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About this book

We live in a world governed by states whose enduring importance and domination of contemporary politics has been strikingly underlined by their renewed activism in the face of a global economic crisis.

Yet the very nature of states remains deeply contested, with a range of competing theories offering very different views of how they actually do or should operate. In the past this competition has lead to deep ideological conflict – and even to war. In this major new work, John S. Dryzek and Patrick Dunleavy provide a broad-ranging assessment of classical and contemporary theories of the state, focusing primarily on the democratic state form that has come to dominate modern politics.

The authors' starting point is the classical theories of the state: pluralism, elite theory, Marxism and market liberalism. They then turn to the contemporary forms of pluralism prevalent in political science, systematically exploring how they address central issues, such as networked governance, globalization, and changing patterns of electoral and identity politics. They proceed to analyse a range of key contemporary critiques of modern states and democracy that have emerged from feminism, environmentalism, neo-conservatism and post-modernism. Each approach is carefully introduced and analysed as far as possible in relation to a common set of issues and headings.

Theories of the Democratic State takes the reader straight to the heart of contemporary issues and debates and, in the process, provides a challenging and distinctive introduction to and reassessment of contemporary political science.

Table of Contents

The State and Liberal Democratic Politics

Chapter 1. The State and Liberal Democratic Politics

Abstract
For the first time in human history a majority of people worldwide now lives in more or less liberal democratic states. This achievement rests in turn on the idea of the state itself — a form of government that is now near-universal. Originating in Europe in the seventeenth century, the modern state form was invented in response to some otherwise intractable and murderous political problems stemming from religious conflicts. From there, aided by the expansion of European imperialism and migration, the idea of the state spread worldwide, providing a framework for organizing government that progressively eroded or displaced most rivals — chiefly informal or tribal systems, feudal regimes, empires and more short-lived competitors such as communes, city-states and leagues of cities (Spruyt 1994). Yet the age of state dominance may have peaked. Some observers identify a new globalized international order that shifts key decisions beyond the reach of individual states. Others see these developments as minor adjustments to a world-system essentially still run by states.
John S. Dryzek, Patrick Dunleavy

The Classical Theories

Frontmatter

Chapter 2. Pluralism

Abstract
Pluralism is a belief in many (plural) ways of life, many approaches to knowledge and many centres of power in society, committed to moderate, non-rancorous competition. These conditions are thought by pluralists to be best achieved, and ultimately perhaps only achievable, under liberal democracy. Intellectually, pluralism is opposed to all forms of ‘monism’ in political and social thought — those belief systems which appeal to a single philosophical idea or over-arching value, a single theory of history or evolutionary path, a single culture or way of life, a single religion or sacred book, or a single centre of government.
John S. Dryzek, Patrick Dunleavy

Chapter 3. Elite Theory

Abstract
An enduring critique of liberal democracy originated at the end of the nineteenth century in two newly unified and very imperfectly democratized European states; Germany and Italy. This critique contrasted the inherent concentration of power in any political system within a small, leadership group, the elite, with the powerless situation of the bulk of citizens, the mass. Elite theorists argued that whatever the ostensible form of government, an elite minority must always rule. They scorned both liberal claims about democratization under capitalism and Marxist beliefs that after a social revolution the working class majority could effectively govern.
John S. Dryzek, Patrick Dunleavy

Chapter 4. Marxism

Abstract
When Karl Marx died in London in March 1883 he was a stateless intellectual without a will. His funeral was attended by just 11 mourners and attracted few press mentions. These may seem unpromising origins for a theorist to achieve global significance. But Marxism became a worldwide belief system, professed by Communist regimes, which 80 years after Marx’s death governed a third of all human beings. Marxism also influenced many on the left in Western countries who bitterly rejected Communist regimes as totalitarian and anti-democratic, a gross perversion of all that Marx intended in the struggle for equal freedom for everyone when he urged: ‘Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains’. Marx himself once declared ‘I am not a Marxist’, rejecting the simplified versions of his ideas propounded by disciples.
John S. Dryzek, Patrick Dunleavy

Chapter 5. Market Liberalism

Abstract
Market liberalism seeks to reform government in the belief that capitalism is the optimal system for discovering and using knowledge, for securing prosperity, and for promoting economic and political freedom. Clearly then it flatly opposes Marxism, but its adherents also criticize pluralism and any theory of the state that allows a positive role for government planning.
John S. Dryzek, Patrick Dunleavy

Pluralist Transformations

Frontmatter

Chapter 6. From Neo-pluralism to Governance

Abstract
In Chapter 2 we left pluralism shaken by the political events of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Pluralism then had to repel attacks from market liberals who saw groups as obstructions to the public interest, as well as cope with the lingering hostility of elite theory and Marxism. Some pluralists were eventually ready to ask some serious questions (of the sort they had hitherto ignored) about the unequal distribution of power across different sorts of groups. We begin this chapter with the consequent development of ‘neo-pluralism’, and then turn to how pluralism has since evolved in other ways that enable it to escape its once close ties to the mid twentieth century status quo in US politics.
John S. Dryzek, Patrick Dunleavy

Chapter 7. Competitive Electoral Politics

Abstract
There is much more to democracy than elections. Yet elections are central to the particular form of democracy that has come to characterize most liberal states. As President Franklin Roosevelt put it: ‘The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a president and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country’. Many observers treat the presence of competitive elections as the minimal requirement for a state to be called democratic. However, the criteria of freedom and fairness normally applied to elections require civil liberties and unconstrained choice for voters, conditions that are often not met in practice. So the mere presence of periodic votes involving the broad population is insufficient to validate the democratic credentials of any state — as contemporary Russia, Singapore and many African countries like Kenya and Zimbabwe continue to demonstrate.
John S. Dryzek, Patrick Dunleavy

Chapter 8. Identity Politics

Abstract
The classic theories covered in earlier chapters (pluralism, elitism, Marxism, and markat-liberalism) all miss what is arguably the most important fact about the modern state: that it is above all a nation state. Nationalists believe that each state (or at least their own state) should match a nation defined by history, community, language or ethnicity. In earlier eras some empires (such as the Habsburgs and Ottomans) could accommodate large numbers of different ethnicities. But modern state-building elites have often tried to homogenize identities within the territory they control or claim. Yet such homogenization has often been challenged by alternative or minority religions, language groups, ethnicities and cultures. Claims to nationhood associated with a state can be contested, sometimes bitterly. ‘At present the fate of ethnic and national groups around the world is in the hands of xenophobic nationalists, religious extremists and military dictators. If liberalism is to have chance of taking hold in these countries, it must explicitly address the needs and aspirations of national minorities’ (Kymlicka 1995: 195).
John S. Dryzek, Patrick Dunleavy

Critiques of the State

Frontmatter

Chapter 9. Democratic Critique and Renewal

Abstract
In 1989 Francis Fukuyama famously proclaimed ‘the end of history’, by which he meant the exhaustion of any serious global rival to liberal democracy plus capitalism as a political model (see also Fukuyama 1992). Though allowing variations on the liberal democratic model (encompassing, for example, Scandinavian social democracy), in Fukuyama’s account the days of struggling for any qualitatively better form of democracy were over. Political scientists who studied the transition of post-communist societies and other countries escaping authoritarianism almost all treated democratization in terms of the spread of a standard liberal democratic model — free and fair elections plus a basic set of rights guaranteed in a constitution — to ever more parts of the world. After 2001, the USA under President George W. Bush enthusiastically took up democratization as a global project, again defining democracy in terms consistent with Fukuyama and the democratization scholars. In all of these endeavours, there was no sense that democracy itself might need deepening — not least in the homes of liberal democracy in the West. In this chapter we sketch the degree to which liberal democracies themselves may in fact fail to live up to democratic ideals — and what might be done about it.
John S. Dryzek, Patrick Dunleavy

Chapter 10. Feminist Theory of the State

Abstract
Politics has generally been dominated by men, practiced according to patterns of male behaviour, and structured by male interests. For all their differences, pluralism, elite theory, Marxism and market liberalism had little or nothing to say about the gendered nature of politics, and how it affects the way that the state works. Feminists argue that as a result they all missed one of the key foundational facts of politics, in the liberal democratic state no less than elsewhere. The feminist theory of the state involves explication and criticism of male domination, together with prescriptions about how it might be remedied. Beyond this common core, feminism is a diverse body of thought whose adherents differ on some matters of theory and practice. It is also an evolving social movement as well as an academic outlook. Some feminists have sought to link their ideas to liberalism, pluralism, elite theory (at least in its later form involving critique of elite dominance) and Marxism. Feminist links to market liberalism are harder to discern. Other more radical feminists keep their distance from all of these classic positions in the theory of the state, treating the state as bound up with patriarchy, hierarchical rule by men, in its very essence.
John S. Dryzek, Patrick Dunleavy

Chapter 11. Environmental Theory of the State

Abstract
States are some of the main institutions that affect society’s interactions with the ecosystems that sustain human and non-human life on this planet. And just as the political economy can generate crises that re-shape the state in powerful ways, so can the political ecology. From the ecological point of view, the degree to which humanity will flourish or diminish depends crucially on political responses to these crises, prominent among which is climate change. Political responses here are not confined to the policy actions of states, and as we will see many environmentalists have developed a critique of the state which stresses the need for political action above the level of the state in global action, below the level of the state in local activism, and across states in transnational coordination. ‘The possible political arrangements in a sustainable society seem to range all the way from radical decentralisation to a world government’ Dobson (1995). But for better or for worse, the state is going to play a central part in any re-shaping of the political ecology (Eckersley 2004).
John S. Dryzek, Patrick Dunleavy

Chapter 12. The Conservative Reaction

Abstract
Conservatives are those who adopt a moralistic approach to politics that is often combined with strong appreciation of the role a particular society’s traditions play in assuring social cohesion and political stability. Contemporary right-wing political parties (such as the British Conservative Party and US Republican Party) often feature an uncomfortable mix of true conservatives and market liberals (described in Chapter 5). Market liberals are not true conservatives because they care nothing for communities, public morality and traditions, only for individuals and markets. Some true conservatives want to turn the clock back to a world where social order was firmly established and everyone knew their place in it. Other conservatives accept that the world changes and that there is a need to adjust, slowly and carefully. More recently a third offshoot of conservatism has convulsed the United States and, through US foreign policy, the world. This ‘neo-conservatism’ is highly moralistic and opposed to the civic decay of contemporary societies, but unlike more established conservatism it happily embraces radical policies to achieve its goals.
John S. Dryzek, Patrick Dunleavy

Beyond the State

Frontmatter

Chapter 13. Post-modernism

Abstract
Somewhat like the conservatives, post-modernists point to the unique features of particular cultures, and criticize universal practices and principles that ride roughshod over differences. However, unlike conservatives, post-modernists see little or no value in any traditions that characterize the community as a whole, still less any national community, still less any national community to which a state is attached. Post-modernists see their own task mainly in terms of disrupting established understandings of this sort, rather than reinforcing such understandings after the conservative fashion. But this disruption is generally not in the name of universal principles that attract liberals, deliberative democratic reformers, Marxists, greens and feminists (though some creative thinkers try to stretch post-modernism in the direction of all five of these schools of thought). What this disruption is in the name of is not always clear. Different thinkers have supplied different answers, but disruption for its own sake is one possible answer.
John S. Dryzek, Patrick Dunleavy

Chapter 14. Globalization

Abstract
Globalization is the process of integrating social, cultural, economic and possibly political systems into a single global system that extends across the boundaries of states. Interactions across the boundaries of states increase in frequency relative to interactions within states. So globalization is a process rather than an accomplishment. This recognition begs many questions: how far along this path are contemporary societies? Is there resistance to such integration, and if so are reverses possible? Have such reverses indeed already occurred, and if so when? Is convergence on a single global system now inevitable, or can it be resisted? Does globalization apply to some societies more than others? Will the state wither away in the face of globalization, or will the state retain important roles in globalizing and globalized systems? Clearly there are potentially major consequences for states — and also for the theory of the state. At one extreme, globalization threatens to render the national sovereign state obsolete, dissolving the state into global or transnational forms of power. As yet, this outcome remains remote. But globalization does not leave any state unscathed. In this chapter we look at its consequences for contemporary liberal democratic states, and how states might respond to these challenges.
John S. Dryzek, Patrick Dunleavy

Chapter 15. Current and Future Debates about the State

Abstract
Writing about debates in academia (and philosophy in particular), the sociologist Randall Collins famously formulated an ‘intellectual Law of Small Numbers’. Its central proposition is that ‘the number of active schools of thought which reproduce themselves for more than one or two generations in an argumentative community is of the order of three to six’ (1998: 81). The lower limit must be two (because you cannot argue with yourself) and the number is almost invariably three in any reasonably creative period. The upper limit reflects recurring evidence that although intellectuals may spawn more positions in creative periods many will struggle to acquire adherents over the long term. When more than six positions exist some are reclassified as variants of bigger views and others ‘are not propagated across subsequent generations’. Thus: ‘Positions appear and disappear, grow stronger or weaker in adherents. The Law of Small Numbers holds sway amidst the flux’ (Collins 1998: 81). These propositions seem relevant for the landscape we have described here.
John S. Dryzek, Patrick Dunleavy
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