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20150130 The State



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The main idea of this book is that a state is just a bunch of bandits who established dominance over population of some territory by conquest. It was written in 1908 so the factual and historical base of data supporting it somewhat limited, but author nevertheless makes convincing case in support of this idea.


I. THEORIES OP THE STATE the Sociological Idea of the State

This chapter reviews different theories of the state and points out their inadequacies. Author comes up with his own definition: The State is a social institution imposed by a victorious group of men on a defeated group.

II.THE GENESIS OF THE STATE: (a) Political and Economic Means; (b) Peoples Without a State: Huntsmen and Grubbers; (g) Peoples preceding the State: Herdsmen and Viking; [d) The Genesis of the State

Here author provides a key statement that there are only two conceivable ways to obtain means that humans need to satisfy their desires: work and robbery. The robbery is defined as political means and work as economic means. After that primitive pre-state societies reviewed with conclusion that main reason for absence of states at this point is that low productivity and inability to save resources, which makes robbery ineffective in resource acquisition for hunter-gatherers and primitive agriculturists. However it makes sense for herdsman due to mobility of cattle and for maritime robbers such as Vikings. From here author defines genesis of a state as consequence of conquest of agriculturalists by herders and hunters going through several stages of increasing sophistication eventually resulting in fully formed political structure.

III. THE PRIMITIVE FEUDAL STATE: [a) The Form of Dominion; [b). The Integration; [c). The Differentiation: Group Theories and Group Psychology; [d). The Primitive Feudal State of Higher Grade

This chapter is review of primitive feudal state. Author defines it as form of domination: warlike minority, closely interrelated, dominates over population of some territory collecting rent. Author looks at it as an organic process of small, but energetic and active entity taking over control of big, but passive entity similar to biological interaction of sperm and egg. Author also reviews psychological underpinnings of political arrangement such as psychology of aristocrat versus peasant. The final part of this chapter reviews wars as process of formation of higher grade of feudal state through conquest and merger of smaller states.

 IV. THE MARITIME STATE: (a) Traffic in Prehistoric Times; (b) Trade and the Primitive State; (c) The Genesis of the Maritime State; [d) Essence and Issue of the Maritime States;

Commercial capital and trade determine type of state based on access to the ocean or sea. Real estate capital determines another type of the state: land based state. Both types of state based on robbery and provide protection against other robbers and pirates. The difference is that maritime states based on robbery of commercial traffic that spawns cities and consequently land based property, while territorial states mainly based on rent robbery of settled population with robbery of traders being secondary. This chapter reviews details of history and sociological structure of such maritime state.

V. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FEUDAL STATE: (a) The Genesis of Landed Property; (b) The Central Power in the Primitive Feudal State; (c) The Political and Social Disintegration of the Primitive Feudal State; [d) The Ethnic Amalgamation; (e) The Developed Feudal State

Author defines feudal state as mainly territorial, based on landed property. He reviews genesis of feudal state as basically process of merger and acquisition via war and power. In process multiple groups and ethnicities get included into developing feudal state leading eventually to its maturity with creation of specific strata of population permanently assigned to some specific activities either agriculture for peasants or military and political pursuits for aristocracy.

VI. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL STATE: (a) The Emancipation of the Peasantry; (b) The Genesis of Industrial State; (c) The Influences of Money Economy; (d) The Modern Constitutional State

This chapter reviews genesis of contemporary constitutional state, which occurs via struggle of internal forces rather than external forces of conquest or expansion. The end of conquest results in destruction of social contract between aristocracy and peasantry when defense become function of huge conscription armies and protective function of aristocracy outdated. This in turn creates unwillingness on part of peasant to pay rent and causes growth in need of internal army of overseers and necessitates increase of rent to feed them. Another serious factor in undermining feudal state is growth and empowerment of cities, which is based on cities role in commercial exchange on countrywide market and industrial production that becomes necessary for survival of the state. All this lead to renegotiation of existing order, elimination of static strata of society with its substitution by free labor and capital, and eventual transformation to constitutional state. 


Author sees eventual development of state into constitutional state with freeman citizenship in which political means (state violence) would lose it’s meaning and will be degraded to minimalistic administrative functions. Eventually the state as violent force standing outside and above society will practically disappear merging with civil society.


This is one of these books that make detailed and convincing case for something that seems to be just a plain common sense. I am fully agreed that the state is just a form of violent dominance of one group of people over another. However I think that process of state formation presented in this book is somewhat simplistic and leaves a lot outside of the scope. Most important is process of development within society methods of indoctrination and ongoing ideological control of population. It is interesting that in a case of regular gang of robbers nobody neither robbers nor people being robbed are confused about character of what is happening. The huge difference of the state compared with any other gang is that not only gang (state) members often see themselves not as robbers, but as benevolent force, but also people who are being robbed believe the same.

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