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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Part Two: The State

This is part of the thesis defines the state. Last date of correction 10th of Jan. 2006

Part Two: The State

The state itself has acquired a myth of power, endowed with a (mythical) will of its own, and is often an object of worship. Those who adore power for itself venerate the state, and create thereby a cult of the state.”
--Lawrence Krader, Formation of the State, pg. 63

Why define the State? Surely, as citizens of States, we already know what a State is. Like obscenity, we'll know a State when we see one; intelligent individuals can and do have deep, engaging and insightful conversations about how a State should act, its history and its future without ever needing to define it. Perfect strangers can meet in the night and discuss statecraft, never once referring to a dictionary, let alone obscure philosophical texts.

Further, the reader of this ill-written and badly-argued tract, it could be pointed out, has made it this far sans definition, so where's the need? Why bother? Save some paper, save a forest, save the species. Couldn't the State be justified (according to whatever moral theory happens to be this month's flavour) with the commonly held but unarticulated concept of the State?

Well, no. The commonly held, unarticulated concept of the State is vague, open to interpretation, and quite unhelpful in justifying the State, if for no other reason that this unspoken, unwritten 'definition' is impossible, by definition, to either verify or disprove. This endeavour, as pointed out in Part One, is an important one, far too important to rely on a subjective definition of this sort; what Takamiya thinks a State is may not be exactly what Chang-Ho thinks it is, and vice versa.

Without a clear, precise and objective definition of the State, this enquiry cannot move forward with any degree of certainty. The author would be like some nineteenth century European explorer arriving on the African Continent with a armful of mostly blank and highly inaccurate maps, a pith helmet, and bucket loads of hubris. No doubt travelling towards a sticky end.

Furthermore, the analogy between obscenity and the State breaks down like Detroit rolling iron circa 1979. The I'll-know-it-when-I-see-it definition1 was used to make a legal ruling by a legal system that had not yet defined what constituted an article of pornography. This is not the case with the State. A legal definition—from a regional convention binding in the Americas—of the State was created over seventy years ago. There are actual words on paper to ponder.

However, before this legal definition is examined, it is useful to note that the commonly held but unarticulated definition has at least one important function. It can serve as a litmus test for more precise, written definitions. Any proper definition of the State should be examined with the uttermost rigour if it clashes too violently with the commonly held conception of the State; a definition of the State should articulate, to a degree, what we perceive a State to be in the same manner that ethical theories tend to loosely match common conceptions of ethical acts. As Lawrence Krader points out, “If you would know what a state is, look around you.”2

Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (1933) declares that:

The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualification (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with other states.”3

Be warned, just because a bunch of ministers of foreign affairs sat around a table and declared Article 1 to be the definition of the State doesn't necessarily make Article 1 the correct definition—the ministers, horror of all horrors, could have got it wrong. Yet, Article 1 provides the beginning of a true definition, especially when converted into a more philosophical rendering:

The State has the following essential characteristics (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with other states.

The phrase “as a person of international law” was rejected because it is an unnecessary (for our purposes) legal phrase designed to make international treaties and laws enforceable on a State, and, more to the point, the phrase does not signify an essential characteristic of the State. A State doesn't have to be a person of international law to be a State; a State (or even a collection of States) could exist in a world devoid of international law. Or, it is possible to imagine a world with only one State, and, hence, no international law.

However, “should possess” can be safely converted into “essential characteristics”; Article 1 seems to indicate that if a State lacks (a), (b), (c), or (d), then it is not a State but something else. For example, if a State has no government4 under this definition, it is no longer a State, as such has been the case in Somalia. Somalia has a defined territory (i.e. “Somalia” starts and ends at recognised borders), but no government to speak of (current and unsuccessful efforts notwithstanding).

At least two of these characteristics seem to hold true as essential characteristics; (a) permanent population and (b) defined territory. In regards to (a), it is exceedingly hard to imagine any form of human organisation of any description that is devoid of human beings (or the minimum equivalent thereof5). Even if one could be imagined and even if such a vision was coherent, what would be the point? The reason for this enquiry into the State and anarchism is to examine the moral justification of the State and its alternatives; how should we live?6 Examining a State without people—if such was possible—won't answer that question.

Yet, must a State have a permanent population? What does that mean? What about nomadic or transient populations? Requirements of permanency/transiency are dubious precisely because they are hard to define. How long must a population stay in one geographical area for it to be determined permanent? One year? Five hundred years? Two weeks?

Anyway, States are not eternal institutions. Every State you see, will fall, will tumble and shatter and only be half-remembered in ancient books mouldering in dark, pre-nanotech libraries. Barbarians may cavort again amongst the architectural remains of once glorious capital cities.

States are temporary, and so are their populations. You, and all your fellow countrymen, will soon be nothing but bone turning to dust.

Therefore, the concept of permanent population can be safely abandoned for a simpler and clearer essential characteristic, a population. States must have populations, which must not be seen as applying to citizens (formal members of States) alone. What constitutes a citizen of a particular State is a matter of political science, and not relevant to this discussion. All that a State needs is a population; what the privileges and the responsibilities of that population in regards to that State are has nothing to do with the State having a population; those privileges and responsibilities could vary widely.

The concept for defined territory (or absence of) has a greater depth than that of population, and will, as the logic unfurls in a glimmering argument of staggering brilliance, have a vital role in distinguishing the State from other forms of human organisation, in particular empires. For the present, an examination of the concept of defined territory will suffice. States have starts and ends to their rule. Walk far enough in any direction and you'll either have to invest in a boat or you pass from the domain of one State and into another. You will reach a border, and the likelihood is that you will not pass unchallenged.

It is conceivable that the entire world could be ruled by a single State. If such a all-world State could be created, what would happen to the concept of borders and defined territory? Either the all-world State's borders would be the earth's atmosphere or other points beyond, or it would have no borders and the self-declared right to rule the universe. If it is the latter case, as will clear from later arguments, the all-world State is no longer a State but an empire.

Borders serve as theoretical geographical containments of a State's rule. Of course, the influence and power of a State can extend past its borders, but this is seen as an imposition (welcome or not) into another State's area. Within a particular area, States maintains that it is the sovereign power (at least in theory) and that (again in theory) that their rule does not exceed that particular area.

There is one area of possible confusion regarding the concept of defined territory, and that is, who defines the territory? Is it other States? Is it a 'neutral' third-party such as the UN? Neither of these two can be the providers of definition for it is conceivable to have a world with only one State (surrounded, for example, by hunter-gatherers or pastoralists) and no 'neutral' third-party. Who then?

States define their own borders (other States may not agree with a particular State's declaration of its borders, and this often ends in a condition men term warre). A State makes a declaration that its rule ends at one spot or another, and then dares all others to disagree; i.e. this declaration is not derived from other States, non-state societies, or third-parties, but from the State itself. A defined territory is the result of a particular State's vision of its place in the world.

In regards to (c), Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention is also correct. It is impossible to conceive of a State without a government, and even if it were, it would clash violently with our commonly held, unarticulated conception of a State. Further, there seems to be every reason to declare that possessing a government is an essential characteristic of the State. So much so that the definition of the State has often been conflated with that of government, especially amongst Americans, who often use the phrase “the Federal Government” to indicate the State.

This confusion is not limited to Americans. Some anarchists have also toyed with the notion that notion of the State is equivalent to that of the government. For example, Errico Malatesta, in his pamphlet Anarchy, puts forth that:

Anarchists, including this writer have used the word State, and still do, to mean the sum total of the political, legislative, judiciary, military and financial institutions through which the management of their own affairs, the control over their personal behaviour, the responsibility for their personal safety, are taken away from the people and entrusted to others who, by usurpation or delegation, are vested with the powers to make the laws for everything and everybody, and oblige the people to observe them, if need be, by the use of collective force.

In this sense the word State means government, or to put it another way, it is the impersonal abstract expression of that state of affairs personified by government....”7

Malatesta, after a brief discussion on other meanings, definitions if you will, of the word 'State', concludes with:

For these reasons we believe it would be better to use expressions such as abolition of the State as little as possible, substituting for it the clearer and more concrete term abolition of government.

Anyway, it is what we shall do in the course of the pamphlet.”8

In addition to conflating notions of State and government, Malatesta gives us a definition of government, which can be reduced to:

A government is a series of institutions (legislative, judicial, military, political, and financial) which impose, through collective force, a social order on the people.

While this does seem to be a workable description of current governments—you could run with it—it does seem linked somehow to the reduction of the State to government. Insert 'State' in the place of 'government' in the definition above, and you'd have a workable definition of the State, similar to Max Weber's famous definition, which is soon to appear in this discourse. Does this work? Are 'government' and 'State' interchangeable? Or is this a shinning path to failure?

As tempting as it may be to declare the State synonymous with the government for reasons of clarity or even simple laziness, it, like most temptations, would be bad idea in the long term.

The State is not equivalent to the government if the government of a State can change without the State changing, and/or if governments can exist without States (i.e. human beings clumped together in some sort of non-State social grouping can have government). To take the former qualifier first (and not last, which would cause the most unnecessary confusion), recent South African history seems to prove the point. In 1994, citizens of South Africa stood in long queues to vote in the first democratic election. The National Party was promptly voted out and the African National Congress was voted in. These were two very different parties, resulting in two very different governments. Yet, it must be asked, did the South African State disappear with the Nats?

Again, the answer is no. The South African State remained the same (the name didn't even change to Azania). The replacement of one particular government with another did not equate in the replacement of that State.

Even if this recent example of a State remaining while its government changed weren't so readily at hand and looking through history for others was too much of a bother (one wonders how many governments have ruled the Chinese State, for example), a closer examination of the concept of government helps to differentiate between it and a State. A government is, quite simply, a decision making and enforcing body. Schools can have governments (the School Board or what have you), churches can have governments, and, more germane to the topic, groups of human beings can be ruled by a government without being in a State. Such groupings have existed, as real as concrete.

For example, the Crow Indians of the western plains of North America had a government that policed the buffalo hunt to the extent that it punished serious offenders with death. Four Crow associations (delightfully called Foxes, Lumpwoods, Dogs and Bulls) alternated governing the buffalo hunt. While the police function ended with the hunt, the associations did not disband. In a sense, they acted like corporations existing in perpetuity. Outside of the hunt, the associations took on the responsibilities of defending all of Crow society, rehearsal of social and religious dances, and providing mutual aid to members of each association (i.e. the Dogs association would look after the welfare its own members).9

While the Crow Indians had a government, they hardly had a State. They had a society with a government but 'outside' of a State. Other, more 'primitive' societies have had governments without States. Eskimos dealt with disputes between parties via a 'song-duel' held in front of the entire community which would gather especially for the occasion and later pass judgement. Eskimo society had no formal methods of solving disputes; no policemen, officers of the court, chiefs or councils. In a sense, when a problem arose, all of society then became the government armed with the mandate to judge the dispute. Once the dispute was solved, the government dissolved, to form again at another song-duel.10

In his discussion on Eskimos and governance, Lawrence Krader concludes that:

The Eskimos have a simple form of governmental regulation of social behaviour: their court is not a permanent institution; it is convened as the occasion warrants, and after the judgement the court is disbanded without fixing a time for reassemblage.”11

Common sense tells us that neither Eskimos nor Crow Indians (or any other example even the most casual student of anthropology or archaeology could drag forth) lived in States. Unless, as some anthropologists have done, we declare that States exist in all societies, no matter how simple or complex (or, to put it differently, all societies have States). Eduard Meyer and Wilhelm Koppers, in particular, have proposed that all societies have States; essentially, the dominating group in any society that maintains the unity of that society is the State.12 This definition of a State is so watered down that it has no use in political philosophy, and, in fact, Meyer and Koppers have confused government (as the decision making body of a society) and the State.

To return to Eskimos and the Crow, while they had governments, their societies seemed to lack something that States have, some other essential characteristic. Could that characteristic be the capacity to enter into relations with States, as declared in the Montevideo Convention?

Well, no. Of course States do have the capacity to enter into relations with other States (hard to think of a State that couldn't do this), but, then again, non-State societies can also enter into relations with States and have done so (Native Americans signing treaties, for example) before. Further, what happens in our hypothetical world with one State surrounded by hunter-gatherers and pastoralists? It doesn't have the capacity to enter into relations with other States for there are none. There is also the case of the first State, which, by virtue of being the first State in creation, also cannot have the capacity to enter into relations with other States for, again, there are none. And, anyway, this still doesn't define the State.

For example, a tribal society can have a defined territory, a population, a government (big man chief, for example), and could have the capacity to enter into relations with States; the historical precedents for such a society are not unknown. Yet, despite having all of these characteristics, such a society is not a State. A State is something different, and to determine what makes that difference, the Montevideo Convention must be left to 1933. Still, the Montevideo Convention did give us the essential characteristics of population, government and defined territory, and for that we must be grateful. Onwards into the past.

Fifteen years before the Montevideo Convention, the German sociologist Max Weber stood up in a Munich lecture hall and said:

“The state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of force within a given territory.”13

This is, perhaps, one of the more celebrated definitions of the State, and has been adopted far and wide, copied and pasted into uncounted Internet tracts and obscure email debates. Not only is it a clear definition, it is also concise and simple. There is even an intuitive appeal; the State does seem to be a violent agent. Almost every State on the planet and throughout history has had an army. Each one has had a police force, and many have had a variety of other security services. All of these various organs (to borrow Alexander Solzhenitsyn's description of the Cheka, KGB, etc.) of the State are engaged in the use of sanctioned force. If an individual transgresses the State's law, the State (or other forces sanctioned by the State) then uses to force, via the organs, to punish that individual.

States regularly detain people against their will for decades, many States kill lawbreakers, some chop off body parts, and others have clumped lawbreakers together in penal battalions, cannon fodder in a State-sponsored exercise in the finer points of mass murder. And, in the use of force, States don't allow others outside of its sanction to use force. States seem to be the sole sources of allowable force.

If we, as Krader suggests, look around us, we'll find States engaged in the sole, use of allowable force inside their defined territories. So much so that in the pursuit of maintaining their status of the sole source of allowable force, States have seriously contemplated nuclear winter, megadeath, and how to deliver extremely lethal and utterly artificial strains of influenza to opposing populations. They have condoned (to paraphrase Dostoevsky) cossacks impaling babies on the points of lances.

One important difference between the Weber and Montevideo definitions is that Montevideo defines the State in terms of form while Weber defines it in terms of function; the functionality in the Weber definition is the successful claim of legitimate force. While form has its place, defining the State in terms of function is also very important, especially if that function is an essential characteristic of the State.

Of the other parts of Weber's definition, the concept of defined territory has already been explained, and the term 'human community' seems to mean that the State is comprised of human beings (it could be comprised of nothing else) and that its functions are carried out by human beings.14

The key phrase, the characteristic function of the State, is its successful claim to the monopoly on the legitimate use of force. This is the critical part of Weber's definition, on which the validity of the whole is dependent. Two questions need to be answered here: 1) What sense of legitimate is at play? The moral, or the legal? and 2) What qualifies as a monopoly on the use of legitimate force?

For something to be legitimate, it is has an ethical sanction (justified), or it is permissible in terms of the law. Weber is using the latter sense of the word, and this sense of legitimacy comes out in his less-quoted but more explanatory definition of the State, a definition worth reproducing in its entirety:

The primary formal characteristics of the modern state are as follows: It possesses an administrative and legal order subject to change by legislation, to which the organized corporate activity of the administrative staff, which is also regulated by legislation, is orientated. This system of order claims binding authority, not only over members of the state, the citizens, most of whom have obtained membership by birth, but also to a very large extent, over all action taking place in the area of its jurisdiction. It is thus a compulsory association with a territorial basis. Furthermore, to-day, the use of force is regarded as legitimate only so far as it is either permitted by the state or prescribed by it. Thus the right of a father to discipline his children is recognized—a survival of the former independent authority of a head of a household, which in the right to use force has sometimes extended to a power of life and death over children and slaves. The claim of the modern state to monopolize the use of force is as essential to it as its character of compulsory jurisdiction and of continuous organisation.”15

This longer definition brings out two elements not readily apparent in the shorter definition. The first is that legitimacy spoken of is very much of the legal sort. The use of force within society and the mechanics of force (judiciary, executive) are bound through legislation. Therefore, it is the State that declares itself (via laws) what it can and cannot do in regards to force. Further, this declaration can be traced back to the State itself and nowhere else (according to this definition, force can only be sanctioned by the State, there are no 'natural' rights to force as in the case of a father over his children or a master over a slave). The degree of force that an individual may use (from the merest of subjects to the highest of the State's agents) is entirely dependent upon what the State decrees; the State and the State alone decides what degree of force (if any) a individual can use in any given particular situation. Look around, what State doesn't have a set of highly complex laws surrounding the issue of self-defence? How many States restrict access to weaponry?

It is important to note that this definition does not make the case that the State has a monopoly on the moral use of force, but, instead, it looks at a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. It also doesn't approach the issue of whether the State's use of force is moral or not. This point is returned to in a few paragraphs hence.

But, could a State's claims to legitimate use of force be somehow involved in whether or not its population (presumably a majority of, but this could prove to be extremely problematic) considers the State and its government to be justified? This has sometimes been described, in technical terms, as nonnormative legitimacy.

South African history does provide a counterexample to this conception of legitimacy. During Apartheid, the State and the government were not though as being legitimate by the majority of the population, yet South Africa remained a State. There is a good chance that groups of South Africans still think that the government in illegitimate; for example, individuals on the far, far right.

Even if this counterexample is valid, the question may be worth a bit more print, but from a slightly different angle. Robert Nozick, in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, takes a different tack, albeit in a footnote:

Attempts to explain the notion of legitimacy of government in terms of attitudes and beliefs of its subjects have a difficult time avoiding the reintroduction of the notion of legitimacy when it comes time to explain the precise content of the subject's attitudes and beliefs....”16

Replace 'government' with 'the use of force' in the quote above, and the point remains. Leslie Green, in Authority of the State, drives home Nozick's point:

“It is absurd to say, as some political scientists do, that a state is legitimate if it is believed to be legitimate by its citizens; for what are we to suppose they believe in believing that?”17

Even if these beliefs could be tracked and nailed down, the issue behind the issue here is that it is first necessary to define the State before it can be decided if a particular State is justified, which is underneath the concepts of legitimacy from the population and, more importantly, moral legitimacy. Christopher Morris helps to clarify and simplify this potential minefield. He starts with contrasting procedural legitimacy with more substantive and normative notions of legitimacy:

While lawfulness may be an important attribute of legitimate states or governments, it is hard to believe that it confers the normative and substantive status we seem to be thinking of when attributing legitimacy. A state or government may be legitimate in a procedural sense by being lawful or by functioning in accordance with its rules or procedures. This would be a type of consistency, an attribute presumably of the “rule of law”....But it is not the sort of legitimacy we wonder about when we raise the questions central to this inquiry. These require a substantive notion.”18

And, according to Morris, a substantive notion of legitimacy is connected to the issue justification. So much so, that in order for a State to legitimate (in the substantive sense) it has to be justified. This in turn puts the spotlight on justification, which Morris cheerfully deals with:

To show a state to be legitimate, then, would be to justify its existence and (some of its) powers. This may be helpful but only if we become clear about justification....Broadly, to justify something is to show it to be just or right, to be reasonable, or to be warranted; it is to validate or vindicate. In epistemic contexts, justification pertains to beliefs or statements. For practical matters, it is principally acts or powers that are called upon to be justified. To justify a state, then, might be to show its powers to be just (or right) or reasonable.”19

What is emerging with brief discussion on justification and legitimacy is that procedural (or legal) legitimacy does not require justification, which is about what is right and what is wrong and degrees thereof. An action is done in accordance to the law or it is not, and the morality of the action has no bearing on its legal status. Normative and substantive (i.e. moral) legitimacy, however, does require justification. An action has substantive legitimacy if that action is justified, i.e. if the action is morally permissible.

The beauty of Weber's definition of the State (at least on the legalistic interpretation of legitimacy; i.e., what Morris terms the “procedural” notion of legitimacy, see above) is that it encompasses all possible States, even those that are despised by their populations, or parts thereof, and those that are engaged in morally repulsive acts of force—kidnapping, mass murder, genocide, ethnic cleansing—which are officially sanctioned. It hardly seems, without getting into much ethical theory, that the Group Areas Act of 1950 and the US “Jim Crow” laws were not morally permissible, and, still, the American and South African States stood. Weber's definition (on the legalistic interpretation of legitimacy) encompasses justified and non-justified States, and, thus, avoids complications regarding substantial and normative legitimacy and justification.

Weber's second point is new to the discussion. The State's jurisdiction is binding to all, and it is primary. For example, in the case between a religious ruling that A should do X in Situation 1 and a law that orders A to do Y (where Y is the direct opposite of X) in Situation 1, it is the State's law that should be obeyed, from the State's point of view that is. There is no higher authority than the State; that's what compulsory jurisdiction boils entails.

The two questions raised—what qualifies as a monopoly on the use of legitimate force, and what constitutes a successful claim—raise some doubts about Weber's definition. Is the monopoly that Weber conceptualises a virtual or an absolute monopoly?

Well, it would seem that if the monopoly applies to legal force and the State is the agent that defines what is legal, then the monopoly would have to be absolute. If, within a bounded territory with a human community, there is more than one agent declaring what constitutes legal force, there is two or more separate law-making agents, then there is no State. So, for example, Somalia is not a State because, within a bounded territory, there are multiple sources of legitimate force (varying warlords and clans).

Same could be said about Medieval Europe. Charles Tilly, in Coercion, Capital and European States, AD 990-1990, describes a situation where more than one party has claim to the use of legitimate (allowing for a broad interpretation of legality and legal systems) force:

None of these half-familiar place names, however, should disguise the enormous fragmentation of sovereignty then prevailing throughout the territory that would become Europe. The emperors, kings, princes, dukes, caliphs, sultans, and other potentates of AD 990 prevailed as conquerors, tribute-takers, and rentiers, not as heads of state that durably and densely regulated life within their realms. Inside their jurisdictions, furthermore, rivals and ostensible subordinates commonly used armed force on behalf of their own interests while paying little attention to the interests of their nominal sovereigns. Private armies proliferated through much of the continent. Nothing like a centralized national state existed anywhere within Europe.”20

In fact, even where an agent in Medieval Europe claimed to be a ruler of an area, their rule hardly extend beyond their noses. Free cities, guilds, medieval corporations, religious orders, cults, liege-lords all claimed the right to rule and co-existed. At one time (around 1000AD), the Holy Roman emperor, the Byzantine emperor and the Pope all claimed to rule the Italian peninsula; only one small snag, cities throughout the peninsula ruled themselves as independent and legitimate (in their eyes) political entities.21

What does seem clear, apart from anything else, is that Weber was on the right track. States do seem to be the sort of things that do not allow unauthorised use of force. So was Weber correct? Is the missing essential characteristic an absolute monopoly on the use of legitimate force?

No, and, once again, the look around method can help us out, provided we look away from Western Europe and North America, where the State does seem to have an absolute monopoly on the use of legitimate force. Time to go South. The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda are two examples of States that don't have an absolute monopoly on the use of legitimate force. Inside Uganda and the DRC, there are significant geographical areas where the State's rule breaks down. Areas devoid of the State's agents, areas where the rules of social conduct and societal ordering come not from presidents and parliaments, but from rebel groups or even traditional authorities (rural Indian villages in Bolivia) who lay down their own sets of laws. In other words, inside the bounds of the States of Uganda and the DRC, there are multiple sources of legitimate force, keeping in mind Weber's legalistic interpretation of legitimate.

Uganda and the DRC aren't the only examples of States with more than one source of legitimate force; the Sudan (the south of the country is completely divorced from the North) and Columbia (FARC controls areas and makes laws within those areas) are two other examples. The Weber definition appears to breaks down if it is moved outside of the stable 'mature' States of Europe.

Unless, of course, one accepts that countries like Uganda and the DRC are not States. Proto-states or some such similar not-quite-a-State description. Then, it might be possible to hold onto the Weber definition. Some philosophers, for their own reasons no doubt, have decided throw such States out of the category of statehood. Christopher Morris is one:

In our world there may be a number of alternatives [to the State]. Some may not be appealing. The “quasi states” of Africa are states only in name, recognized as such by the international order of states.”22


For one thing, the killings in Rwanda, at best a “quasi state”, as well as those of Pol Pot, were not carried out by states.”23

Once again,

As we have seen, common conceptions of a state have to be very diluted if Andorra, the Vatican, and the “quasi states” of Africa can all be regarded as states.”24

While it would be helpful to know which African countries are “quasi states”, Morris's concept still merits some discussion. For Morris, are quasi states what others call “failed States” (Somalia, Afghanistan)? We don't know, for he is silent on the topic. Or, are they merely weak States, unable to project the State's power on part of its territory (Uganda, for example)? Again, nothing.

If the former, then Morris's target seems to be the definition (or theory, if you will) that State A is a State if other States (B, C, and D) recognise it as such. This has been dealt with previously in a slightly different context; what of the world with only one State, which is surrounded by non-State societies? Or the all-world State?

Or, imagine the following: There exists an international order of four State-like societies. Societies A, B and C get together and recognise each other as States. However, society D was not invited to the conference (A, B and C don't like D), despite being functionally equivalent to A, B, and C (i.e. a member of any of those societies who emigrated would find life and governance in D similar to life and governance in A/B/C). In fact, A, B, and C dislike D with such intensity they ignore D to the point where they refuse to admit D is a State and isolate D as much as they can; they close the borders to D, refuse ambassadors from D, publicly call D a non-State (quasi-State or proto-State), and so on.

In this case, D would not be a State (despite being functionally equivalent to A, B, and C) because A, B, and C had not been recognised it as such. This seems inherently wrong.

In regards to the strength of States (for Morris, it could be that a State is only a State if it has strength of arms, if a State cannot enforce its rule to all corners at all times, it is not a State, e.g. the DRC), it would be wise to remember that even traditionally strong States have had internal areas where, for significant time-periods, they have been unable to enforce their rule. The United Kingdom, hardly a weak State and a nuclear power, was unable to enforce its rule over parts of Northern Ireland, where, in parts, it was the IRA that was the 'legitimate' power. Native American rebellions in the USA, such as the Apache under Geronimo (rebellion from 1875-1886), were other cases where a strong State (on the cusp of world domination, it might be added) couldn't enforce its rule over all its territory; was the UK during the 1970s a proto-State? Of course not. Was the USA in 1876 a quasi-State? Absurd. What might be important in these examples is that while the State sought a monopoly of the use of legitimate force, it did not have it all the time over every square inch of its territory, and a definition of a State must be able to accommodate this sort of flexibility or else every rebellion would, in effect, mean the end of the State.

Wishing away, then, examples of States where the State does not have a absolute monopoly on the use of legitimate force by declaring such States non-States is not only semantically confusing but also doesn't work philosophically. Yet, even on a more generous, virtual definition of monopoly, which may be a kinder way to read Weber, Weber's concept comes unstuck when religious authority enters the fray.

An early draft of the recently approved constitution of Iraq was reported to have an article recognising religious authority (in effect, a alternative source of legitimate authority). An Iraqi blogger had this to say about that article:

Article (12): The religious Marja’ia is respected for its spiritual role and it is a prominent religious symbol on the national and Islamic fronts; and the state cannot tamper with its private affairs.

Marja’ia in Arabic means ‘reference’. Basically, this article discusses the ‘religious reference’ which should mean, I suppose, any religious Marja’ia in Iraq. However, in Iraq, any time the word Marja’ia is used, it is in direct allusion to the Shia religious figures like Sistani and the other Marja’ia figures in Najaf and Karbala.

Why is it that the state can have no influence on the Marja’ia but there is no clause saying that, in return, the Marja’ia cannot tamper in matters of state or constitution? The Marja’ia has influence over the lives of millions of Iraqis (and millions of Muslims worldwide, for that matter). The laws of the Marja’ia for some supersede the laws of state. For example, if the Marja’ia declares the religiously acceptable marrying age to be 10 and the state declares the legal age to be 18, won’t that be unconstitutional? The state cannot pass laws that do not agree with the basic principles and rules of Islam and for millions, the Marja’ia sets those rules.”25

While this draft of Article 12 wasn't instituted into law, it does show that the there can be competing sources of legitimate (in the legal sense) use of force. It is imaginable that a State could exist where, in a uneasy tacit agreement, the economic and diplomatic affairs and law enforcement of a country are the State's domain, while all cultural laws26 (how to dress, marriage laws, divorce laws, etc.) are the sole domain of a religious authority and are enforced by the same religious authority with that particular brand of blind ruthlessness favoured by fundamentalists the world over. Such a State could have a total control of the business world, complete command of the army and police, and would require complete obedience (jurisdiction) on these matters, but would be powerless, for example, to decide if a husband could beat his wife. Furthermore, any attempt to bring the State into the cultural sphere would incite a terrible revolution. In this case, the State wouldn't have even a virtual monopoly on the use of force.

While the previous counter-example could be problematic—wouldn't the religious authority be acting as an organ of the State, akin to a police force?—it may not matter. Perhaps, this discussion on what constitutes a Weberian monopoly and what he means by legitimate is all besides the point. Robert Nozick has this to say on Weber and the monopoly on the use of force:

As Marshall Cohen points out in a unpublished essay, a state may exist without actually monopolizing the use of force it has not authorised others to use; within the boundaries of a state there may exist groups such as the Mafia, the KKK, White Citizens Councils, striking unionists, and Weatherman that also use force. Claiming a monopoly is not sufficient (if you claimed it you would not become the state), nor is being its sole claimant a necessary condition....Formulating sufficient conditions for the existence of the state thus turns out to be a difficult and messy task.”27

What does seem to be important, what seems to be core of Weber's definition is that States are heavily engaged in the use of force and that they require compulsory jurisdiction. With those two points, it is now possible to provide a definition of the State. Time to ante up, and the stakes, to continue with a somewhat worn metaphor, are fairly high as it is this definition that will be used to determine the justification (on perfectionist grounds) for the State.28

What is a State? A State is a form of social organisation that essentially has:

a) a defined territory

b) a population

c) a government that is engaged in the use of force

d) a hierarchical structure

Obviously, this requires a definition of a government. As remarked on before, a government is a decision-making and enforcing body. In the context of the modern State, the definition could, perhaps, be expanded. Errico Malatesta's thoughts pleasantly provide the basis for this expansion:

A government is a series of institutions (legislative, judicial, military, political, and financial) that function as a collective decision-making and decision-enforcing body.

Please also note that characteristics a) to d) are essential characteristics. If a form of social organisation has all of them, then it is a State. If a form of social organisation is missing one or more—say a) and d), for example—then it is not a State, but something else. States necessarily possess these four characteristics, and do so in all possible worlds where States could exist.29

There may also be other characteristics typical of States—they may have flags, they may have armies or secret police, they may have national holidays and creation myths—but none of those characteristics are essential. For example, States are often thought to have armies as integral to their existence. So much so that an army is thought to be one of the basic building blocks of a State—if you want a State, you had better budget for uniforms, rifles, tanks and then find a couple of pieces of deadwood to pin some stars on—and that premise is hardly ever debated in the public discourse. Yet, Costa Rica disbanded its army on the 1st of December 1948. Costa Rica is not alone, 24 other countries do not maintain an army including Panama, Iceland, Grenada, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, and a good chunk of the Pacific Island nations. While maintaining a standing army may be typical characteristic of States, it is not an essential characteristic.

It is important to recognise that the State is highly involved in the social sphere, in how we live. In fact, the State is a form of social organisation (which includes but is not limited to political organisation), and the State organises society (and, in turn, becomes an expression of society) in a particular way. Weber alludes to this in his longer definition of the State:

This system of order claims binding authority, not only over members of the state, the citizens, most of whom have obtained membership by birth, but also to a very large extent, over all action taking place in the area of its jurisdiction.”30

Other thinkers have also highlighted this critical point, sometimes with a bit more force than Weber. Guy Debord and Murray Bookchin both have understood and written about this point—in the case of Debord, rather cryptically; Bookchin is merely prolific. In The Society of the Spectacle and from a Marxist31, 20th Century vantage-point, Debord loads this point right up front, in Thesis 6:

Understood in its totality, the spectacle is both the outcome and the goal of the dominant mode of production. It is not something added to the real world—not a decorative element, so to speak. On the contrary, it is the very heart of society's real unreality. In all its specific manifestations—news or propaganda, advertising or the actual consumption of entertainment—the spectacle epitomizes the prevailing model of social life. It is the omnipresent celebration of choice already made in the sphere of production, and the consummate result of that choice. In form as in content the spectacle serves as total justification for the conditions and aims of the existing system. It further ensures the permanent presence of that justification, for it governs almost all time spent outside of the productive process itself.”32

In Thesis 11, a similar point is made:

In order to describe the spectacle, its formation, its functions and whatever points may hasten its demise, a few artificial distinctions are called for. To analyse the spectacle means talking its language to some degree—to the degree, in fact, that we are obliged to engage the methodology of the society to which the spectacle gives expression. For what the spectacle expresses is the total practice of one particular economic and social formation; it is, so to speak, that formation's agenda. It is also the historical moment by which we happen to be governed.”33

Being French and writing in 1967, Debord obviously had other guillotines to hone than this enquiry, yet the point is made: The State shapes, limits and regulates society, and, if left unchecked, will do so until society resembles the State and the State resembles society. As a mode of social organisation, the State cannot be divorced from society, whilst remaining theoretically distinct. In The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship, Murray Bookchin lays out this distinction and relationship:

In recent years, however, serious attempts have been made to probe the distinction between 'society' and 'politics,' which has traditional roots in theoretical distinctions between society and the state. The anarchists have been saying for years what everyone either knows or feels; the state is the not the same kind of phenomenon as the family, workplace, fraternal and sororal groups, religious congregations, unions and professional societies, in short, the 'private' world that individuals create or inherit to meet their personal and spiritual needs. This personal world can be designated as 'social,' however much 'government' penetrates, regulates, or, in totalitarian states, absorbs its forms.”34

As Bookchin alludes to, the degree to which the State organises a society varies from mere regulation to building anew in its own image. Sometimes, maybe even often, we tend to consider the State existing independently of society, that the State is only few buildings located in a faraway capital city and filled with eager bureaucrats. This seems to be the view of a few philosophers, David Copp being one of them:

The state is the system of animated institutions that govern the territory and its residents, and that administer and enforce the legal system and carry out the programs of government. A state corresponds to the legal system that is in force in a territory. It governs the people in all of the territory in which its legal system is in force. It rules, or has jurisdiction, in this territory. It is the animated institutions of government.”35

Actually, Copp's definition is the first sentence of the above quote—he gets kudos for being concise—the rest gives him all the room he needed to add what is missing, i.e. that the State is a form of social organisation. The importance of not overlooking this is quite high: Populations are not merely governed. The State structures societies in very particular ways, often at very deep levels of social interaction; for example, States often determine who can marry whom (try marrying your sister), the education of your children, what the available (i.e. legal) economic activities are and how one should go about them (fishing with dynamite), what clothes you can wear (attend your next public event in nothing but a see-through raincoat), how one can get from A to B, and so on in millions of different facets of our everyday life. This is what is referred to as the “need for law and order” by commentators when discussing instances where the State's power and presence has disappeared from an area for a meaningful period of time; Iraq during the great looting spree of post-April 2003, post-communist but pre-Taliban Afghanistan, Germany in 1918 when rifles, prostitutes and cocaine occupied street corners across Berlin, and other temporary and limited Hobbesian states of nature. It is not so much security that is lacking in such environments, but the particular kind of social ordering that States bring. That is what is craved and often with good reason.

Of course, people, populations, and societies don't need to have states in order to have social organisation, even fairly sophisticated societies. Several examples of such have already been given—Eskimo and Crow—and need not be repeated. Others kinds of historical examples could also be brought forth, including feudalism and the great empires (Roman, Mongol, Macedonia) of antiquity, both of which were highly structured forms of social organisation whilst being non-State systems, but there is no great need at present.

Even further, technological advanced, culturally diverse, educational deep non-State societies have been conceived of, especially in the realm of science fiction. Writers such as Ursula Le Guin (Dispossessed; anarchocommunism), Ken MacLeod (The Star Faction, The Stone Canal, The Cassini Division; mostly anarchocapitalism with some primitivism and mutualist organisations), and Iain M. Banks (Consider Phlebas, Use of Weapons, Excession; utopian/individualist anarchism) have all brought forth fairly complete visions of non-State societies technologically superior to ours but organised along radically different lines. This is not to say such societies (or dreams of societies) are actually feasible, could be made practically real (quite tellingly, all three authors either embrace or flirt with fairly substantial genetic modification of human DNA), but, again at present, that's beyond the point. Technologically advanced but non-State societies are at least conceivable and that's good enough for now.

This point may even seem trivial, almost akin to Meyer and Koppers's assertion that the dominating group in any society that maintains the unity of that society is the State. Okay, the State may be a form of social organisation, but, then again, almost all groups of people (i.e. populations) will have some sort of form of social organisation, what's so special about that?

Essentially, it is the particular form of social organisation that makes States special. Not only has the State, as a form of social organisation, been tremendously successful over a fairly long period of time—apart from the Antarctic, they've got all the landmass covered and there is no meaningful or competing alternative, even non-States like Somalia and Afghanistan are heading towards statehood, throw in the “quasi states” of Africa into the same pot if you so desire—there are very few chances for human activity outside of the State's sphere of control. States are exceedingly powerful. Also, the development of the State has, historically, coincided with great advances in science, technology and human welfare; while we've been living in States we've put people on the Moon, created antibiotics, and freed ourselves from the curse of toothache. Further, it was never guaranteed that, at least after the fall of the Roman Empire, we would indeed live in States. One of the great observations of Charles Tilly's Coercion, Capital and European States, AD 990-1990 is that in 990AD there was no reason to suppose that the State would become the overarching, dominating form of social organisation; it could have all been very different, and that the modern State system was born out of coercion (force) and the accumulation and concentration of capital:

“It took a long time for national states—relatively centralised, differentiated, and autonomous organizations successfully claiming priority in the use of force within large, contiguous, and clearly bounded territories—to dominate the European map. In 990 nothing about the world of manors, local lords, military raiders, fortified villages, trading towns, city-states, and monasteries foretold a consolidation into national states. In 1490 the future remained open; despite the frequent use of the word 'kingdom', empires of one sort or another claimed most of the continent. Some time after 1490 Europeans foreclosed those alternative opportunities, and set off decisively towards the creation of a system consisting almost entirely of relatively autonomous national states.”36

Something is quite special about the State. What is so special is often a matter of controversy regarding its desirability and even its nature. While you may not agree with his conclusions and at this stage there is no reason to do so, Proudhon's classic diatribe (it is one of great ones, spittle covers the page and rage fumes from the spine) against being governed suggests to the completeness of the State's social organisation:

“To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under the pretext of public utility, and in the name of general interest, to be placed under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonoured. That is government; that is its justice, that is its morality.”37

So then, what is the State's engagement in social organisation? And how? The how is covered by the third essential condition; c) a government that is engaged in the use of force. The what is covered by the last essential characteristic; d) a hierarchical structure.

A quick caveat. The range of different ways that States organise societies is quite varied and covers a fair amount of ground. States can organise societies from everything from the enforced totalitarian pageantry hell of North Korea to the invisible-hand fantasies of proponents of ultra-minimalist States. States can have aristocracies, liberal democracies, conscription, book weeks and book burnings, female presidents, gay rights, impale-a-gay day, children's rights and child labour. States can promote cricket and horse riding, or serve horse at State galas and ban track & field for women. States can shoot prisoners and bill their families for the bullets, or they can worry obsessively about penal reform and have campaigns to save hedgehogs. All well and fine, but this enquiry is looking for what is common to all in the range of States, and that is a government engaged in the use of force and a hierarchical structure; the relative merits of starving because the government has given all the food to the army and has none left for you vs. starving because you have no access to capital and the government has finally managed to scrap the last vestiges of the welfare state are for other discussions.

In the discussions of Weber and legitimate monopolies, the issue that States are engaged in use of force was put forth, and this seems, as much as anything is in the piranha pen that is philosophy, fairly uncontroversial. States, via their governments, use force, and not just to protect the realm from barbarians at the gates. States use force to implement social organisation; it is as simple as do this or else. And, let us not deceive, this force is physical force. States may try a variety of different tactics to institute the social order—convincing, showing the truth, plain lying, taxation, etc.—but, at the base, there is always physical force.

This is a simpler formulation than Weber's, and also recognises the fact, often ignored by mainstream theorists, that the State does use illegal force. There's probably no State that has graced the surface of this planet that didn't, at one time or another (and most likely in periods of State formation and death), use force that was outside its (self-imposed) legal sanction. Black death squads, extrajudicial killing, secret kidnapping, torture, vanishings. Nazi Germany was gangster incorporated, and the gangsters in charge had figured out that, with enough physical force, any act could be made legal; still, when problems developed such as Rommel, Nazism remain true to its street-bawling roots and just dealt with them. These things happen.

The social order that the State imposes is hierarchical with the State at the apex of that hierarchy (or hierarchies). In particular, the State stands above the body politic. The body politic is subservient to the State, and, in this relationship, complete jurisdiction is possible. This hierarchy is maintained primarily by the government's use of force.

To lift from the title of his main work, the emergence of hierarchy has been Murray Bookchin's lifelong intellectual pursuit.

[NOTE TO READER: Over Nov./Dec. I was in America and Europe. I carried around a much battered, but highly marked, noted, cross-referenced and much loved copy of The Ecology of Freedom. An airline lost my bag, which held said book. Tragedy. I'll have to find another copy somewhere (probably have to buy online), and then fill in this section on hierarchy. But, I guess you can bridge the gaps.]

One further point about hierarchy and social organisation. Different States will have different depths and scopes of hierarchical structuring. Some States structure their economic systems in centralised and rigorous manners, whilst others will see no role for the State in economic affairs. Given the extent to which modern States regulate so much of society—for example, every economic transaction is regulated, often taxed, and what qualifies as an education and who can provide it are defined by the State—this point is best seen in issues such a sexuality, public health, free speech. Some States have passed laws banning homosexuality or oral sex. Other States have legalised prostitution, and others have said that rape doesn't exist between a married couple. Some States have outlawed negative comments against the government, and a few States have tried to enforce quarantines on HIV-positive people.

The range of social organisation along hierarchical lines of States can be very wide indeed, and is dependant upon both the ability of a State to project itself (the strength of force it can bring to bear) and will to do so. Some States won't regulate the internal dynamics of religious organisations because they don't have the will to do so, despite having the power to do so. Other States have the will, but don't have the power to do so.

In effect then, the provided definition is not a definition of an ideal State. Another way, and maybe the best way, to read Weber is that he has provided a definition of an ideal State, the State all others aspire to be. If this holds, then many of the problems experienced in regards to the Weber definition fall away.38

However, this is not an ideal world, and the provided definition recognises that. Some States organise their societies better, some are more obviously hierarchical (such as aristocratic State) than others (Scandinavian welfare States). Other States are fairly weak, unable to bring physical security to part of its territory. Just like there seems to a fair variety in the different forms and characters of governments, the same applies to States. And, a non-ideal definition, encompasses that, and takes into account the Krader doctrine of looking around oneself.

There is a disadvantage to a non-ideal definition; around the edges, things go grey. This seems to happen with weak States. Those States in political turmoil and structural decay. Ivory Coast and Liberia, at the moment, may be such examples. The questions are: At what point has the State lost the ability to organise society with any kind of meaning? How much of its territory and to what degree must the State control? When is the exact moment the rule of a State-run society starts and that of warlordism ends? What about wars of succession, one State or two?

To these questions, there may not be exact, theoretical answers. Instead, actual States will need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and that, thankfully, is part of job of political science. Let those students of politics examine, research, and then pronounce. Fair enough, and, as an example of how such thinking could occur, the case between States and empires is quite handy. An empire and a State have a lot in common; populations, governments, and hierarchical structures. The difference seems to be that empires don't have defined borders. They have frontiers. A State declares its rule to end at some point or another (i.e. a line on the four-colour map), whilst an empire declares no end to its possible rule; it merely hasn't got around (or is able to) conquering what lies beyond.39

The words of Genghis Khan, founder of the largest empire of all, the Mongol, are fairly illustrative:40

“With Heaven's aid I have conquered for you a huge empire. But my life was too short to achieve the conquest of the world. That task is left for you [his son's].”41

And again:

“Heaven has appointed me to rule all the nations, for hitherto there has been no order upon the steppes.”42

When describing the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon, in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, explicitly mentions frontiers:

“In the second century of the Christian Æra, the empire of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and the most civilized portion of mankind. The frontiers of that extensive monarchy were guarded by ancient renown and disciplined valour.”43

And, on the desire to conquer:

“The seven first centuries [of Rome's history] were filled with a rapid succession of triumphs; but it was reserved for Augustus, to relinquish the ambitious design of subduing the whole earth, and to introduce a spirit of moderation into the public councils.”44

Christopher Morris is well-aware of this distinction and points out that the Roman Empire saw itself of having charge of the world45, whilst Friedrich Kratochwil puts the issue to rest:

The Roman Empire conceived of the limes not as a boundary, but as a temporary stopping place where the potentially unlimited expansion of the Pax Romana had come to a halt. The political and administrative domain often extended beyond the wall or stayed inside it at a considerable distance...The ager publicus, or public domain, had no boundaries; it ended somewhere, but this end was not specified by the means of a legally relevant line.”46

Incidentally, something similar could be said about a religion, which could enforce hierarchical structuring, have a government and a population (the faithful). The domain of a religion is not bound by a defined territory, instead it (on a minimal account) is over believers wherever they may be. In addition, religions often claim domination over unbelievers, again regardless of location. Hence, a religion is not a state. If there's a Catholic on a minor planet orbiting an obscure star a gazillion light-years away, the Vatican still holds sway and she had better not have an abortion.

So, there it is. The State is defined, for ill or worse. Time to see if it is amenable to the good life, maximising the best of our qualities, and the will to power.

1 US Supreme Court Justice Potter Steward, when concurring in Jacobellis v. Ohio, defined obscenity as: “It is possible to read the Court's opinion in Roth v. United States and Alberts v. California, 354 U.S. 476, in a variety of ways. In saying this, I imply no criticism of the Court, which in those cases was faced with the task of trying to define what may be indefinable. I have reached the conclusion, which I think is confirmed at least by negative implication in the Court's decisions since Roth and Alberts, that under the First and Fourteenth Amendments criminal laws in this area are constitutionally limited to hard-core pornography. I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.” Found at

2Lawrence Krader, Formation of the State (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968), pg. 6


4For a precise definition of “government”, please see later discussions.

5It is conceivable to think of States with non-human but similarly intelligent beings (aliens or artificial intelligence, for example), and the arguments for and against the State would also apply equally to non-human but similarly intelligent beings.

6The anarchist might frame this question in a slightly different manner: Should we live as subjects of some State or should we live as free men and women? The answer to this will also be provided (at least partially) in the results of this enquiry. If a State is more morally justified than an anarchist society, then the anarchist would have his answer; if, according to perfectionism, it is better to be a subject of some State, then so be it.

7Errico Malatesta, “Anarchy”, 1891, section 1

8Errico Malatesta, “Anarchy”, 1891, section 1

9Lawrence Krader, Formation of the State (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968), pg. 34-35

10Lawrence Krader, Formation of the State (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968), pg. 30-31

11Lawrence Krader, Formation of the State (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968), pg. 31

12Eduard Meyer, History of Antiquity, 1921 & 1925. Wilhelm Koppers, Origin of the State (Paris: VI International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, 1960, 1963).

Cited in Lawrence Krader, Formation of the State (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968)


14Leaving out, of course, the theoretical possibility of a State being comprised of non-human but still minimally equivalent intelligent agents.

15Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organisation (New York: The Free Press, 1947), pg. 156. Bold added.

16Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1974), pg. 134n

17Leslie Green, The Authority of the State (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), pg. 5. Cited in Christopher Morris, An Essay on the Modern State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998), pg. 102

18Christopher Morris, An Essay on the Modern State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998), pg. 104

19Christopher Morris, An Essay on the Modern State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998), pg. 106

20Charles Tilly, Coercion, Capital and European States, AD 990-1990 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Basil Blackwell, 1990), pg. 39-40

21Charles Tilly, Coercion, Capital and European States, AD 990-1990 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Basil Blackwell, 1990), pg. 40

22Christopher Morris, An Essay on the Modern State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pg. 52

23Christopher Morris, An Essay on the Modern State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pg. 99

24Christopher Morris, An Essay on the Modern State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pg. 104n


26A State is not required for the promulgation and enforcement of laws. Guild associations, churches, even the Boy Scouts have a series of laws (a legal code) which could be (and often have been) created and enforced in the absence of the State. States just happen to be very good at writing laws and then enforcing them, usually much better than other forms of social organisation.

27Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1974), pg. 23

28And, by extension, the substantive legitimacy of the State.

29A slight note of caution: There is a vaguely fashionable strand of thinking within metaphysics that pinning down the essential characteristics of things is impossible; things may not even have essential characteristics. This is outside the scope of this enquiry and, like epistemological concerns, will be roundly ignored. It is assumed that things do have essential characteristic and that those characteristics are knowable; if the converse is proved to be true, philosophy will have more to worry about than the validity of this enquiry.

30Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organisation (New York: The Free Press, 1947), pg. 156. Bold added.

31Or, at least, a Marxist-influence approach

32Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle (New York: Zone Books, 1995 edition) pg. 13

33Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle (New York: Zone Books, 1995 edition), pg. 15

34Murray Bookchin, The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1987), pg. 32

35David Copp, “The Idea of a Legitimate State”, Philosophy & Public Affairs 28 no.1 (Princeton University Press, 1999), pg. 7-8

36Charles Tilly, Coercion, Capital and European States, AD 990-1990 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Basil Blackwell, 1990), pg. 43-44

37P. J. Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century (London: Freedom Press, 1923), pg. 293-294

38Further, it seems that current States seem to aspire to the ideal State. There seems to have been, and continues to do so, and increasing encroachment of the State on more and more aspects of society, especially in those States (Europe, East Asia, North America). Jurisdiction is coming more and more complete, and the State is seen not only as the final arbitrator of all disputes but the only possible arbitrator. In countries where the State's rule seems weak (as in Uganda, DRC), the trend is towards increasing strength and regulation. Other States often help to strengthen weak States, and, when a State collapses, it is a matter of serious concern for other States and their associations & clubs (UN, EU, G8, SADC, etc.) and a lot of effort, money, and often lives is spent on re-establishing the State (Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Bulgaria) and then strengthening it. If the State (in some form) is justified, then this would seem to be a positive development.

39This can even be seen on maps. The boundaries of State's territories are very precise and quite detailed. The frontiers of empires are fairly vague.

40About the Khan, a Russian chronicler was reported to have said, “He left no eye open to weep for the dead.” Source unknown.



43Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Volume I, 1776), Chapter 1, Introduction

44Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Volume I, 1776), Chapter 1, Moderation of Augustus

45Christopher Morris, An Essay on the Modern State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998), pg. 30

46Friedrich Kratochwil, “Of Systems, Boundaries, and Territoriality: An Inquiry into the Formation of the State System”, World Politics 39, 1 (October 1986), pg. 35-36

Cited in Christopher Morris, An Essay on the Modern State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998), pg. 31



  • on permanence of population:

    no population is nore permanent than 150 years or so, because over that period everyone in the country has died. so permanence cannot vest in the ongoing population, since that's impossible.

    permanence must vest in the ongoing ACTIVITIES, not the ongoing population. nomads welcome.

    By Anonymous dale, At 10:33 am  

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