state: see government.
State, United States Department of, executive department of the federal government responsible, under the President's direction, for the making and execution of American foreign policy.

Current Organization and Duties

The secretary of state, who heads the department, is aided by a deputy secretary and five undersecretaries—for political affairs, economic, business, and agricultural affairs, arms control and international security affairs, management, and global affairs. Six assistant secretaries direct the regional bureaus of African, European, East Asian and Pacific, Western Hemisphere, Near East, and South Asian affairs. The department is charged not only with determining and executing foreign policy, but also with supervising more than 100 embassies, numerous consulates, and special missions. The power over foreign policy assigned to the secretary of state is limited by the role the president takes in foreign affairs.

Evolution and Reorganizations

The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

The first government body in America to deal with foreign affairs was the Committee of Secret Correspondence—a committee of five instituted (1775) by the Continental Congress and headed by Benjamin Franklin. In 1777 it was redesignated the Committee of Foreign Affairs, but this body after a time became so ineffective that it ceased to have jurisdiction. This committee was superseded in 1781 by the Dept. of Foreign Affairs, which, operating under the Articles of Confederation, also became ineffective.

After the new government was organized under the Constitution of the United States, an act was passed (July, 1789) creating a new Dept. of Foreign Affairs. It was reorganized in Sept., 1789, as the Dept. of State gaining added functions. Besides being charged with foreign negotiations and correspondence, the department was given duties such as keeping the Great Seal of the United States and receiving the bills and resolutions of Congress. The Dept. of State is the oldest of the federal departments, and thus the secretary of state, at the head of the department, is the first ranking cabinet officer. Thomas Jefferson, the first secretary of state (1790-93), quickly brought prestige to the department, which was soon given added responsibilities: supervision of the U.S. Mint, the issuing of patents and copyrights, and the printing of the U.S. census. The responsibilities of the mint were transferred (1795) to the U.S. Treasury Dept. After 1849 many of the domestic responsibilities of the Dept. of State were transferred to the U.S. Dept. of the Interior. The affairs of the territories were supervised by the department until 1873, when they also were given to the Dept. of the Interior.

In the field of foreign affairs, the department did not expand much in the 18th cent. but thereafter grew in ever-widening circles. Under Secretary John Quincy Adams (1817-25) the department's organization was clarified and improved, but the first major reorganization was effected by Secretary Louis McLane (1833-34) and Secretary John Forsyth (1834-41). Later, salaries were generally increased, more personnel added to meet the growing needs, and the position of first assistant secretary of state was created (1853). Three additional assistant secretaryships were later created in the department, and in 1919 the office of undersecretary of state was established. In 1855, Congress passed a law formulating grades, posts, and salaries in both the diplomatic and the consular service attached to the department, and 50 years later diplomatic and consular positions, except for the posts of ambassador and minister, were put on a civil-service basis.

Largely through the efforts of Hamilton Fish (1808-93), who headed the department from 1869 to 1877, a sweeping reorganization of the Dept. of State was effected in 1870. To meet the demands of an economy-minded Congress, Fish made 31 officials the nucleus of the department and divided its activities among nine bureaus and two agencies. The First Diplomatic Bureau was set up to supervise correspondence with European and East Asian countries, and the Second Diplomatic Bureau was given jurisdiction over American diplomacy in Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa. The consular activities were similarly organized in 1870.

Very few changes occurred in the department's organization in the later years of the 19th cent., but when the United States became a world power after the end of the Spanish-American War, there was a need for adjustments. Several important steps were taken during the secretaryships of John Hay (1898-1905) and Elihu Root (1905-9), but it was not until 1909, in the administration of Philander C. Knox, that the department was reorganized with the essentials of its present-day structure. Several new posts, notably those of counselor and resident diplomatic officer, were set up, the duties assigned to the assistant secretaries of state were altered, and foreign policy and relations were reorganized along geographical divisions—Western European, Middle Eastern, Far Eastern, and Latin American.

The Twentieth Century

Before and during World War I, several new responsibilities were assumed during the tenures of William Jennings Bryan (1913-15) and Robert Lansing (1915-20). The Rogers Act of 1924 abolished the separate diplomatic and consular bureaus in favor of the Division of Foreign Service Information, and under the administrations of Frank B. Kellogg (1925-29) and Henry L. Stimson (1929-33) other new agencies were created. In 1931 the office of the solicitor—given charge through the years of such matters as extradition, naturalization, expatriation, passport problems, neutrality, and extraterritoriality—was superseded by the office of legal adviser.

During the long administration (1933-44) of Cordell Hull a variety of changes was effected, at first to meet the needs of recovery from economic depression, but later to face the rising tide of World War II. In 1938 the Division of Cultural Relations—soon to undergo several changes—was begun to stimulate cooperation with other nations through the various media of mass communication; the same year the Division of International Communication was started to meet problems concerned with worldwide telecommunications. Two reorganizations within the Dept. of State occurred in 1943 and 1944, and with the close of the war the department's machinery was geared to dispense information to foreign nations (e.g., the radio program "The Voice of America"), to establish strict secrecy concerning its operations, to integrate foreign policy with the economic-aid programs, and to bring about effective liaison between the United States and the United Nations.

In 1949 the Hoover Commission (Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government) criticized the fact that the Dept. of State and the Foreign Service were manned by a distinct and noninterchangeable corps of employees and urged amalgamation of the personnel of the two bodies. Opposition to this, especially from the Foreign Service, which considered itself an elite corps, was partly resolved in 1954, when a committee headed by Henry M. Wriston, president of Brown Univ., recommended integration rather than amalgamation of the personnel. The Foreign Service was greatly enlarged, and as a result it lost its semiautonomous position and was brought securely under the authority of the secretary of state. In 1961 the Agency for International Development and the Peace Corps were created as agencies within the Dept. of State. The Peace Corps was later removed from the department when it was merged (1971) with other volunteer service agencies.

In terms of policy formulation the department suffered a decline in the 20th cent., especially after the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was often said to be "his own secretary of state." John Foster Dulles (1953-59), Henry M. Kissinger (1969-76), and James A. Baker 3d (1989-92) were, however, particularly strong secretaries. Madeleine Albright, President Bill Clinton's second secretary of state, was the first woman to hold the post, and Colin Powell, President George W. Bush's first secretary of state, was the first African American.


See A. De Conde, The American Secretary of State: An Interpretation (1962); S. Simpson, Anatomy of the State Department (1967); J. P. Leacacos, Fires in the In-Basket (1968); R. D. Schulzinger, The Making of the Diplomatic Mind (1975); D. P. Warwick et al., A Theory of Public Bureaucracy (1975); B. Rubin, Secrets of State (1985).

Concept of government in which the state plays a key role in protecting and promoting the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those who lack the minimal provisions for a good life. The term may be applied to a variety of forms of economic and social organization. A basic feature of the welfare state is social insurance, intended to provide benefits during periods of greatest need (e.g., old age, illness, unemployment). The welfare state also usually includes public provision of education, health services, and housing. Such provisions are less extensive in the U.S. than in many European countries, where comprehensive health coverage and state-subsidized university-level education have been common. In countries with centrally planned economies, the welfare state also covers employment and administration of consumer prices. Most nations have instituted at least some of the measures associated with the welfare state; Britain adopted comprehensive social insurance in 1948, and in the U.S., social-legislation programs such as the New Deal and the Fair Deal were based on welfare-state principles. Scandinavian countries provide state aid for the individual in almost all phases of life.

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Concept of an expanding universe whose average density remains constant, matter being continuously created throughout it to form new stars and galaxies at the same rate that old ones recede from sight. A steady-state universe has no beginning or end, and its average density and arrangement of galaxies are the same as seen from every point. Galaxies of all ages are intermingled. The theory was first put forward by William Macmillan (1861–1948) in the 1920s and modified by Fred Hoyle to deal with problems that had arisen in connection with the big-bang model. Much evidence obtained since the 1950s contradicts the steady-state theory and supports the big-bang model.

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Any of a class of equations that relate the pressure math.P, volume math.V, and temperature math.T of a given substance in thermodynamic equilibrium. For example, the equation math.Pmath.V = math.nmath.Rmath.T, where math.n is the number of moles of gas and math.R is the universal gas constant, relates the pressure, volume, and temperature of a perfect gas. Real gases, solids, and liquids have more complicated equations of state. Seealso thermodynamics.

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Theory and practice of organizing the whole of society into corporate entities subordinate to the state. According to the theory, employers and employees would be organized into industrial and professional corporations serving as organs of political representation and largely controlling the people and activities within their jurisdiction. Its chief spokesman was Adam Müller (b. 1779—d. 1829), court philosopher to the Fürst (prince) von Metternich, who conceived of a “class state” in which the classes operated as guilds, or corporations, each controlling a specific function of social life. This idea found favour in central Europe after the French Revolution, but it was not put into practice until Benito Mussolini came to power in Italy; its implementation there had barely begun by the start of World War II, which resulted in his fall. After World War II, the governments of many democratic western European countries (e.g., Austria, Norway, and Sweden) developed strong corporatist elements in an attempt to mediate and reduce conflict between businesses and trade unions and to enhance economic growth.

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Political organization of society, or the body politic, or, more narrowly, the institutions of government. The state is distinguished from other social groups by its purpose (establishment of order and security), methods (its laws and their enforcement), territory (its area of jurisdiction), and sovereignty. In some countries (e.g., the U.S.), the term also refers to nonsovereign political units subject to the authority of the larger state, or federal union.

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Electronic device that operates on the basis of the electric, magnetic, or optical properties of a solid material, especially one that uses a solid crystal in which an orderly three-dimensional arrangement of atoms, ions, or molecules is repeated throughout the entire crystal. Synthetic crystals of elements such as silicon, gallium arsenide, and germanium are used in transistors, rectifiers, and integrated circuits. The first solid-state device was the “cat's whisker” (1906), in which a fine wire was moved across a solid crystal to detect a radio signal. Seealso semiconductor.

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Solid form of a liquid solution. As with liquids, a tendency for mutual solubility exists between any two coexisting solids (i.e., each can mix with the other); depending on the chemical similarities of the solids, mutual solubility of two substances may be 100percnt (as between silver and gold), or it may be near 0 (as between copper and bismuth).

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One of the three basic states of matter. A solid forms from either a liquid or a gas (the other two states of matter) because, as the energy of the atoms decreases, they coalesce in the relatively ordered, three-dimensional structure of a solid. All solids have the ability to support loads applied either perpendicular (normal) or parallel (shear) to a surface. Solids can be crystalline (as in metals), amorphous (as in glass), or quasicrystalline (as in certain metal alloys), depending on the degree of order in the arrangement of the atoms.

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also known as regular polyhedron

Geometric solid all of whose faces are identical regular polygons and all of whose angles are equal. There are only five such polyhedrons. The cube is constructed from the square, the dodecahedron from the regular pentagon, and the tetrahedron, octahedron, and icosahedron (with 20 faces) from the equilateral triangle. They are known as the Platonic solids because of Plato's attempt to relate each to one of the five elements that he believed formed the world.

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Any of the 10 former territories that the Republic of South Africa designated as “homelands” for the country's black African population during the mid- to late 20th century. Also known as South Africa homelands, Bantu homelands, or black states, they were created under the white-dominated government's policy of apartheid. They were Gazankulu, KwaZulu, Lebowa, KwaNdebele, KaNgwane, Qwaqwa, Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, and Ciskei. The last four were declared “independent” by the South African government, but their independence was never internationally recognized. Although the creation of Bantustans was rooted in earlier acts, the Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act of 1970 defined blacks living throughout South Africa as legal citizens only of the homelands designated for their particular ethnic groups—thereby stripping them of their South African citizenship. Between the 1960s and '80s, the South African government continuously removed black people still living in “white areas” of South Africa and forcibly relocated them to the Bantustans. In 1994, after the end of apartheid, the South African government created nine new South African provinces, which included both former provinces and former Bantustans.

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Excited state (see excitation) of an atom, nucleus, or other system that has a longer lifetime than the ordinary excited states and generally has a shorter lifetime than the ground state. It can be considered a temporary energy trap or a somewhat stable intermediate stage of a system of which the energy may be lost in discrete amounts. The many photochemical reactions of mercury are a result of the metastable state of mercury atoms, and radiation from metastable oxygen atoms accounts for the characteristic green colour of the aurora borealis and aurora australis.

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Optoelectronic device used in displays for watches, calculators, notebook computers, and other electronic devices. Current passed through specific portions of the liquid crystal solution causes the crystals to align, blocking the passage of light. Doing so in a controlled and organized manner produces visual images on the display screen. The advantage of LCDs is that they are much lighter and consume less power than other display technologies (e.g., cathode-ray tubes). These characteristics make them an ideal choice for flat-panel displays, as in portable laptop and notebook computers.

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Substance that flows like a liquid but maintains some of the ordered structure characteristic of a crystal. Some organic substances do not melt directly when heated but instead turn from a crystalline solid to a liquid crystalline state. When heated further, a true liquid is formed. Liquid crystals have unique properties. The structures are easily affected by changes in mechanical stress, electromagnetic fields, temperature, and chemical environment. Seealso liquid crystal display.

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One of the three principal states of matter, intermediate between a gas and a solid. A liquid has neither the orderliness of a solid nor the randomness of a gas. Liquids have the ability to flow under the action of very small shear stresses. Liquids in contact with their own vapour or air have a surface tension that causes the interface to assume the configuration of minimum area (i.e., spherical). Surfaces between liquids and solids have interfacial tensions that determine whether the liquid will wet the other material. With the exception of liquid metals, molten salts, and solutions of salts, the electrical conductivities of liquids are small.

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In science, the set of conditions under which a liquid and its vapour become identical. The conditions are the critical temperature, the critical pressure, and the critical density. If a closed vessel is filled with a pure substance, partly liquid and partly vapour, and the average density equals the critical density, the critical conditions can be achieved. As the temperature is raised, the vapour pressure increases, and the gas phase becomes denser while the liquid expands and becomes less dense. At the critical point, the densities of liquid and vapour become equal, eliminating the boundary between the two.

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Political system consisting of an independent city with sovereignty over a fixed surrounding area for which it served as leader of religious, political, economic, and cultural life. The term was coined in the 19th century to describe ancient Greek and Phoenician settlements that differed from tribal or national systems in size, exclusivity, patriotism, and ability to resist incorporation by other communities. They may have developed when earlier tribal systems broke down and splintered groups established themselves as independent nuclei circa 1000–800 BC; by the 5th century BC they numbered in the hundreds, with Athens, Sparta, and Thebes among the most important. Incapable of forming any lasting union or federation, they eventually fell victim to the Macedonians, the Carthaginians, and the Roman empire. In the 11th century the city-state revived in Italy; the success of medieval Italy's city-states, including Pisa, Florence, Venice, and Genoa, was due to growing prosperity from trade with the East, and several survived into the 19th century. Germany's medieval city-states included Hamburg, Bremen, and Lübeck. The only city-state extant today is Vatican City.

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Relationship between religious and secular authority in society. In most ancient civilizations the separation of religious and political orders was not clearly defined. With the advent of Christianity, the idea of two separate orders emerged, based on Jesus's command to “Render unto Caesar what are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (Mark 12:17). The close association of religion and politics, however, continued even after the triumph of Christianity as emperors such as Constantine exercised authority over both church and state. In the early Middle Ages secular rulers claimed to rule by the grace of God, and later in the Middle Ages popes and emperors competed for universal dominion. During the Investiture Controversy the church clearly defined separate and distinct religious and secular orders, even though it laid the foundation for the so-called papal monarchy. The Reformation greatly undermined papal authority, and the pendulum swung toward the state, with many monarchs claiming to rule church and state by divine right. The concept of secular government, as evinced in the U.S. and postrevolutionary France, was influenced by Enlightenment thinkers. In western Europe today all states protect freedom of worship and maintain a distinction between civil and religious authority. The legal systems of some modern Islamic countries are based on Sharīaynah. In the U.S. the separation of church and state has been tested in the arena of public education by controversies over issues such as school prayer, public funding of parochial schools, and the teaching of creationism.

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Largest university system in the U.S. Founded in 1948, it consists of university centres in Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, and Stony Brook; colleges of arts and sciences in Brockport, Buffalo, Cortland, Fredonia, Geneseo, New Paltz, Old Westbury, Oneonta, Oswego, Plattsburgh, Potsdam, and Purchase; three medical centres (two in New York City and one in Syracuse); several two-year agricultural and technical colleges; a nonresidential continuing-education program (Empire State College); over 30 community colleges; and various other specialized units.

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U.S. public state system of higher education with a main campus in University Park and numerous other campuses and locations, including the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey and the Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle. The university originated with the charter of the Farmers' High School in 1855 and was designated the commonwealth's land-grant college in 1862. It took its current name only in 1953. Research facilities include the Biotechnology Institute, the Center for Applied Behavioral Science, and the Center for Particle Science and Engineering.

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Former province, central South Africa. Before the arrival of the Europeans, the area was the home of Bantu-speaking peoples. Afrikaners came in large part during the Great Trek of the 1830s. Britain administered the territory from 1848 to 1854; then the independent Orange Free State was established. British rule was reimposed following the South African War in 1902, though self-government was later restored. In 1910 it became the Orange Free State province of the Union of South Africa (from 1961 the Republic of South Africa). After the South African elections of 1994, it became the province of Free State. Blacks make up about 80percnt of the population; most of the whites speak Afrikaans. The province's capital is Bloemfontein.

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U.S. state university system consisting of a main campus in Columbus and branches in five other locations. It was established in 1870 as a land-grant institution. The main campus is a comprehensive research institution, with colleges of agriculture, dentistry, law, medicine, and veterinary medicine. Research facilities include a transportation research centre, a freshwater laboratory, a supercomputer centre, and a polar research centre.

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Largest university system in the U.S. Founded in 1948, it consists of university centres in Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, and Stony Brook; colleges of arts and sciences in Brockport, Buffalo, Cortland, Fredonia, Geneseo, New Paltz, Old Westbury, Oneonta, Oswego, Plattsburgh, Potsdam, and Purchase; three medical centres (two in New York City and one in Syracuse); several two-year agricultural and technical colleges; a nonresidential continuing-education program (Empire State College); over 30 community colleges; and various other specialized units.

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in full Lomonosov Moscow State University

Government-operated university in Moscow, Russia. Founded in 1755 by the linguist Mikhail Lomonosov with support from Elizabeth, empress of Russia, it is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious university in Russia. By the late 19th century it had established itself as a major centre of scientific research and scholarship. Moscow State University supports more than 350 departments, a number of research institutes and laboratories, several observatories, and various affiliated museums. Its library ranks among the largest in Russia (9 million volumes).

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or United Kingdom or Great Britain

Island country, western Europe, North Atlantic Ocean. It comprises Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) and Northern Ireland. Area: 93,788 sq mi (242,910 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 60,020,000. Capital: London. The population is composed of English (major ethnic group), Scots, Irish, and Welsh and immigrants and their descendants from India, the West Indies, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Africa. Languages: English (official); also Welsh, Scottish Gaelic. Religions: Christianity (Protestant [Church of England—established; Church of Scotland—national], Roman Catholic, other Christians); also Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism. Currency: pound sterling. The country has hill, lowland, upland, highland, and mountain regions. Tin and iron ore deposits, once central to the economy, have become exhausted or uneconomical, and the coal industry, long a staple of the economy, began a steady decline in the 1950s that worsened with pit closures in the 1980s. Offshore petroleum and natural gas reserves are significant. Chief crops are barley, wheat, sugar beets, and potatoes. Major manufactures include motor vehicles, aerospace equipment, electronic data-processing and telecommunication equipment, and petrochemicals. Fishing and publishing also are important economic activities. The U.K. is a constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses; its chief of state is the sovereign, and the head of government is the prime minister.

The early pre-Roman inhabitants of Britain (see Stonehenge) were Celtic-speaking peoples, including the Brythonic people of Wales, the Picts of Scotland, and the Britons of Britain. Celts also settled in Ireland circa 500 BC. Julius Caesar invaded and took control of the area in 55–54 BC. The Roman province of Britannia endured until the 5th century AD and included present-day England and Wales. Germanic tribes, including Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, invaded Britain in the 5th century. The invasions had little effect on the Celtic peoples of Wales and Scotland. Christianity began to flourish in the 6th century. During the 8th and 9th centuries, Vikings, particularly Danes, raided the coasts of Britain. In the late 9th century Alfred the Great repelled a Danish invasion, which helped bring about the unification of England under Athelstan. The Scots attained dominance in Scotland, which was finally unified under Malcolm II (1005–34). William of Normandy (see William I) took England in 1066. The Norman kings established a strong central government and feudal state. The French language of the Norman rulers eventually merged with the Anglo-Saxon of the common people to form the English language. From the 11th century, Scotland came under the influence of the English throne. Henry II conquered Ireland in the late 12th century. His sons Richard I and John had conflicts with the clergy and nobles, and eventually John was forced to grant the nobles concessions in the Magna Carta (1215). The concept of community of the realm developed during the 13th century, providing the foundation for parliamentary government. During the reign of Edward I (1272–1307), statute law developed to supplement English common law, and the first Parliament was convened. In 1314 Robert the Bruce (see Robert I) won independence for Scotland. The house of Tudor became the ruling family of England following the Wars of the Roses (1455–85). Henry VIII (1509–47) established the Church of England and incorporated Wales as part of England.

The reign of Elizabeth I (1558–1603) began a period of colonial expansion; in 1588 British forces defeated the “invincible” Spanish Armada. In 1603 James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne, becoming James I, and established a personal union of the two kingdoms. The English Civil Wars erupted in 1642 between Royalists and Parliamentarians, ending in the execution of Charles I (1649). After 11 years of Puritan rule under Oliver Cromwell and his son (1649–60), the monarchy was restored with Charles II. In 1689, following the Glorious Revolution, Parliament proclaimed the joint sovereigns William III and Mary II, who accepted the British Bill of Rights. In 1707 England and Scotland assented to the Act of Union, forming the kingdom of Great Britain. The Hanoverians ascended the English throne in 1714, when George Louis, elector of Hanover, became George I of Great Britain. During the reign of George III, Great Britain's North American colonies won independence (1783). This was followed by a period of war (1789–1815) with Revolutionary France and later with the empire of Napoleon. In 1801 legislation united Great Britain with Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Britain was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century, and it remained the world's foremost economic power until the late 19th century. During the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901), Britain's colonial expansion reached its zenith, though the older dominions, including Canada and Australia, were granted independence (1867 and 1901, respectively).

The U.K. entered World War I allied with France and Russia in 1914. Following the war, revolutionary disorder erupted in Ireland, and in 1921 the Irish Free State (see Ireland) was granted dominion status. Six counties of Ulster, however, remained in the U.K. as Northern Ireland. The U.K. entered World War II in 1939. Following the war, the Irish Free State became the Irish republic and left the Commonwealth. India also gained independence from the U.K. Throughout the postwar period and into the 1970s, the U.K. continued to grant independence to its overseas colonies and dependencies. With UN forces, it participated in the Korean War (1950–53). In 1956 it intervened militarily in Egypt during the Suez Crisis. It joined the European Economic Community, a forerunner of the European Union, in 1973. In 1982 it defeated Argentina in the Falkland Islands War. As a result of continuing social strife in Northern Ireland, it joined with Ireland in several peace initiatives, which eventually resulted in an agreement to establish an assembly in Northern Ireland. In 1997 referenda approved in Scotland and Wales devolved power to both countries, though both remained part of the U.K. In 1991 the U.K. joined an international coalition to reverse Iraq's conquest of Kuwait (see Persian Gulf War). In 2003 the U.K. and the U.S. attacked Iraq and overthrew the government of Ssubdotaddām Hsubdotussein (see Iraq War). Terrorist bombings in London in July 2005 killed more than 50 people.

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Part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland occupying the northeastern portion of the island of Ireland. Area: 5,461 sq mi (14,144 sq km). Population (2001): 1,685,267. Capital: Belfast. It is bounded by the republic of Ireland, the Irish Sea, the North Channel, and the Atlantic Ocean. Northern Ireland is often referred to as the province of Ulster. The people are descended from indigenous Irish and immigrants from England and Scotland. Language: English (official). Religions: Protestantism (the majority) and Roman Catholicism (a minority). Currency: pound sterling. Northern Ireland's industries include engineering, shipbuilding (which has been in severe decline), automobile manufacturing, textiles, food and beverage processing, and clothing. The service industry employs about three-fourths of the workforce, and manufacturing employs less than one-fifth of workers. Agriculture is important, with most farm income derived from livestock. Northern Ireland shares most of its history with the republic of Ireland, though Protestant English and Scots immigrating in the 16th–17th centuries tended to settle in Ulster. In 1801 the Act of Union created the United Kingdom, which united Great Britain and Ireland. In response to mounting Irish sentiment in favour of Home Rule, the Government of Ireland Act was adopted in 1920, providing for two partially self-governing units in Ireland: the northern six counties constituting Northern Ireland and the southern counties now making up the republic of Ireland. In 1968 civil rights protests by Roman Catholics sparked violent conflicts with Protestants and led to the occupation of the province by British troops in the early 1970s. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) mounted a prolonged campaign of violence in an effort to force the withdrawal of British troops as a prelude to Northern Ireland's unification with Ireland. In 1972 Northern Ireland's constitution and parliament were suspended, bringing the province under direct rule by the British. Violence continued for three decades before dropping off in the mid-1990s. In 1998 talks between the British government and the IRA resulted in a peace agreement that provided for extensive Home Rule in the province. In 1999 power was devolved to an elected assembly, though the body was hampered by factional disagreements. Sporadic sectarian strife continued in the early 21st century, as the IRA gradually carried out decommissioning (disarming).

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formerly Neu-Mecklenburg

Island and province (pop., 2000: 118,350), Bismarck Archipelago, Papua New Guinea. The island has an area of 3,340 sq mi (8,651 sq km) and is about 220 mi (350 km) long. The terrain is largely mountainous. The province includes many nearby smaller islands. It was discovered by Dutch navigators in 1616 but was little known before 1884, when it became part of a German protectorate. After World War I it was mandated to Australia. The island was occupied by the Japanese in World War II. When Papua New Guinea gained independence in 1975, it became part of that country. Most of the inhabitants live in the north. Copra production dominates commercial development.

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Country, western Europe, occupying the greater part of the island of Ireland west of Great Britain. Area: 27,133 sq mi (70,273 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 4,096,000. Capital: Dublin. The northeastern portion of the island is occupied by Northern Ireland. Although Ireland has been invaded and colonized by Celts, Norsemen, Normans, English, and Scots, ethnic distinctions are nonexistent. Languages: Irish, English (both official). Religion: Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic; also Protestant). Currency: euro. Ireland's topography consists largely of broad lowlands drained by rivers that include the Shannon; its coasts are fringed with mountains. Nearly three-fifths of the population is urban; agriculture employs only a small percentage of the workforce. High technology, tourism, and other service industries are pivotal to the Irish economy, while mining, manufacturing, and construction also remain important. Ireland is a republic with two legislative houses; its chief of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. Human settlement in Ireland began circa 6000 BC, and Celtic migration dates from circa 300 BC. St. Patrick is credited with having Christianized the country in the 5th century. Norse domination began in 795 and ended in 1014, when the Norse were defeated by Brian Boru. Gaelic Ireland's independence ended in 1175 when Roderic O'Connor, Ireland's high king, accepted English King Henry II as his overlord. Beginning in the 16th century, Irish Catholic landowners fled religious persecution by the English and were replaced by English and Scottish Protestant migrants. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was established in 1801. The Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s led as many as 1.5 million people to emigrate, and the British government's grudging and ineffective relief measures built momentum for Irish Home Rule. The Easter Rising (1916) was followed by virtual civil war (1919–21), during which the Irish Republican Army used guerrilla tactics to force the British government to negotiate. The Catholic majority in southern Ireland favoured complete independence, and the Protestant majority in the north preferred continued union with Britain. Southern Ireland was granted dominion status and became the Irish Free State in 1921, and in 1937 it adopted the name Éire (Ireland) and became a sovereign independent country. It remained neutral during World War II. Britain recognized the status of Ireland in 1949 but declared that cession of the northern six counties (Northern Ireland) could not occur without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. In 1973 Ireland joined the European Economic Community (later the European Community); it is now a member of the European Union. The last decades of the 20th century were dominated by sectarian hostilities between the island's Catholics and Protestants over the status of Northern Ireland. The Irish government played a pivotal role in negotiating and winning public support for the Belfast Agreement (1998), which gave the country a consultative role in the affairs of Northern Ireland and modified Ireland's constitution to remove its claim to the territory of the entire island.

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Steel-framed 102-story building designed by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates and completed in New York City in 1931. At a height of 1,250 ft (381 m), it surpassed the Chrysler Building to become the highest structure in the world (until 1954). It is notable for its use of the setback.

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A state is a political association with effective sovereignty over a geographic area and representing a population. These may be nation states, sub-national states or multinational states. A state usually includes the set of institutions that claim the authority to make the rules that govern the exercise of coercive violence for the people of the society in that territory, though its status as a state often depends in part on being recognized by a number of other states as having internal and external sovereignty over it. In sociology, the state is normally identified with these institutions: in Max Weber's influential definition, it is that organization that "(successfully) claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory," which may include the armed forces, civil service or state bureaucracy, courts, and police. Recently much debate has surrounded the issue of State-building with competing schools of thought on how to support the emergence of capable states.


Although the term often includes broadly all institutions of government or rule—ancient and modern—the modern state system bears a number of characteristics that were first consolidated beginning in earnest in the 15th century, when the term "state" also acquired its current meaning. Thus the word is often used in a strict sense to refer only to modern political systems.

Within a federal system, the term state also refers to political units, not completely sovereign themselves; however, these systems are subject to the authority of a constitution defining a federal union which is partially or co-sovereign with them.

In casual usage, the terms "country," "nation," and "state" are often used as if they were synonymous; but in a more strict usage they can be distinguished:

  • Country denotes a geographical area.
  • Nation denotes a people who are believed to or deemed to share common customs, origins, and history. However, the adjectives national and international also refer to matters pertaining to what are strictly states, as in national capital, international law.
  • State refers to the set of governing and supportive institutions that have sovereignty over a definite territory and population.


The word state and its cognates in other European languages (stato in Italian, état in French, Staat in German and estado in Spanish and Portuguese) ultimately derive from the Latin STATVS, meaning "condition" or "status". With the revival of the Roman law in the 14th century in Europe, this Latin term was used to refer to the legal standing of persons (such as the various "estates of the realm" - noble, common, and clerical), and in particular the special status of the king. The word was also associated with Roman ideas (dating back to Cicero) about the "status rei publicae", the "condition of the republic." In time, the word lost its reference to particular social groups and became associated with the legal order of the entire society and the apparatus of its enforcement.

In other languages meaning can be different. Polish 'państwo' can be derived from the word 'pan'=lord, the one who has power ('Lord Jesus'='Pan Jezus'). 'Państwo' therefore denotes a state, when someone is governing (is in charge). The word 'państwo' also suggest some kind of social organisation, as its second meaning in Polish relates to "family" (państwo Smith = the Smiths).

It has also been claimed that the word "state" originates from the medieval state or regal chair upon which the head of state (usually a monarch) would sit. By process of metonymy, the word state became used to refer to both the head of state and the power entity he represented (though the former meaning has fallen out of use). Two quotations which reference these different meanings, both commonly, though probably apocryphally, attributed to King Louis XIV of France, are "L'État, c'est moi" ("I am the State") and "Je m'en vais, mais l'État demeurera toujours." ("I am going away, but the State will always remain"). A similar association of terms can today be seen in the practice of referring to government buildings as having authority, for example "The White House today released a press statement...".

Empirical and juridical senses of the word state

The word state has both an empirical and a juridical sense, i.e., entities can be states either de facto or de jure or both.

Empirically (or de facto), an entity is a state if, as in Max Weber's influential definition, it is that organization that has a 'monopoly on legitimate violence' over a specific territory. Such an entity imposes its own legal order over a territory, even if it is not legally recognized as a state by other states (e.g., the Somali region of Somaliland).

Juridically (or de jure), an entity is a state in international law if it is recognized as such by other states, even if it does not actually have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force over a territory. Only an entity juridically recognized as a state can enter into many kinds of international agreements and be represented in a variety of legal forums, such as the United Nations.

States, government types, and political systems

The concept of the state can be distinguished from two related concepts with which it is sometimes confused: the concept of a form of government or regime, such as democracy or dictatorship, and the concept of a political system. The form of government identifies only one aspect of the state, namely, the way in which the highest political offices are filled and their relationship to each other and to society. It does not include other aspects of the state that may be very important in its everyday functioning, such as the quality of its bureaucracy. For example, two democratic states may be quite different if one has a capable, well-trained bureaucracy or civil service while the other does not. Thus generally speaking the term "state" refers to the instruments of political power, while the terms regime or form of government refers more to the way in which such instruments can be accessed and employed.

Some scholars have suggested that the term "state" is too imprecise and loaded to be used productively in sociology and political science, and ought to be replaced by the more comprehensive term "political system." The "political system" refers to the ensemble of all social structures that function to produce collectively binding decisions in a society. In modern times, these would include the political regime, political parties, and various sorts of organizations. The term "political system" thus denotes a broader concept than the state.

The historical development of the state

The earliest forms of the state emerged whenever it became possible to centralize power in a durable way. Agriculture and writing are almost everywhere associated with this process. Agriculture allowed for the production and storing of a surplus. This in turn allowed and encouraged the emergence of a class of people who controlled and protected the agricultural stores and thus did not have to spend most of their time providing for their own subsistence. In addition, writing (or the equivalent of writing, like Inca quipus) because it made possible the centralization of vital information.

Some political philosophers believe the origins of the state lie ultimately in the tribal culture which developed with human sentience, the template for which was the alleged primal "alpha-male" microsocieties of our earlier ancestors, which were based on the coercion of the weak by the strong. However anthropologists point out that extant band- and tribe-level societies are notable for their lack of centralized authority, and that highly stratified societies--i.e., states--constitute a relatively recent break with the course of human history.

The state in classical antiquity

The history of the state in the West usually begins with classical antiquity. During that period, the state took a variety of forms, none of them very much like the modern state. There were monarchies whose power (like that of the Egyptian Pharaoh) was based on the religious function of the king and his control of a centralized army. There were also large, quasi-bureaucratized empires, like the Roman empire, which depended less on the religious function of the ruler and more on effective military and legal organizations and the cohesion of an aristocracy.

Perhaps the most important political innovations of classical antiquity came from the Greek city-states and the Roman Republic. The Greek city-states before the 4th century granted citizenship rights to their free population, and in Athens these rights were combined with a directly democratic form of government that was to have a long afterlife in political thought and history.

In contrast, Rome developed from a monarchy into a republic, governed by a senate dominated by the Roman aristocracy. The Roman political system contributed to the development of law, constitutionalism and to the distinction between the private and the public spheres.

From the feudal state to the modern state in the West

The story of the development of the specifically modern state in the West typically begins with the dissolution of the western Roman empire. This led to the fragmentation of the imperial state into the hands of private and decentralized lords whose political, judicial, and military roles corresponded to the organization of economic production. In these conditions, according to Marxists, the economic unit of society corresponded exactly to the state on the local level.

The state-system of feudal Europe was an unstable configuration of suzerains and anointed kings. A monarch, formally at the head of a hierarchy of sovereigns, was not an absolute power who could rule at will; instead, relations between lords and monarchs were mediated by varying degrees of mutual dependence, which was ensured by the absence of a centralized system of taxation. This reality ensured that each ruler needed to obtain the 'consent' of each estate in the realm. This was not quite a 'state' in the Weberian sense of the term, since the king did not monopolize either the power of lawmaking (which was shared with the church) or the means of violence (which were shared with the nobles).

The formalization of the struggles over taxation between the monarch and other elements of society (especially the nobility and the cities) gave rise to what is now called the Standestaat, or the state of Estates, characterized by parliaments in which key social groups negotiated with the king about legal and economic matters. These estates of the realm sometimes evolved in the direction of fully-fledged parliaments, but sometimes lost out in their struggles with the monarch, leading to greater centralization of lawmaking and coercive (chiefly military) power in his hands. Beginning in the 15th century, this centralizing process gave rise to the absolutist state.

The modern state

The rise of the "modern state" as a public power constituting the supreme political authority within a defined territory is associated with western Europe's gradual institutional development beginning in earnest in the late 15th century, culminating in the rise of absolutism and capitalism.

As Europe's dynastic states — England under the Tudors, Spain under the Habsburgs, and France under the Bourbons — embarked on a variety of programs designed to increase centralized political and economic control, they increasingly exhibited many of the institutional features that characterize the "modern state." This centralization of power involved the delineation of political boundaries, as European monarchs gradually defeated or co-opted other sources of power, such as the Church and lesser nobility. In place of the fragmented system of feudal rule, with its often indistinct territorial claims, large, unitary states with extensive control over definite territories emerged. This process gave rise to the highly centralized and increasingly bureaucratic forms of absolute monarchical rule of the 17th and 18th centuries, when the principal features of the contemporary state system took form, including the introduction of a standing army, a central taxation system, diplomatic relations with permanent embassies, and the development of state economic policy—mercantilism.

Cultural and national homogenization figured prominently in the rise of the modern state system. Since the absolutist period, states have largely been organized on a national basis. The concept of a national state, however, is not synonymous with nation-state. Even in the most ethnically homogeneous societies there is not always a complete correspondence between state and nation, hence the active role often taken by the state to promote nationalism through emphasis on shared symbols and national identity.

It is in this period that the term "the state" is first introduced into political discourse in more or less its current meaning. Although Niccolò Machiavelli is often credited with first using the term to refer to a territorial sovereign government in the modern sense in The Prince, published in 1532, it is not until the time of the British thinkers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke and the French thinker Jean Bodin that the concept in its current meaning is fully developed.

Today, most Western states more or less fit the influential definition of the state in Max Weber's Politics as a Vocation. According to Weber, the modern state monopolizes the means of legitimate physical violence over a well-defined territory. Moreover, the legitimacy of this monopoly itself is of a very special kind, "rational-legal" legitimacy, based on impersonal rules that constrain the power of state elites.

However, in some other parts of the world states do not fit Weber's definition as well. They may not have a complete monopoly over the means of legitimate physical violence over a definite territory, or their legitimacy may not be adequately described as rational-legal. But they are still recognizably distinct from feudal and absolutist states in the extent of their bureaucratization and their reliance on nationalism as a principle of legitimation.

Since Weber, an extensive literature on the processes by which the "modern state" emerged from the feudal state has been generated. Marxist scholars, for example, assert that the formation of modern states can be explained primarily in terms of the interests and struggles of social classes.

Scholars working in the broad Weberian tradition, by contrast, have often emphasized the institution-building effects of war. For example, Charles Tilly has argued that the revenue-gathering imperatives forced on nascent states by geopolitical competition and constant warfare were mostly responsible for the development of the centralized, territorial bureaucracies that characterize modern states in Europe. States that were able to develop centralized tax-gathering bureaucracies and to field mass armies survived into the modern era; states that were not able to do so did not.

State and civil society

The modern state is both separate from and connected to civil society. The nature of this connection has been the subject of considerable attention in both analyses of state development and normative theories of the state. Earlier thinkers, such as Thomas Hobbes emphasized the supremacy of the state over society. Later thinkers, by contrast, beginning with G. W. F. Hegel, have tended to emphasize the points of contact between them. Jürgen Habermas, for example, has argued that civil society forms a public sphere, that is, a site of extra-institutional engagement with matters of public interest autonomous from the state and yet necessarily connected with it.

Some Marxist theorists, such as Antonio Gramsci, have questioned the distinction between the state and civil society altogether, arguing that the former is integrated into many parts of the latter. Others, such as Louis Althusser, maintain that civil organizations such as churches, schools, and even trade unions are part of an 'ideological state apparatus.' In this sense, the state can fund a number of groups within society that, while autonomous in principle, are dependent on state support.

Given the role that many social groups have in the development of public policy and the extensive connections between state bureaucracies and other institutions, it has become increasingly difficult to identify the boundaries of the state. Privatization, nationalization, and the creation of new regulatory bodies also change the boundaries of the state in relation to society. Often the nature of quasi-autonomous organizations is unclear, generating debate among political scientists on whether they are part of the state or civil society. Some political scientists thus prefer to speak of policy networks and decentralized governance in modern societies rather than of state bureaucracies and direct state control over policy. Alfred Stepan also introduced the idea of `political society' those organisations that move periodically between the state and non-state sectors (such as Political Parties). Whaites has argued that in developing countries there are dangers inherent in promoting strong civil society where states are weak, risks that should be considered and mitigated by those funding civil society or advocating its role as an alternative source of service provision.

The state and the international system

Since the late 19th century the entirety of the world's inhabitable land has been parceled up into states with more or less definite borders claimed by various states. Earlier, quite large land areas had been either unclaimed or uninhabited, or inhabited by nomadic peoples who were not organized as states. Currently more than 200 states comprise the international community, with the vast majority of them represented in the United Nations.

These states form what International relations theorists call a system, where each state takes into account the behavior of other states when making their own calculations. From this point of view, states embedded in an international system face internal and external security and legitimation dilemmas. Recently the notion of an "international community" has been developed to refer to a group of states who have established rule, procedures, and institutions for the conduct of their relations. In this way the foundation has been laid for international law, diplomacy, formal regimes, and organizations.

The state and supranationalism

In the late 20th century, the globalization of the world economy, the mobility of people and capital, and the rise of many international institutions all combined to circumscribe the freedom of action of states. These constraints on the state's freedom of action are accompanied in some areas, notably Western Europe, with projects for interstate integration such as the European Union. However, the state remains the basic political unit of the world, as it has been since the 16th century. The state is therefore considered the most central concept in the study of politics, and its definition is the subject of intense scholarly debate.

The state and international law

By modern practice and the law of international relations, a state's sovereignty is conditional upon the diplomatic recognition of the state's claim to statehood. Degrees of recognition and sovereignty may vary. However, any degree of recognition, even recognition by a majority of the states in the international system, is not binding on third-party states.

The legal criteria for statehood are not obvious. Often, the laws are surpassed by political circumstances. However, one of the documents often quoted on the matter is the Montevideo Convention from 1933, the first article of which states:

The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

Contemporary approaches to the study of the state

There are three main traditions within political science and sociology that shape 'theories of the state': the pluralist, the Marxist, and the institutionalist. In addition, anarchists present a tradition which is similar to, but different from, the Marxian one.

Each of these theories has been employed to gain understanding on the state, while recognizing its complexity. Several issues underlie this complexity. First, the boundaries of the state sector are not clearly defined, while they change constantly. Second, the state is not only the site of conflict between different organizations, but also internal conflict and conflict within organizations. Some scholars speak of the 'state's interest,' but there are often various interests within different parts of the state that are neither solely state-centered nor solely society-centered, but develop between different groups in civil society and different state actors.


Pluralism has been very popular in the United States. In fact, it might be seen as the dominant vision of politics in that country.

Within this tradition, Robert Dahl sees the state as either (1) a neutral arena for settling disputes among contending interests or (2) a collection of agencies which themselves act as simply another set of interest groups. With power diffused across society among many competing groups, state policy is a product of recurrent bargaining. Although pluralism recognizes the existence of inequality, it asserts that all groups have an opportunity to pressure the state. The pluralist approach suggests that the modern democratic state's actions are the result of pressures applied by a variety of organized interests. Dahl called this kind of state a polyarchy.

In some ways, the development of the pluralist school is a response to the "power elite" theory presented in 1956 by the sociologist C. Wright Mills concerning the U.S. and furthered by research by G. William Domhoff, among others. In that theory, the most powerful elements of the political, military, and economic parts of U.S. society are united at the top of the political system, acting to serve their common interests. The "masses" were left out of the political process. In context, it might said that Mills saw the U.S. elite as in part being very similar to that of the Soviet Union, then the major geopolitical rival of the U.S. One response was the sociologist Arnold M. Rose's publication of The Power Structure: Political Process in American Society in 1967. He argued that the distribution of power in the U.S. was more diffuse and pluralistic in nature.

The importance of democratic elections of political leaders in the U.S. (and not the Soviet Union) provides evidence in favor of the pluralist perspective for that country. We might reconcile power elite theory with pluralism in terms of Joseph Schumpeter's theory of democracy. To him, "democracy" involved the (non-elite) masses choosing which elite would have the power.

The absence of democratic elections do not rule out pluralism, however. The old Soviet Union is sometimes described as being ruled by an elite, which ran society via a bureaucracy which united the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the military, and Gosplan, the economic planning apparatus. However, bureaucratic rule from above is never perfect. This meant that, so to some extent, Soviet policies reflected a pluralistic competition of interest groups within the Party, the military, and Gosplan, including factory managers.


Marxist theories of the state were relatively influential in continental Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. But it is hard to summarize the theory developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. After all, the effort by Hal Draper to distill their political thinking in his Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution (Monthly Review Press) took several thick volumes. But many have tried.

For Marxist theorists, the role of modern states is determined or related to their role in capitalist societies. They would agree with Weber on the crucial role of coercion in defining the state. (In fact, Weber himself starts his analysis with a quotation from Leon Trotsky, a Bolshevik leader.) But Marxists reject the mainstream liberal view that the state is an institution established in the collective interest of society as a whole (perhaps by a social contract) to reconcile competing interests in the name of the common good. Contrary to the pluralist vision, the state is not a mere "neutral arena for settling disputes among contending interests" because it leans heavily to support one interest group (the capitalists) alone. Nor does the state usually act as merely a "collection of agencies which themselves act as simply another set of interest groups," again because of the state's systematic bias toward serving capitalist interests.

In contrast to liberal or pluralist views, the American economist Paul Sweezy and other Marxian thinkers have pointed out that the main job of the state is to protect capitalist property rights in the means of production. At first, this seems hardly controversial. After all, many economics and politics textbooks refer to the state's crucial role in defending property rights and in enforcing contracts. But the capitalists own a share of the means of production that is far out of proportion to the capitalists' role in the total population. More importantly, in Marxian theory, ownership of the means of production gives that minority social power over those who do not own the means of production (the workers). Because of that power, i.e., the power to exploit and dominate the working class, the state's defense of them is nothing but the use of coercion to defend capitalism as a class society. Instead of serving the interests of society as a whole, in this view the state serves those of a small minority of the population.

Among Marxists, as with other topics, there are many debates about the nature and role of the capitalist state. One division is between the "instrumentalists" and the "structuralists."

On the first, some contemporary Marxists apply a literal interpretation of the comment by Marx and Frederich Engels in The Communist Manifesto that "The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie." In this tradition, Ralph Miliband argued that the ruling class uses the state as its instrument (tool) to dominate society in a straightforward way. For Miliband, the state is dominated by an elite that comes from the same background as the capitalist class and therefore shares many of the same goals. State officials therefore share the same interests as owners of capital and are linked to them through a wide array of interpersonal and political ties. In many ways, this theory is similar to the "power elite" theory of C. Wright Mills.

Miliband's research is specific to the United Kingdom, where the class system has traditionally been integrated strongly into the educational system (Eton, Oxbridge, etc.) and social networks. In the United States, the educational system and social networks are more heterogeneous and seem less class-dominated to many. But a social connection between state managers and the capitalist class can be seen in the dependence of the major politicians and their parties on campaign contributions from the rich, on approval from the capitalist-owned media, on advice from corporate-endowed "think tanks," and the like.

In the second view, other Marxist theorists argue that the exact names, biographies, and social roles of those who control the state are irrelevant. Instead, they emphasize the structural role of the state's activities. Heavily influenced by the French philosopher Louis Althusser, Nicos Poulantzas, a Greek neo-Marxist theorist argued that capitalist states do not always act on behalf of the ruling class, and when they do, it is not necessarily the case because state officials consciously strive to do so, but because the structural position of the state is configured in such a way to ensure that the interests of capital are always dominant.

Poulantzas' main contribution to the Marxian literature on the state was the concept of relative autonomy of the state: state policies do not correspond exactly to the collective or long-term interests of the capitalist class, but help maintain and preserve capitalism over the long haul. The "power elite," if one exists, may act in ways that go against the wishes of capitalists. While Poulantzas' work on 'state autonomy' has served to sharpen and specify a great deal of Marxist literature on the state, his own framework came under criticism for its "structural functionalism."

But this kind of criticism can be answered by considering what happens if state managers do not work to favor the operations of capitalism as a class society. They find that the economy are punished by a capital strike or capital flight, encouraging higher unemployment, a decline in tax receipts, and international financial problems. The decline in tax revenues makes it more necessary to borrow from the bourgeoisie. Because the latter will charge high interest rates (especially to a government seen as hostile), the state's financial problems deepen. Such events might be seen in Chile in 1973, under Salvador Allende's Unidad Popular government. Added to the relatively "automatic" workings of the economy (under the spur of profit-seeking businesses) are the ways in which an anti-capitalist government provokes anti-government conspiracies, including those by the Central Intelligence Agency and local political forces, as actually happened in 1973.

Unless they are ready to actually mobilize the working population to revolutionize society and move beyond capitalism, "sober" state managers will pull back from anti-capitalist policies. In any event, they would likely never go so far as to "rock the boat" because of their acceptance of the dominant ideology encouraged by the prevailing educational system.

Despite the debates among Marxist theorists of the state, there are also many agreements. It is possible that both "instrumental" and "structural" forces encourage political unity of the state managers with the capitalist class. That is, both the personal influence of capitalists and the societal constraints on state activity play a role.

Of course, no matter how strong this link, the Marx-Engels dictum that "The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie" does not say that the executive will always do a good job in such management. (As Poulantzas pointed out, the state maintains some autonomy.) First, there is the problem of reconciling the particular interests of individual capitalist organizations with each other. For example, different parts of the media may disagree on the nature of needed government regulations. Further, it is often unclear what the long-run class interests of capitalists are, beyond the simple defense of capitalist property rights. It may be impossible to discover class interests until after the fact, i.e., after a policy has been implemented. Third, state managers may use their administrative power to serve their own interests and even to facilitate their entrance into the capitalist class.

Finally, pressure from working-class organizations (labor unions, social-democratic parties, etc.) or other non-capitalist forces (environmentalists, etc.) may push the state from toeing the capitalist "line" exactly. In the end, these problems imply that the state will always have some autonomy from obeying the exact wishes of the capitalist class.

In this view, the Marxian theory of the state does not really contradict the pluralist vision of the state as an arena for the contention of many interest groups, including those based in the state itself. Rather, the Marxian proposition is that this multi-sided competition and its results are strongly biased in the direction of reproducing the capitalist system over time.

It should be emphasized that all of the Marxist theories of the state discussed above refer only to the capitalist state in normal times (without civil war and the like). During a period of economic and social crisis, the absolute need to maintain order may raise the power of the military -- and military goals -- in governmental affairs, sometimes even leading to the violation of capitalist property rights.

In a non-capitalist system such as feudalism, Marxian historians have said that the state did not really exist in the sense that it does today (using Weber's definition). That is, the central state did not monopolize force in a specific geographic area. The feudal king typically had to depend on the military power of his "lieges." This meant that the country was more of an alliance than a unified whole. Further, the difference between the state and civil society was weak: the feudal lords were not simply involved in "economic" activity (production, sale, etc.) but also "political" activity: they used force against their serfs (to extract rents), while acting as judge, jury, and police.

Getting further beyond capitalism, Marxist theory says that since the state is central to protecting class inequality, it will "wither away" once class inequality of power is abolished. In practice, no self-styled Marxist leader or government has ever made attempts to move toward a society without a state. Of course, that is to be expected. After all, no society has ever completely abolished classes. In addition, no self-described "socialist" country has been able to do without a military defense against capitalist invasion or destabilization. Third, in Marxian theory, impetus for the abolition of the state would not come from the leaders or the government themselves as much as from the working people that they are supposed to represent.


The anarchists share many of the Marxian propositions about the state. But in contrast, anarchists argue that a country's collective interests can be served without having a centralized organization. The maintenance of law and order does not require that there be a sector of society that monopolizes the legitimate use of force. It is possible for society to prosper without a state, even without a long period of classes "withering away." In fact, anarchists see the state as a parasite that can and should be abolished.

Thus, they oppose the state as a matter of principle and reject the Marxian view that it may be needed temporarily as part of a transition to socialism or communism. They propose different strategies for the elimination of the state. There is a dichotomy of views regarding its replacement. Anarcho-capitalists envision a free market guided by the invisible hand offering critical or valuable functions traditionally provided by to replace the state; other anarchists (such as Bakunin and Kropotkin in the 19th century) tend to put less emphasis on markets, arguing for a form of socialism without the state. Such socialism would require worker self-management of the means of production and the federation of worker organizations in communes which will then federate into larger units.

Anarchists consider the state to be the institutionalization of domination and privilege. According to key theorists, the state emerged to ratify and deepen the dominance of the victors of history. Unlike Marxists, anarchists believe that the state, while reflecting social interests, is not a mere executive committee of the ruling class. In itself, without class rule, it is a position of power over the whole society that can dominate and exploit society. Naturally enough, many fractions of the ruling classes and even the oppressed classes strive to control the state, forming different and ever-changing alliances. They also reject the need for a state to serve the collective needs of the people. Hence, they reject not only the current state, but the Marxian idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat). Instead, they see the state as an inherently oppressive force which takes away the ability of people to make decisions about the things that affect their lives.


Both the Marxist and pluralist approaches view the state as reacting to the activities of groups within society, such as classes or interest groups. In this sense, they have both come under criticism for their 'society-centered' understanding of the state by scholars who emphasize the autonomy of the state with respect to social forces.

In particular, the "new institutionalism," an approach to politics that holds that behavior is fundamentally molded by the institutions in which it is embedded, asserts that the state is not an 'instrument' or an 'arena' and does not 'function' in the interests of a single class. Scholars working within this approach stress the importance of interposing civil society between the economy and the state to explain variation in state forms.

"New institutionalist" writings on the state, such as the works of Theda Skocpol, suggest that state actors are to an important degree autonomous. In other words, state personnel have interests of their own, which they can and do pursue independently (at times in conflict with) actors in society. Since the state controls the means of coercion, and given the dependence of many groups in civil society on the state for achieving any goals they may espouse, state personnel can to some extent impose their own preferences on civil society.

'New institutionalist' writers, claiming allegiance to Weber, often utilize the distinction between 'strong states' and 'weak states,' claiming that the degree of 'relative autonomy' of the state from pressures in society determines the power of the state—a position that has found favor in the field of international political economy.

The state in modern political thought

The rise of the modern state system was closely related to changes in political thought, especially concerning the changing understanding of legitimate state power. Early modern defenders of absolutism such as Thomas Hobbes and Jean Bodin undermined the doctrine of the divine right of kings by arguing that the power of kings should be justified by reference to the people. Hobbes in particular went further and argued that political power should be justified with reference to the individual, not just to the people understood collectively. Both Hobbes and Bodin thought they were defending the power of kings, not advocating democracy, but their arguments about the nature of sovereignty were fiercely resisted by more traditional defenders of the power of kings, like Sir Robert Filmer in England, who thought that such defenses ultimately opened the way to more democratic claims.

These and other early thinkers introduced two important concepts in order to justify sovereign power: the idea of a state of nature and the idea of a social contract. The first concept describes an imagined situation in which the state - understood as a centralized, coercive power - does not exist, and human beings have all their natural rights and powers; the second describes the conditions under which a voluntary agreement could take human beings out of the state of nature and into a state of civil society. Depending on what they understood human nature to be and the natural rights they thought human beings had in that state, various writers were able to justify more or less extensive forms of the state as a remedy for the problems of the state of nature. Thus, for example, Hobbes, who described the state of nature as a "war of every man, against every man, argued that sovereign power should be almost absolute since almost all sovereign power would be better than such a war, whereas John Locke, who understood the state of nature in more positive terms, thought that state power should be strictly limited. Both of them nevertheless understood the powers of the state to be limited by what rational individuals would agree to in a hypothetical or actual social contract.

The idea of the social contract lent itself to more democratic interpretations than Hobbes or Locke would have wanted. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, for example, argued that the only valid social contract would be one were individuals would be subject to laws that only themselves had made and assented to, as in a small direct democracy. Today the tradition of social contract reasoning is alive in the work of John Rawls and his intellectual heirs, though in a very abstract form. Rawls argued that rational individuals would only agree to social institutions specifying a set of inviolable basic liberties and a certain amount of redistribution to alleviate inequalities for the benefit of the worst off. Lockean state of nature reasoning, by contrast, is more common in the libertarian tradition of political thought represented by the work of Robert Nozick. Nozick argued that given the natural rights that human beings would have in a state of nature, the only state that could be justified would be a minimal state whose sole functions would be to provide protection and enforce agreements.

Some contemporary thinkers, such as Michel Foucault, have argued that political theory needs to get away from the notion of the state: "We need to cut off the king's head. In political theory that has still to be done. By this he meant that power in the modern world is much more decentralized and uses different instruments than power in the early modern era, so that the notion of a sovereign, centralized state is increasingly out of date.

Others have advocated the consideration of the state within the context of complex underlying elite relationships, themselves shaped by factors that include outside pressures. This work has been prominent in the thinking of State-building theorists such as Alan Whaites, who focuses on dynamics shaping the nature and capability of states. Whaites' model of state-building offers a conceptualization of why some states work well and others become characterized by patronage, corruption and conflict.

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