THE STATE & POLITICAL
The Modern State- emerged in the
last few centuries
The Rise of the Modern State
Weber’s definition- ‘a human
community that successfully
claims the monopoly of the
legitimate use of physical force
within a given territory’.
This means- the state has authority over
those who live in a defined geographical
area, and that it can use force to back up
Modern nation states in Europe emerged
with the rise of capitalism & the decline of
the feudal system.
From 16th century onwards- European
monarchs began to impose much more
effective control over their kingdoms.
Rule by local nobles was replaced by
professional administrators who were loyal
Customary laws replaced by written codes
Borders of states became more clearly
defined which led to a sense of nationality.
Capitalism – private ownership, profit
making and importance of free trade and
According to Weber, the rise of
bureaucratically organised states was part
of the growing process of rationalisation
which accompanied the rise of capitalism.
Life became increasingly governed by
written rules & subject to bureaucratic
Power increasingly centralized in the state,
and exercised by elected or appointed
The State & Democracy
Origins of Democracy
*concept has its origins in the
political system of the ancient
Greek city of Athens.
*democracy – from Greek word
‘demos’ – people and ‘kratos’ –
power; power in the hands of
*5th century BC Athens –
assemblies of all
citizens were held to discuss important
*often referred to as participatory
democracy or direct democracy
*on the scale of a modern state will pose
*more liberal democracies have developed
some system of representative democracy
or indirect democracy, which involves
citizens choosing representatives who
exercise power on their behalf.
Democracy in its modern form developed
in the last two hundred years.
Liberal ideas influenced the French &
American revolutions at the end of the 18th
century and demands for extension of the
franchise (voting rights) in England in the
Liberal thinkers argued that all people
should have equal rights under the law.
Modern Liberal Democracy
The right of citizens to elect their
own representatives in regular &
Freedom of speech
Freedom to oppose the sitting
Equal treatment under the law
Right to a fair trial
Freedom from arbitrary arrest &
Example – UK, USA.
Some argue UK has some undemocratic
features like the existence of an unelected
monarchy & House of Lords, an unelected
judiciary (powers to interpret application of
the law) and a civil service (many activities
carried out in secret with limited public
Alternative Views to Democracy
*challenge claim that UK & USA are
*this alternative view argues for a more
participatory system where citizens
become more involved in their own