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The Return of the

The State
• Behavioralists either dissolved the
State in a multiplicity of agencies and
institutions, or presented it as a “black
box” (structural-functionalism).
• Developmentalists referred to the State
as if we knew exactly what it is and how
it works.
The “Return of the State.”
• Dependency theorists showed the decisive role
of the State in the expansion of capital and
industrialization (the State always intervenes,
• New consensus: Politics is not a mere
“reflection” of economics.
– In the dependency theory version, this leads
to propose breaking bonds with the center.
– Instead, critics of dependency see the State
as an instrument to overcome
underdevelopment WITHIN the system (ex:
Bringing the State Back In
• “Back In”?
• Actually, comparative politics had not
focused on the study of the State before.
• “It is one thing to argue that a deeper
study of the state is needed, however,
and quite another to know in what terms
or concepts the state is to be studied.”
(Lane, 80)
• Hegel’s ghost (State = Universal,
Progressive force)

• “The new state theorists... Adopted the

most banal of the questions raised by
Marxists and neo-Marxists... The issue
of whether the state was merely the
‘executive committee’ of the capitalist
class, doing its will, or whether the
state had some degree of
independence from forces in the
surrounding society.” (80)
The “Return of the State.”

• Structuralism = the Whole is more than the

addition of its parts, and the organization of
the whole determines and explains the parts.
• Structuralisms from Marxist and Weberian
– Marx: the State is an instrument of
domination of the ruling classes.
– Weber: the State is fundamentally a
bureaucracy which develops according to
an internal logic.
Main Approaches.

• O’Donnell’s “Bureaucratic Authoritarian

• Theda Skocpol’s “autonomy” of the State.
– Evans’ emphasis on the entrepeneurial aspects of
the State.
• The centrality of the State in Transitions to
Democracy (Schmitter & O’Donnell, Linz &
• The Postmodern Critique: the State as a
“metaphysical effect” of social practices
Lane, Ch. 4:
Comparative Politics
Reconsiders the State.
Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan
• Problem: to define the conditions of the
Democratic State, which “requires much
more than elections and markets.”
• Preconditions for a consolidated
– Existence of a State.
– Free and contested elections
– Democratic government (rule of law) “Only
democracies can become consolidated
A democratic regime is

• When democracy becomes “the only

game in town.”

Crafting and Conditions (mutually
reinforcing ARENAS )
• Precond: (Existence of a functioning State)
1. Free and lively civil society
2. Autonomous political society (parties)
3. Rule of law (accountability)
4. A functioning State bureaucracy
5. Institutionalized economic society
(clear rules of the game)
What is first/more important?
“Rightly understood, democracy is more
than a regime; it is an interacting

-Need of achieving a balance between the

different arenas
The State had been seen as...
• A Subject with a unified, autonomous, and
sovereign will (Hobbes’ Leviathan)
• An instrument of the ruling classes (Marx)
– Direct instrument of the ruling classes
– Reproducing a social relationship (private property
of the means of production) despite the interests of
the owners of capital.
• A Black Box
• A decentered network of institutions and local

In comparative politics, the
movement that focused on the
• Postulated the existence of State autonomy
(Skocpol, Evans), or at least of degrees of
independence from social classes and other
groups of power (ethnic, religious, etc.)

• Strong/Weak States (examples?)

• What makes a State strong? (military

U.S. France Iraq USSR China Japan
278 59,5 23 285 million 1,273 123,771
million million billion million
Land Area (thousand

9,373 547 437 1/6 of the 9,561 378

Purchasing power

$23,300 $24,400 $2,500 -- $3,600 $24,900

Developmentalists (Dahl, Lipset)
predicted that...
Sooner or later, industrialization would lead to
democratization (ex: Great Britain, the U.S.,
Germany, France, Japan)

O’Donnell: the experience of the developing

world suggests such a prediction was wrong.
There is no common future resembling
“Anglo-Saxon democracy” (4) for all.
Guillermo O’Donnell: the
• Context: Highly industrialized developing
countries// Southern Cone (Brazil, Argentina,
Uruguay, and Chile) during the 1960s and the
1970s. Also Greece, Mexico and Spain.
– Urban
– Large industrial working class
– Modern (and transnationalized) industries
(corporations favored by “desarrollista”
O’Donnell: the BA
• But... The structural limits of growth proper
of peripheral settings lead to.
• Crises (of economic growth and inclusion)
– Mobilization of the popular sectors
– Repression by the state (alliance of modern
state bureaucrats, corporations, and
businessmen/middle-classes related to
corporations). Military coups (ex: Brazil in
1964, Chile in 1973, Argentina in 1966 and
1976, Uruguay in 1973).
State Industrial capital

• “Bureaucratic-authoritarian” pattern of
state domination associated to a
particular form of (dependent) capitalist
development. (p.5)
O’Donnell: Origins of the BA

• “The BA state is... A reaction to extended

political activation of the urban popular
sector” (p. 6) (popular sector = industrial
working class + a part of the middle class).

• The dominant sectors felt threatened by the

political participation of the popular sector.

• (Films: “Missing,” “Pra Frente Brasil”)

O’Donnell: characteristics of the
a. High governmental positions performed by
private and public bureaucrats
b. Political exclusion (closing channels to the
political participation of the popular sectors)
c. Economic exclusion (of the popular sector)
d. Depoliticization (political problems are
transformed into “technical” issues)
e. Important transformation in the mechanisms
of capital accumulation (increasing
transnationalization and dependency)

(modernization + Authoritarianism)
Skocpol, States and Social

Skocpol: the State is crucial to

understand Revolutions

• “We can make sense of social-

revolutionary transformations only
if we take the state seriously as a
macro-structure.” (29)
Skocpol, States and Social
• “Social revolutions are rapid, basic
transformations of a society’s state and
class structures; and they are accompanied
and in part carried through by class-based
revolts from below. (...) What is unique to
social revolutions is that basic changes in
social structure and in political structure
occur together in a mutually reinforcing
fashion.” (4-5)
Skocpol, States and Social
“The state properly conceived is no mere
arena in which socioeconomic struggles
are fought out. It is, rather, a set of
administrative, policing, and military
organizations headed, and more or less
well coordinated by, an executive authority.
Any state first and fundamentally extracts
resources from society and deploys these
to create and support coercive and
administrative organizations.” (29)
• Where they exist, these fundamental
state organizations are at least
potentially autonomous from direct
dominant-class control. The extent to
which they actually are autonomous,
and to what effect, varies from case to
case.” (29-30)
Skocpol, States and Social

• Problem: “Social-scientific theories

derived their explanations of
revolution from models of how
political protest and change were
ideally supposed to occur in liberal-
democratic or capitalist societies.”
– (both Marxist theories and theories of

• Problem: to explain revolutions

occurred in “predominantly agrarian
countries with absolutist-monarchical
states and peasant-based social
orders.” (xiv)
– French Revolution (1789)
– Russian (Soviet) Revolution (1917)
– Chinese Revolution (1911-16)
• All of these revolutions occurred in Imperial,
proto-bureaucratic states (Bourbon France,
Romanov Russia, Manchu China)
• Uses France (from 1643 to 1789) as an
example of an agrarian society.

• But... Huntington uses France as a pattern of

political modernization (starting precisely
with Absolutism).

– Who is right?
– What is a CASE?
Problem: What is the State?
Where does it begin, and
where does it end?

How should we study the

State empirically?