A European Perspective
Revisiting a nation-state: some theoretical assumptions
University of Wrocław, Poland
Brian Nelson in: The Making of the Modern State: A Theoretical Evolution asks why we are studying the state? His answer was fair and straightforward: “The obvious answer would be because we live in one. Less obvious, but more interesting, would be because political thinkers have been debating about exactly what it is, and how best to conceptualize it, since classical times” (2006, p. ix). And Martin Oppenheimer (2000) in: The State in Modern Society concludes: “The definition of a state, therefore is complex: in common, everyday language we sometimes refer to governments, or <the public sector>, which is appropriate enough when referring to the specific form of a state (that is, its bureaucratic institutions), or to its fiscal nature (to distinguish its institutions and personnel from the private sector)” (p. 14). He points out precisely that the above explanation is inappropriate since “(…) state has a more dynamic implication: it is joined to the concept of power, and to the assumption that in class societies there will be a set of institutions that will exert power in the interest of ruling elites and against those seeking to alter the existing order. That set of institutions is called the state. The power that the state is able to exercise is ultimately that of coercion, of military force, of violence. The state is therefore frequently defined as the holder of a monopoly of the ‘legitimate’,...
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