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The state as an apparatus of control

Nations (from Latin nasci, meaning to be born) are complex phenomena that are shaped by a collection of cultural, political and psychological factors. Culturally, a nation is a group of people bound together by a common language, religion, history and traditions, although nations exhibit various levels of cultural heterogeneity.

Politically, a nation is a group of people who regard themselves as a natural political community. Although this is classically expressed in the form of a desire to establish or maintain statehood, it can also take the from of civic consciousness.

Psychologically, a nation is a group of people distinguished by a shared loyalty or affection in the form of patriotism. However, such an attachment is not a necessary condition for membership of a nation; even those who lack national pride may still recognize that they belong to the nation.




The state as an apparatus of control


This is the image of the state with which most people are familiar. It is concerned with policy-making and policy-implementation. It means much more, therefore, than the government or any other group of politicians who may control the administrative apparatus at the centre. It consists also of all other public servants including the armed forces, the police and administrators in local government.



It may help in envisaging the scope of the modern state to examine the broad functions of the contemporary state. The functions can be grouped under five headings.


3.1.1 Guardian of law, order and property

This is the oldest function of the state. It includes:



1.policing backed up if necessary by the armed forces


2. punishing and imprisoning


3. interpreting the laws the function of the judiciary



3.1.2 Treasurer

This takes two forms.


1. Tax gatherer. This is another ancient function. Today more than two-thirds of annual British revenue is collected by the Board of Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise. Schumpeter called the modern state the 'tax state' because of its scope and range. 1 Taxes make a great impact on the public as they emphasise the punitive role of the state.


2. Accountant. This is a more recent function in a professional sense. The Comptroller and Auditor General and his department examine the details of the national accounts. He is independent of the executive and responsible to Parliament.

3.1.3 Inspector

This is a more recent function, dating from the nineteenth century. Factory inspection began in 1833 and sanitary inspection in 1866. Vehicle licensing and safety checks are twentieth-century functions and food inspection is even more recent. The state with its inspectors is enforcing standards in numerous fields.


3.1.4 Allocator of values

Because of its activities in rewarding some sections of society and penalising others the modern state is very much involved in making value-judgements. This is especially so with the redistribution of income, collected through the state's function as tax gatherer, taking place under the umbrella of what is called the 'Welfare State'. Some of these functions go back to the late nineteenth century




  1. Provider for the poor. This is the oldest social function, beginning with the Elizabethan Poor Law. Money is paid, though often with increasing reluctance, to people not able to provide for themselves.  


  2. Educator. Education is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16 and is largely administered by local governments though, increasingly, central government has intervened as inspector and regulator.  


  3. Insurance agent. The state makes provision for people in work against sickness and unemployment. Contributions by citizens to these schemes helps to provide benefit after retirement in the form of old age pensions.  


4. House builder and landlord. In Britain this function dates from the 1920s when 'homes fit for heroes to live in' were provided for ex-servicemen of the First World War. Provision was delegated to local governments who rented them out and so became landlords.  


  5. Doctor and nurse. Since 1947 British governments have administered a National Health Service, providing free medical care to the population.  


  3.1.5 Coordinator


The modern state is a coordinator in three ways: it coordinates functions, resources and policies

1. To coordinate functions governments have increasingly structured themselves on hierarchical lines. In parliamentary government there is a tendency to ranking among ministers with not all departmental ministers being in the cabinet. There is what S.E. Finer called the 'cone of command' with the prime minister at the top. 2 The increase in the functions of the state which has gradually taken place has led to more layering of power, and this is bound to lead to more coordination

2. The coordination of resources takes place in national treasuries which vet the annual estimates of expenditure of all government departments. A process of evaluation and prioritisation takes place with treasuries arbitrating between different claims. Demands from sections of the electorate and pressure groups are great, and these tend to be passed on to appropriate government departments

3. The coordination of policies is necessary because of the proliferation of policy-making. In Britain the trend is for more of it to proceed in committees and sub-committees of the Cabinet and especially in inter-departmental committees of civil servants. Ultimate synchronisation, at one time achieved through the Cabinet Office, has in recent years passed increasingly to the Prime Minister's Office. As economic policy and the management of it has become more and more important, the necessity for a position giving national direction and supervising the steering has correspondingly increased


  15.   Kenneth Dyson sums up the theory of the state until recent times in two ways. First, he makes a historical analysis, perceiving the state at three different periods of social and economic development.  


  1. The state as a reflection of a hierarchic social order. It would be incorrect to speak of a 'feudal state', but where feudal relics linger and there is a society with fairly well-defined status differences this type can be identified. Nineteenth-century European states were of this nature and the collaborationist Vichy regime in France (1940-44) was an attempt at its restoration.  


  2. The state as a reflection of an individualistic social order. This is a reaction against 1. above. It is consequent upon the emergence of a market economy and entrepreneurial capitalism and assumes a non-interventionist state with people being allowed greater freedom to pursue their own course of action. No state has ever approached an absolute position on this. It remains an ideal.  


  3. The state as an embodiment of the community. This is a reaction against the individualistic state and its alleged lack of coherence. The state is needed to assert 'public good' against individual pressures and to lay down the proper moral values. This could be the position of most democratic political parties except those holding the views of classical liberalism.  





  Dyson also suggested three non-historical conceptions of the state.  


  1. The state as legitimacy. This incorporated 'the state as law' as long as the laws were accepted by the people as right and proper. It rejected the 'state as might' assuming that nothing based on sheer force could be legitimate.  


  2. The state as law. This conception was implied by Weber, but was best stated in the exegesis of Hans Kelsen (1883-1973) whose theory was that legal systems were based on ordered norms. Among positive norms the most general is the constitution, the  



Grundnorm which, in political terms, is the framework for other norms. This constituted the formal theory of the Rechtsstaat.  


  3. The state as might (Macht). This goes back to Machiavelli and Hobbes, but finds its best expression in the political philosophers of two countries which had achieved late nationhood through armed struggle. In Italy the elitists, Mosca and Pareto (see Chapter 15) perceived the state as an instrument of force manipulated by elites. A united Germany, Bismarck said, would be achieved by 'blood and iron'. This sentiment was reflected in the writings of the historian Heinrich von Treitschke (1834-96) who said war was an element that unites nations, 6 and more recently of Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), who described politics as concerned with the friend-enemy relationship. He began as a protagonist of the state-as-law school, but joined the Nazis in 1933.  


  Yet the 'state as might' has not been monopolised by nationalists. In his account of phases of history Karl Marx argued that the state had always been used as an instrument of repression by the class that at that time owned the means of production (see Chapter 13) Under capitalism the state was controlled by the capitalist class who oppressed the industrial workers. When they revolted and overthrew capitalism the means of production would belong to everyone. There could be no class domination and the state would 'wither away'.  




Political Socialization (answer # 27)

Definition: the process through which the individual gets political knowledge, feelings and evaluation regarding the political system

The values and assumptions people hold about politics are acquired in a process called political socialization, which simply means the learning political values and factual assumptions about politics

Through political socialization people understand, accept, and usually approve and support the existing political system.

Agents of political socialization (answer # 28)

Definition: The person by which and the setting in which the process of political socialization is accomplished are called the agents of political socialization.

The family is responsible for, among other things, determining ones attitudes toward religion and establishing career goals

The school is the agency responsible for socializing groups of young people in particular skills and values in society. In all states, there is some degree of guided socialization through the schools. The schools attempt to mold the citizenry according to the ideals of the state.

Peer groups refer either to a group of people who are friends or to people of similar age and characteristics. Peer groups are extremely influential in developing adolescents tastes and their view of the world but they vary considerably in their political impact

Mass media include newspaper, magazines, radio, and films, CDs, internet, etc. We are depended on the media for what we know and how we relate to the world of politics because of the media-politics connection. We read or watch commentary by experts.

Other Agents: State, Religion, Political events, Art

Social-demographic influences: Geographical Region, Race, social class, gender and age

Date: 2015-12-17; view: 537

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