State - Autonomous Power, Mann.docx

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Western University
Political Science
Political Science 1020E
Bruce Morrison

THE AUTONOMOUS POWER OF THE STATE: ITS ORIGINS, MECHANISMS AND RESULTS – MANN  I define the state and then pursue the implications of that definition  I argue that the state autonomy, of both despotic and infrastructural forms, flows principally from the state’s unique ability to provide a territorially centralized form of organization  Though such theories disagree about many things, they are united in denying significant autonomous power of the state  One major obstacle has been itself political. The main alternative theory which appears to uphold state autonomy has been associated with rather unpleasant politics  The final (deeply ironic) outcome was that militarist theory was defeated on the battlefield by the combined forces of Marxist Russia and the liberal democratic and functionalist western allies  The state is still nothing in itself it is merely the embodiment of physical force in society. Te state is not an arena where domestic economic/ideological issues are resolved, rather it is an arena in which military force is mobilized domestically and used domestically and above all internationally  I will argue in this paper that the state is merely and essentially an arena, a place and yet this is the very source of its autonomy  The state is undeniably a messy concept. The main problem is that most definitions contain two different levels of analysis, the institutional and the functional  It contains a predominant institutional element:: states can be recognized by the central location of their differentiated institutions. Yet it also contains a functional element; the essence of the state’s functions is a monopoly of binding rule making  I shall contrast state elites with power groupings whose base lies outside the state, in civil society. I divide these into three: ideological, economic and military groups  The despotic powers of many historical states have been virtually unlimited  The contemporary Soviet state/party elite, as trustees of the interests of the masses, also possess considerable despotic (though sometimes strictly unconstitutional) power  Despotic power is also usually what is meant in the literature by autonomy of power  Infrastructural power, the capacity of the state to actually penetrate civil society, and to implement logistically political decisions throughout the realm  Its influence on the overall economy is enormous; it even directly provides the subsistence of most of us (in state employment, in pensions, in family allowances etc) the state penetrates everyday life more than did any historical state  If we turn from elected politicians to permanent bureaucrats we still do not find them exercising significant autonomous power over civil society  For example, the greater the state’s infrastructural power, the greater the volume of binding rule making, and therefore the greater the likelihood of despotic power over individuals and perhaps over marginal, minority groups  The feudal state is the weakest, for it has both low despotic and low infrastructural power  The imperial state possess its own governing agents, but has only limited capacity to penetrate the co-ordinate civil society without the assistance of other power groups  Bureaucracy has a high organizational capacity, yet cannot set its own goals; and the bureaucratic state is controlled by others, civil society groups, but their decisions once taken are enforceable through the state’s infrastructure  Authoritarian is intended to suggest a more institutionalized form of despotism, in which competing power groupings cannot evade the infrastructural reach of the state, nor are they structurally separate from the state  All significant social power must go through the authoritative command structure of the state  States generally accept the rules and rationality of the surrounding capitalist economy  There has been no general development tendency in despotic powers  The history of despotism has been one of oscillation not development  The growth of infrastructural power of the state is one in the logistics of political control  Societies in general, not just their states, have advanced their powers. Thus none of these techniques necessarily changes the relationship between a state and its civil society; and none is necessarily pioneered by either the state or civil society  Literacy was restricted to the bureaucracy, stabilized its systems of justice and communications and so provided infrastructural support to a state despotism, through apparently in some kind of alliance with a property-owning economic class  Yet the general utility of literacy was now recognized by civil society groups  What has started by bolstering despotism continued by undermining it when the techniques spread beyond state confines  Infrastructural techniques diffuse outwards from the particular power organizations that invented them  My answer is in three stages, touching upon the necessity of the state, its multiplicity of functions, and its territorialized centrality  The only stateless societies have been primitive  Feudal states tend to emerge either as a check to the further disintegration of a once-unified larger state  Thus societies with states have had superior survival value to those without them  In the long-run normally taken for granted, but enforceable rules are necessary to bind together strangers or semi-strangers. It is not requisite that all these rules are set by a single monopolistic state  From this functionality derives the potentiality for exploitation, a lever for the achievement of private state interests  Despite the assertions of reductionists, most states have no in practice devoted themselves to the pursuit of a single function. Binding rule making is merely an umbrella term  The maintenance of internal order. This may benefit all or all law abiding subjects of the state  But probably the main benefit is to protect existing property relations from the mass of property-less. This function probably best serves a dominant economic class constituency  Military defence/aggression, directed against foreign foes  The maintenance of communication infrastructures” rouds – though few have monopolized all of these, all states have provided some, because they have a territorial basis which often most efficiently organized from a centre  Economic redistribution: the authoritative distribution of scarce material resources between different ecological niches, age groups, sexes, regions, classes etc. There is a strongly collective element in this function  This also gives the state a particular constituency among merchants and other international agents – who, however are rarely in agreement about desirable trade policy  This is the case of a transitional state, living amid profound economic transformations from one mode of production to another  States used war as a means of attempting to reduce their dependence on classes  But the balancing possibilities are much more numerous if the state is involved in a multiplicity of relations with groups which may on some issues be narrower than classes and on others wider  The definition of the state concentrates upon its institutional, territorial, centralized nature. This is the third, and most important precondition of state power. As noted, the state does not possess a distinctive means of power independent of, and analogous to, economic, military and ideological power  State does so differ socio-spatically and organizationally from the major power groupings of civil society  Economic power expansion is not authoritative, commanded it is diffused, informally  They do not exercise general control of a specific territory, they control a spec
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