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The Transformation of Politics

Governing in the Age of Complex Societies


Daniel Innerarity

Nowadays, politics is only one voice among many in the concert of social self-organization. Its function is to articulate the differentiated systems of our societies: it encourages their self-restraint, while at the same time restraining itself.
Such a conception obviously threatens the primacy of the nation-state. While it is not necessarily disappearing, it must nevertheless cease to be thought of as a dominant principle of organization, and must assume its place in a system of regulation that proceeds on several levels. Distant from the anarchist or Marxist theories that herald the end of the state as it is from libertarian theories of the minimal state, the book illustrates that it is possible in the contemporary period to go beyond the alternatives of dirigisme and neoliberal spontaneity.
However, such a transformation can only prove effective through two conditions: we must first reject the enduring opposition between Right and Left, and second, we must invent an anti-state social democracy that is able in its own right to glean the most it can out of the liberal legacy.
This book combines philosophical technicality, clarity and elegance of writing in an attempt to provide politics with meaning again, particularly in an era where discourse about its powerlessness abounds.


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PART III THE NEW POLITICAL CULTURE 105 CHAPTER 1 Politics Beyond the National State In the last four centuries, the state has become the place where people’s social identity has taken shape through belonging to a nation. In the modern era, the national state has been the decisive scene of collective action in the field of internal and external politics, the main driving force behind power relations. These roles have gone through a great transformation resulting from profound changes. It is no exaggera- tion to say then that as a result, politics has ceased to be monopolized by state institutions. Among the basic causes of this erosion of the traditional role of the state, we generally hear about the phenomenon of globalization. Of course, this is not a completely new development. Economic exchange, scientific communication and cultural styles have crossed the bounda- ries of national states from the earliest of times. But even if these phe- nomena counteract the logic of sovereignty, the national state could be upheld as the axis of social life. Sociology has identified the “theory of society as a container” (Beck 1977) or “methodological nationalism” (Smith 1979), as the idea that the boundaries of society must coincide with those of the national state. Actually, this is precisely the coherence the national state claims: a controlled and defined space developing into a territorial unit of sove- reignty and security, cultural homogenization obtained by organizing oppositions with other states, sovereignty conceived and carried out in the name of...

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