Modern States

Topics: Political philosophy, Max Weber, Sociology Pages: 8 (2595 words) Published: April 21, 2014
The State in the Modern Day Context

The state can be seen as a concept which has emerged over thousands of years in order to sustain the needs of societies growing in size and complexity. This growth in size and complexity was coupled with the growing need for authority and order, due to special mechanisms being needed for society to benefit from its increased social power and productive capacity (Petho, 2010:6). State formation passes through stages of development and hinges upon ecological, demographic, economic and political factors (Petho, 2010:2). As a result of this, not all states developed in the same way. States which developed prior to 1945 and post-1945 experienced very different state formation as well as a changed economic environment (Spruyt, 2007:223;25). This literature review will aim to analyse the literature covering the way in which the modern state is defined as well as the two theories which discuss how it came to prominence as we know it today, additionally reference will be made to how the modern state differs from the post-colonial state in Africa. The modern state is a concept which does not hold a universally accepted definition largely due to the inability of all scholars to agree upon a brief generally acceptable definition, as asserted by Pierson (2004); he raises the notion that even the concept of the state itself remains unresolved as the questions which surround the state cannot be answered with absolute certainty (Pierson, 2004:1). Although, the most famous definition is provided by Max Weber and it defines the state as a “political institutional organisation” whose “administrative staff can successfully exercise a monopoly of legitimate physical force in the execution of its orders” (Anter, 2014:11). However, across the reviewed literature there are a set of common characteristics which are prevalent as the requirements a state needs to meet in order to be considered a modern state. These criterion are much influenced by the above-mentioned definition as well as Max Weber’s work in general, they are as follows:

1. Monopoly of the Means of Violence
This monopoly, or control, of the means of violence is in many ways the primary characteristic which is most often cited when discussing the features of the modern state. This is largely due to it being given great prominence existing at the heart of Max Weber’s above-mentioned definition (Shennan, 1974:2). While Shennan (1974) merely explains that the monopoly of the means of violence denotes that a state possess the capacity to impose itself should its rule be questioned or challenged, Pierson (2004) elaborates by raising the notion that the monopoly is found in the fact that only the state is legitimately allowed to use coercion in order to get its way. He stresses the importance of the state as a form of organized violence (Pierson, 2004:7). Shennan (1974) however does raise the question as to how one would distinguish between the legitimate and illegitimate use of force and for this reason scholars succeeding to Weber have since dropped the factor of legitimacy from their definitions. 2. Population

Samson (2012) stresses the importance of population or citizenship as the essential basis of statehood as a state cannot exist without the presence of its citizens. The modern state does not recognise nomadic practices therefore inhabitants must reside within the state’s territory in order to gain citizenship. This citizenship bestows individuals with equality within the political community (Samson, 2012:363). However, Pierson (2004) contests this as he goes on to say that not every individual residing within a sovereignty will enjoy full citizenship rights, as citizen status is not always distributed equally and in a just manner (Pierson, 2003:22). Pierson (2004) views the concept of citizenship as one which is exclusive, rather than automatically granted on the basis of residing within the borders of a specific polity. 3....
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