2. WEEK 5-6
Theories and Models of State
(Heywood, Chapter 5, pp. 92-106)
Rival theories of the state: The pluralist state; the
capitalist state; the leviathan state; the patriarchal state.
The role of the state: Minimal state, developmental, social
democratic state, collectivized state, totalitarian state.
The state in a global era: The state and globalization;
3. Basic Questions Answered
1. What are the different roles of states?
2. What are the philosophical bases of different theories of
3. How has the role and power of the state changed?
4. What is a state?
• A political unit with sovereignty.
• A political entity that exercises sovereign jurisdiction
within given territorial borders.
• A system of centralized rule that tends to dominate
political life in all its forms.
e.g. Financial Bailouts and taxation of individual savings by
Is that fair? Would a democratic state do that?
5. Rival Theories of the State
• Pluralist State
• Capitalist State
• Leviathan State
• Patriarchal State
6. Pluralist Theory of the State
• Pluralist theory of the state has liberal origins. This
theory suggests that:
• The state is a neutral body that arbitrates between
competing interests of the society.
• The state’s mission should be to act like a ‘referee’
and protect citizens and their rights from other fellow
citizens. (Show yellow and red cards?)
• Roots of this theory can be traced back to Thomas
Hobbes and John Locke who argued that the state came
out of a need to protect ourselves against the ‘state of
nature’. What is the state of nature?
7. Pluralist Theory of the State
• As Locke put it “where there is no law there is no
• Therefore, the state should guarantee natural rights of
‘life, liberty and property’.
• Being safe from harm (murder)?
• Speaking your mind ?
• Contractual agreements being held ?
• For Hobbes the state needs to provide a strong
alternative to anarchy by being the ultimate power.
8. Pluralist Theory of the State
• Pluralism assumes that power is widely and evenly
dispersed in societies (at least in liberal democracies).
• Therefore, different interest groups could, in theory,
influence state decisions.
e.g. The US government and the issue of abortion
(Pro-life versus Pro-choice groups)
The Congress on Obamacare
(Insurance companies versus Poor citizens)
9. Pluralist Theory of the State
• There are several assumptions that underpin this
1. The state is subordinate to government: police and military (and
other unelected bodies) serve the elected.
2. The government after being elected remains responsive to public
• Do these assumptions hold?
10. Critique of Pluralism: Neo-pluralism
• Dahl, Lindblom and Galbraith, amongst others, point out
to a need to revise our expectations from the pluralist
• They point out that business interests are more
advantageous in being represented.
• Similarly, the state bureaucracy itself also can pursue its
• What is the way out? More checks and balances on the
state? Transparency? More elements of direct democracy
11. The Capitalist State according to the Marxist
Theory of the State
• Marxist theory of the state is an alternative to pluralist
theory of the state.
• Marxists argue that the state cannot be understood
separately from the economy and economic structure of
• Marxists argue that the state maintains the class system
by either oppressing subordinate classes or elevating
• There is a diverse set of views within Marxist theory.
12. Marxist Theory of the State
• Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) did not provide a complete theory of
the state. He believed that the state was part of the
superstructure determined by the economic base forming the
foundation of social life.
• The capitalist state is an instrument of class rule or a means of
arbitrating between competing classes so as to perpetuate a
system of unequal class power.
• In other words, the state is there to serve the purpose of the
ruling economic classes in capitalist states (the bourgeoisie).
• Marxist theory heavily depends on the idea of surplus value.
Which postulated that the earnings for the factors of production
are not equally distributed. Labour produces more value added
but does not get its share (Land, Labour, Capital,
Entrepreneurship Rent, Wages, Interest, Profit).
• What is the solution?
13. Marxist Theory of the State
• Marx sees that as class conflict disappears the state will
• A fully communist society, he purported, would also be
• i.e. Marx predicts that state would lose its necessity to
exist once the class system is erased. This is because the
state emerged out of the class system, once the system
is abolished it will seize to exist.
• Do we have any evidence of this?
14. Marxist to Neo-Marxist Theory
• Neo-marxism refer to the attempts of new generation of
theorists to revise Marx’s ideas.
• They refuse to consider economy, single mindedly, as the
only factor explaining political and social relations.
• They also look at weaknesses of Marx’s predictions and
consider ideology and state power as other factors.
• Ralph Miliband, Nicos Poulantzas are examples of
theorists providing alternatives.
15. Other Theories of the State that revise
• Critical Theory: Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno
• The Culture Industry and Dialectics of Enlightenment
• Deliberative Democracy: Jürgen Habarmas
• Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy
16. The Leviathan State
• The leviathan state is a state that pursues its own interest
that are separate from society.
• This results in the ever increasing powers of the state.
• For example the interventionist policies of the 20th century
were not demanded by the public but was a result of
internal dynamics of the state.
• Most contemporary right wing theorists (of neo-liberal
orientation) view state to be encroaching on the rights of
the individuals and societies and demand minimum state
17. The Patriarchal State
• Patriarchy is a term used to refer to the domination of society by men,
leading to oppression and exploitation of women.
• This takes many forms from domination in the family to imbalance of
power in all social and political relations between men and women.
• Feminism and feminist theories of the state highlight the deep
injustices towards women.
• Liberal feminists accept a pluralist view of the state and want women
to acquire legal and political equality. They do not question the
impartiality of the state. E.g. More women in the parliament
• Radical feminists, on the other hand, argue that gender divisions are
the most significant division in society. They highlight the state’s role
in implementing the public-private divide.
• There isn’t a single feminist theory of the state. There are a diverse
set of views within feminist theory: First wave feminism, second-wave
feminism(e.g. Simone de Beauvoir), third wave feminism(e.g. Judith
Butler) and Post-feminism.
18. The Role of the State
• The minimal state
• The developmental state
• The social-democratic state
• The collectivized state
• The totalitarian state
19. The minimal state
• Minimal states merely lay down the conditions for orderly
• Minimal states could be understood as protective bodies
which provide only a framework of peace and social order
within which citizens can conduct their lives as they think
• In a minimal state, decisions are usually made at the
smallest possible political unit such as a town assembly or
a municipality (local government).
• Libertarian ideology is know to support such a state.
• E.g. Local schools would be run by the residents of the
neighbourhood. Any disadvantages?
20. The developmental state
• Developmental states attempt to promote growth and
• These are states that intervene in economic life for the
specific purpose of promoting industrial growth and
• Best example to this type of a state would be post-WWII
Japan with its government organized conglomerates
21. The social-democratic state
• Social-democratic states aim to rectify (correct, cure) the
imbalances and injustices of a market economy.
• Business cycles (booms and busts) are common in market
economies and these coupled with externalities (pollution,
income inequality) defeat the purpose of having a market
economy. Social democratic states attempt to correct these
ugly sides of market economies.
• These states are also called ‘Welfare States’. Examples include
Scandinavian states of Norway, Sweden, Finland as well as the
United Kingdom in some aspects (free healthcare).
• They mostly provide free healthcare and free education to their
citizens (‘Cradle to Grave’ care of citizens)
• Social-democratic states are states that practice economic and
22. The collectivized state
• Collectivized states exert control over the entirety of
economic life, usually through a system of central
• Soviet Socialist Republics of the Cold War period are a
e.g. Shoes. Green plastic boots of size 42 only.
23. • Totalitarian states are all-encompassing states whose
influence penetrates every aspect of human existence,
thus abolishing the distinction between the state and civil
• Totalitarian states bring politicization of every issue are
and, destroy civil society.
e.g. Driving. Who can drive a car?
e.g. Reading and Writing. Who can go to school?
e.g. Who should shave?
The Totalitarian State
24. Globalization and the State
• Post-sovereign governance:
• rise of globalization lead to the decline of the state as an international
• Power has moved away from the state and towards markets [thus
Transnational Companies (TNCs)]
• Economic activity takes place in a borderless world and this is
called ‘supraterritoriality’. This limits the ‘economic sovereignty’
of states. e.g. Inflow and outflow of capital.
• Nonetheless, successful economies and markets depend on
the legal and social order created and maintained by states.
• Globalization also has social and cultural results
• Some theorists claim that ‘time and space’ is no longer existing.
Shares are traded in different time zones at the same time. With the
ease of travel and other technologies the idea of ‘space’ disappeared.
25. Revision and Homework
• What is a modern state?
• What are the characteristics of states in the contemporary
• How does Weber define the state?
• Explain why the New Right is critical of the role of the
26. Further Reading
• HABERMAS, J, Theory of Communicative Action (Volume 2; London:
• HABERMAS, J, Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (Cambridge:
Polity Press, 1989 ).
• HABERMAS, J, Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse
Theory of Law and Democracy (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996).
• SPRUYT, H, The Sovereign State and Its Competitors. (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1996)