the means of production.
  • --Stress class conflict as the main dynamic of
  • --Advocate the creation of a classless society
    in which the state will wither away as no
    longer needed.

  • In the 20th century, Marxist ideas were used in
    the creation of communist states in Eastern
    Europe and Asia.
  • States ruled by Communist Parties pursued rapid
    modernization of societies on a non-capitalist
  • This type of modernization resulted in the rise
    of new forms of extreme statism and unrestrained,
    inefficient bureaucratic rule.
  • In 1985-1991, all Eastern European communist
    states were replaced by capitalist states with
    varying degrees of political pluralism
  • In Asia, Communist Party states continue to exist
    in China, Vietnam and North Korea. In China and
    Vietnam, these states carried out economic
    reforms which enabled effective integration of
    these countries into the global capitalist economy

  • Each of the three approaches contains important
    insights into the nature of the state.
  • --The different theories overlap, interact,
    influence each other.
  • --They continue to evolve, as people search for
    new answers to the problems they face
  • --Depending on the course of history, some ideas
    become more influential than others
  • --Some work better in the practice of government
  • --Others work better as sources of the politics
    of protest and change

  • A World of States
  • In the last 5,000 years, humanity has created
    thousands of different states, from tiny
    city-states to global empires
  • Today, there are 196 sovereign states in the
    world, 193 of which are members of the United
  • Almost all of them are nation-states organized on
    the basis of distinct nations

  • New states continue to appear some scholars
    predict that in the 21st century hundreds, if not
    thousands of new states will be created
  • Existing states undergo changes in their
  • They are challenged from within and from without
  • They are constantly tested for viability and
  • How much change can a state withstand? Can a
    state afford to be static?

  • Coats of Arms (official symbols) of a few
    sovereign states (those with eagles and lions)

Egypt (compare this eagle with the falcon image
of God Horus in the picture of Pharaoh)
Czech Republic