Politics and the state - Defining the state - Approaches to the state

10 important questions on Politics and the state - Defining the state - Approaches to the state

What is the idealist approach to the state?

three moments of social existence: the family, society and the state.
Family: altruism, people set aside their own interests for the good of their children/family.
Civil society: universal egoism, individuals place their own interest before others.
State: universal altruism, ethical community underpinned by mutual sympathy.

Critique: fails to distinguish between institutions that are part of the state.

What is the idealist approach?

An ethical community underpinned by mutual sympathy => Hegel

What is the functionalist perspective?

Focuses on the role or purpose of state institutions.
Central function: maintenance of social order and deliver social stability.

Approach adopted by neo-marxists (see state as a mechanism through which class conflict is enhanced to ensure the long-term survival of the capitalist system).

Weakness: tends to associate any institution that maintains order with the state itself (family, church, mass media etc).
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What is the functionalist approach?

That set of institutions that uphold order and deliver social stability

What is the organizational view of the state?

State as a set of institutions that are recognizably 'public', in that they are responsible for the collective organization of social existence and are funded at the public's expense.

Clearly distinguishes between the state and civil society.
The state comprises the various institutions of government: the bureaucracy, the military, the police, the courts etc.

In the light of the organizational view, what are the five key features of the state?

- The state is sovereign (absolute and unrestricted power)
- State institutions are public (responsible for making and enforcing collective decisions).
- State is an exercise of legitimation (decisions are often binding on the members of society, because they are made in the public interest).
- State is an instrument of domination (state authority is backed up by coercion).
- State is a territorial association (jurisdiction of the state is geographically defined).

What are the 5 key features of the state?

1) The state is sovereign
2) State institutions are public instead of the private institutions of civil society
3) The state is an exercise in legitimation; decisions are accepted as binding
4) The state is an instrument of domination; it must have the capacity to ensure that its laws are obeyed and transgressors are punished
5) The state is a territorial association; only between the borders

What is the international approach to the state?

Views the state as an actor on the world stage. Highlights the dualistic structure of the state (one looking inwards, and one looking outwards).

What is the international approach?

It views the state as an actor on the world state

What are the four features according to art. 1 of the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (1933)?

A defined territory, a permanent population, an effective government and the capacity to enter into relations with other states

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