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Thursday, February 10, 2005

Stating a definition

Yes, yes. I'm a sucker for bad puns. Recently, I've fielded a few questions regarding my definition of a State, most linking it with modern states. A couple of further points on the State then:
  1. While my definition includes modern states (it would have to in order to be a definition worth stating), the target of 'attack' is not necessarily the modern state. What I'm looking at is if a State (as a form of social organisation with A, B, C, D) can, in any form, be morally legitimate. Very few modern philosophers think that the modern state can be morally justified, and those that do have a very hard time in proving it so. Anyone who has ever read Nozick's "Anarchy, State and Utopia" or even glanced at the tomb of a book, knows what I mean. Nozick goes through a lengthy and complicated argument to arrive at a minimal state, which is a long way away from states as we know them. Modern states, by and large, are not the sorts of things that can be easily justified. In fact, modern states may be entirely indefensible in terms of moral justification, especially when alternatives are obtainable. The Leviathan is a hard sell.
  2. However, living in a State of some description may be preferable to living under the rule of an empire or chiefdom or an absolute monarchy (i.e. no government, only the rule of the king). By the way, a government is a series of institutions committed to carrying out the State's use of force.
  3. It is easy to get distracted at some point with what constitute a State and what does. My definition (which is really the cobbling together of other people's ideas) is wide enough to cover quite a lot manifestations. Modern states, democracies, dictatorships, kingdoms (like Swaziland, for example, not kingdoms of medieval days), states with slavery, religious states, etc. All of which are fine and good, but the key point is decide to what degree the State (as a form of social...) is morally justified and to contrast that with the degree of moral justification of anarchy, and, in particular, a few different forms of anarchistic forms of social organisation.

That's my statement for today. Can't help myself, I'll stop. Promise.


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