Do you agree that in modern liberal democratic societies the state is now reduced to being ‘one actor amongst many’ ?
In the contemporary world, most societies hold a liberal democratic basis. They are governed by political parties for which have been obtained the right to the legal rule through democratic election processes. In that respect, a liberal democracy is one that grants power to the government while ensuring limits of its power through a system of checks and balances. It may be described as a system that protects individuals and minorities from the potential surpasses in government power. This is ensured through laws that protect individual and minority rights. Due to these provisions, it is argued that the state has been reduced to one actor among many in the society. However, this essay seeks to bring out a contrarian view. It will be posited that the state has maintained a strong position in the society and has been use as a tool for the circulation of sectarian benefits. Similarly, the essay will explore various interpretations of power, as well as their development over the past 30 years.
In many nation-states, state power has been preformed to a greater extent than that of the civil society. An example can be seen through states administered by authoritarian regimes. In such societies, state power is so great that elections are often foregone. However, the legality of such status is weak and is readily to be eliminated (Davis 2009). Authoritarian regimes such as Communist Romania collapsed because of lack of legitimacy. There are three main views on democratic power. The first view is that of pluralism. It declares the maintenance of power among various groups in the society (Ricci 1971). The second is the Elite theory. It suggests that power in nation-states is held in the hands of a select group of elitists. The third is Marxism, as assumed by Karl Marx and Neo-Marxists. It is based on the economic power of different classes that exist in the nation-state.
Pluralism is based on societies that allow and encourage free association. As a result, various social groups are able to participate in the power sharing process. These groups attempt to promote their interests in the society through the power they have been allocated or acquired. Due to the distributed nature of power in such societies, no group may have absolute power. The very existence of varied interests discourages the emergence of absolute power in the states. In that respect, the state has a toned down role in the society. In pluralistic societies, the state merely acts as a adjuster. It attempts to satisfy the needs for these interest groups in the most equitable manner. In that respect, it may be argued that the state merely acts in response to social interests through democratic processes.
In the elite theory, power is suggest to be held within the hands of select groups, which may be described as a system of oligarchy. Therefore, power is concentrated within the means of a few in contrast to the distributed nature of pluralistic power systems. Similarly, power is acquired through a cumulative system that is based on the interests of such oligarchies. To control the state, oligarchies may join hands on the basis of common interests or goals. So arguable, the state maintains great power over the affairs of the society. It is the primary actor in the nation-state and is used in the circulation of the oligarchies’ interests.
Another version of the elitist theory can be seen through democratic elitism. In this form, the elite class still manages the affairs of the state. However, there are different groups of elites with varying interests in the nation-state, hence creating some sense of pluralism. As a result, the democratic process is more or less a competition between the elites. This creates an illusion of choice for the society with democratic accountability being the cost for participating leaders. Through this form, the...
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