Studying The Development Of The Modern State Politics

Essay add: 27-11-2017, 17:08   /   Views: 14

No concept is more central to political discourse and political analysis than that of the state. Nowadays we all tend to think that we know what we are talking about when we refer to the state, but it is one of the most difficult concepts to define. The idea of this essay is to look through the famous thinkers and their theories of the state, in the hope of understanding what the state is, how it developed and how it is developing?

I am going to focus mainly on Thomas Hobbes and his understanding of the state, plus I will compare it to other ancient or modern thinkers' theories to analize the development of the state.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), an Englishman who many see as the first theorist of the authentically modern state, was insistent that, to avoid a collapse into civil war, individuals needed to establish over themselves a „common power, to keep them in awe, and to direct their actions to the common benefit" [] . It seemed for Hobbes, that „the only way to erect such a common power... is to confer all their power and strength upon one man, or upon one assembly of men." In Hobbes' view, the individual did a good deed when he gave all of his natural liberties to an authoritarian sovereign, since this was the only way of avoiding society descending into a war of all against all [] , in which life would be „solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short" (Hobbes 1968: 186).

According to Thomas Hobbes, monarchy was the best form of government, explaining this with the fact that aristocracy and democracy were less effective, however this was to some extent an open question. The most difficult step was to gain the authority in the first place. It was the role of the ruler to provide the conditions under which people could live at peace in the society and stay protected from external enemies. But once the members of a commonwealth have come together and agreed to constitute a sovereign power to rule over them, the powers of the sovereign are almost unlimited.

Thomas Hobbes was one man who described the roles of the state and the powers of sovereigns, but throughout the centuries there have been many different definitions of the state. First was Aristotle, who attempted to determine the "things that are indispensable to the existence of a state (Aristotle, Politics p. 177)." "A state," says Aristotle, "is a community of equals, aiming at the best life possible" (p. 176) and a "union of persons sufficing for the purposes of life (p. 177)" as opposed to a mere aggregate of individuals. [] 

But the most influential definition of the modern state is that offered by Max Weber, which displays considerable similarities with that of Hobbes. Weber, as is often noted, defined the state not in terms of its function but in terms of its modus operandi. More specifically, he saw the state in terms of its organization and deployment of the means of coercion and physical force. [] As he explained, „a compulsory political organization with continuous operations will be called a „state" insofar as its administrative staff successfully upholds the claim to the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order"(Weber 1921: 54).

Mesopotamia is known to be the location of the earliest complex society, meaning that it contained cities, practiced the division of labor, and exhibited the social concentration of wealth into capital, ruling classes, community ties based on residency rather than kinship, long distance trade etc. It was the world's first literate civilization, and formed the first sets of written laws. However, it is only since the seventeenth century that human history has been graced by the concept of the state.

If the origins of the state itself lie in Mesopotamia, then it is to Western Europe that we must turn if we are to establish the origins of the modern state. „The modern state is an institutional complex claiming sovereignty for itself as the supreme political authority within a defined territory for whose governance it is responsible." [] 

As I already mentioned the concept of the state and its roles have been changing through many centuries. From the Mesopotamian states it developed to the Ancient Greek states, then finally to the modern state, which is still changing and defining its form and the role.

First of all we have to mention, that modern states were based on the national principle. Cultural and national homogenization (consisting of parts or people which are similar to each other or are of the same type) played their role in the rise of the modern state system. Since the absolutist period, states have largely been organized on a national basis.

"The concept of a national state, however, is not the same as a nation state. Even in the most ethnically homogenous societies we do not see complete and total similarities between state and nation, hence the active role often taken by the state to promote nationalism through an emphasis on shared symbols and national identity." [] 

But in my personal opinion a state is the same as the nation, because society is the state and everything depends on the because a modern state is a territory with definite geographical boundaries that are recognized by other state , it has its own legislative system and institutions of government and it depends on the loyalty of citizens to who the state has to offer protection, order and justice. However, for different philosophers its understanding is different and full of varieties.

However, the roles of a state are still changing. Today circumstances have changed, state competencies have changed, purhaps even the character of the state itself is being altered. States now exercise much less control over their external economic environment; states are simply making way for markets. I have already seen how the process of globalization is creating a new transnational level. Above all else, the changing form of the modern state is a challenge to our democratic imagination. [] 

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