Lecture 1 Notes - The State and Its Alternatives Excellent lecture notes taken with an in-depth analysis taken of each heading and main topic!!! Coincides well with the book "Contemporary Politics".
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PSCI110 Jan 6 – 11 2011
Lecture 1: The State and Its Alternatives
What is a state? What does it do?
- A State has sovereignty (The ability to implement policies without
intervention from external forces).
- Ex. Lebanon is a marginal state. Israel occupied South Lebanon. The country
cannot make many independent decisions. Policies are determined by Israeli,
Syrian, and UN based on regions.
- State is ultimate mobilizer of force of military power.
Changing Ideas to policies
- Ex. High taxes, low expenditures.
- Credible military force, government departments, infrastructures, and law and
order and economic resources are needed to implement policies.
- All big decisions will be influenced by national government.
- Highly institutionalized political entity.
- Cannot be changed easily.
- Needs collective agreement of people.
- A state will be much more difficult to overthrow once it is established.
Core Definition of a state:
Exercise of monopoly of violence over a given territory:
a) Borders need to be clearly demarcated
b) The source of military power needs to be exclusive. Warlords control military in a
country but you do not have this in a state. There’s only 1 entity in control.
Ex. Afghanistan has regions with exclusive military warlords; 8 total. Therefore
Afghanistan is a weak state because there’s no monopoly of violence.
- Warlords do not have total control of country, only of certain regions.
- Warlords were forced to act violent because of own lack of security.
- Ex. Liberia, president was tortured and cabinet ministers were tied to poles
c) Institutions to turn policies ideas into policies. Nobody knows what happens when
The Origin of the State
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PSCI110 Jan 6 – 11 2011
- Dark ages (Began with the fall of Rome, ended with Renaissance).
- A lot of small political entities, therefore, under immense pressure to protect
themselves from others through fighting.
- They fought because they had no sense of security.
- Winning wars and economic competition (trade with each other, compete on
exports and imports).
- Weaker states are eventually taken over by larger ones.
Why is a state better?
1) Economic Resources
Grow more and import much less and grow faster than others. There is higher
growth and wealth of population. People are more willing to produce economic
resources than other political entities. Why? A state has own central authority to
enable central protection. The state appoints a small group of people who become
specialists in protection (army), and others create resources to benefit.
2) Technological Innovations
People in a state are more willing to innovate because people in a non-state
because they’re not worried about their security. Once you make a profit, you
have to make sure that profits aren’t taken away. Security allows people to
3) National Identity
Achieved by providing centralized institutions (schools, languages, currency).
State would kill of people who do not believe in national identity. State becomes
weaker to mobilize a country if this is not achieved. Ex. Monopoly on violence.
- All three stem from monopoly on violence this provides safety and
The Emergence of the Modern State
- Proceeded by other political organizations: Ex. Warlords.
- Defeat and absorb, imposed by force: Beneficial in long run as it is a much
more effective political organization of a state.
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