NOTES ON THE NOTIONS OF STATE AND DEVELOPMENT (Róbinson Rojas Sandford)(1998)
Different systems of production will generate different types of
social organizations, which, in turn, will treat members of society
in different ways. Thus, the concepts state, human rights and
development will have different meanings depending on the historical
time we position the research.
Our research refers to the "capitalist" stage of human development,
with special emphasis on modern/contemporary times. Therefore, our
emphasis will be on the state-human rights-development links present
during the XX century. Particularly after the Second World War until
Because of that, the liberal notion of state and the Marxist critique
to it will be our analytical tools.
The notion of 'development' we will use is not restricted to economic
growth (shades of capitalist economic growth). Our notion of development
will be contained in all the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights ( as approved in 1948). Therefore, development will not
be equal to industrialization, but related to human development as
gauged by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
From the above it follows that the state suitable to modern developed
societies is not the state that will generate development and total
respect for human rights, because, as Adam Smith put it two hundred
years ago "civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security
of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich
against the poor, or of those who have some property against those
who have none at all".( A. Smith, "The Wealth of Nations", p. 674),
only 33 years ago, "the state benefits and it threatens. Now it
is 'us' and often it is 'them'. It is an abstraction, but in its
name men are jailed, or made rich on oil depletion allowances and
defence contracts, or killed in wars". ( P. Edelman, "The symbolic
uses of politics", Urbana, 1964).
Or, defined in 1848:
"the executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing
the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie". (Marx/Engels, "The
Communist Manifesto", Pelican, 1967).
From the above, we have a state that will "regulate" and "mediate"
conflicts within the various groups within the ruling elites, creating
the impression of a sort of "relative autonomy", of being "above the
conflicting interests of different social groups", which is not true.
Five analytical approaches are the most common in the modern theories
of the state:
Classical pluralism = based on liberal political philosophy which sees
'consensus' as the foundation. Locke.
Elite approach = based upon the idea first worked by Plato, that
the state is shaped by governing elites, i.e.,
military, religious, commercial elites. Mosca and
Marxist approach = the economic system of production require
political institutions to reproduce and grow.
The state is the outcome of the above. Marx,
Engels, Lukacs and Gramsci.
Neo-pluralism = the capitalist state is in contradiction with
the welfare of society. This contradiction can
be solved with social control of transnational
corporations. Galbraith and Chomsky.
New Right = capitalism in a context of freedom for capital
and control of the labour force can modify the
present capitalist state reducing it to a minimal
and most efficient role in society. Globalization.
Von Hayek, Friedman and Klugman.
( J. Galbraith, "Economics and the Public Purpose", Penguin, 1974, and
P. Dunleavy and B. O'Oleary, "Theories of the State. The politics
of liberal democracy", Macmillan, 1987)
ABOUT THE STATE:
(The World Bank's official definition is in Box 1)
Two types of definitions encapsulate modern understanding of the state:
a) organizational definitions, and
b) functional definitions;
The state as a set of governmental-managerial institutions.
The role of government-management is
From the above, clearly defined FEATURES appear:
1.- the state is a set of institutions, so differentiated from the rest
of society as to create identifiable PUBLIC and PRIVATE spheres;
2.- the state is the ultimate authority: public law is made by state
officials (all of them,
including members of parliament,
are paid by 'public funds'),
backed by a formal monopoly of
force and violence upon members
of civil society;
3.- the modern state's personnel are mostly recruited and trained for
management in a bureaucratic (specialized) manner;
4.- the state has the capacity to extract monetary revenues (taxation)
to finance its activities from its subject population. In the
so-called 'advanced' societies (i.e., U.S.A., Germany, etc) the
civil servants in charge of collect taxes have total power over
Organizational definition suggests a continuum of regimes, running from
societies with a well developed state (government highly centralized,
hierarchical and bureucratic, with a powerful executive) through to
'stateless' societies. The latter because this definition allows for
considering that the population of a society could regard the state as
LEGITIMATE or ILLEGITIMATE. Also, the definition suggests the existence
of a social sector (could be considered as a social class) as having
interests related to the size, relative power and relative wealth of the
state, which will be in contradiction with the interests of civil
society. This social sector can be loosely indicated as 'civil servants'.
The latter concept is analytical correct only if military personnel is
included as a subset of 'civil servants'.
By and large, a combination of the following:
a) the state seen as a set of institutions which carries out
particular goals, purposes or objectives. Goals, purposes and
objectives being the outcome of political agreement/disagreement
between particular sectors in society (sectors grouped by a complex
mix of property/non-property of wealth, property/non-property of
means of production, management/non-management of means of
production, members/non-members of religious institutions,
members/non-members of political organizations, belonging/non-
belonging to a particular race/ethnic group, and belonging/non-
belonging to a particular gender);
b) the state is a set of institutions aiming at the maintenance of
social order. The latter a social order adequate to keep carrying
out particular goals, purposes or objectives.
TWO SPHERES OF ACTIVITY
Around the liberal concept of the state as a regulator and an arbiter
of conflicting interests in society, two spheres of state's activity
A) as a legal framework for society:
ensuring that law and order prevail;
protecting national territory, and
upholding certain traditional moral values seen as
the foundations of the society (social formation).
B) as an enforcer of economic activity:
to regulate and/or manage production directly;
to regulate on private ownership of capital
to redistribute income, and
to provide goods and services for the needed.
Different combinations of A/B can produce models of government easy
Anarchism = little A and little B
Social democracy = enough A and high B
New Right/New Labour = high A and little B
Extreme Right = high A and non B
Bureaucratic socialism = high A and high B
So far, because of historical reasons (colonialism both internal and
external, and imperialism) a racial/ethnic component is present in
World Development Report 1997 (The World Bank)
State and government: some concepts
STATE, in its wider sense, refers to a set of institutions that possess
the means of legitimate coercion, exercised over a defined territory and
its population, referred to as society. The state monopolizes rulemaking
within its territory through the medium on an organized government.
The term GOVERNMENT is often used differently in different contexts. It
can refer to the process of governing, to the exercise of power. It can
also refer to the existence of that process, to a condition of "ordered
rule". "Government" often means the people who fill the positions of
authority in a state. Finally, the term may refer to the manner, method,
or system of governing in a society: to the structure and arrangement of
offices and how they relate to the governed. While keeping these
distinctions in mind, we also use the terms STATE and GOVERNMENT
coloquially and sometimes interchangeably -as they are often used in
discussion and writing around the world.
Government is normally regarded as consisting of three distinct sets of
powers, each with its assigned role. One is the LEGISLATURE, whose role
is to make the law. The second is the EXECUTIVE (sometimes referred to as
"the government"), which is responsible for implementing the law. The
third is the JUDICIARY, which is responsible for interpreting and
applying the law.
Classifications of government are many but have tended to concentrate on
the arrangement of offices, which is more narrow in conception, and
the relationship between government and the governed.
The first classification is based on the relationship between the
executive and the legislature. In a PARLIAMENTARY system the executive's
continuance in office depends on its maintaining the support of the
legislature. Members of the executive are commonly also members of the
legislature. A prime minister may be the most powerful member of the
executive, but important decisions within the executive are usually made
collectively by a group of ministers. In a PRESIDENTIAL system the
executive's position is independent of the legislature. Members of the
executive are not normally also members of the legislature, and ultimate
decisionmaking authority within the executive lies with one person, the
The second classification concentrates on the distribution of power
between levels of government. In a UNITARY state, all authority to make
laws is invested in one supreme legislature whose jurisdiction covers
the whole country. Local legislatures may exist, but only with the
sufferance of the national legislature. In a FEDERAL state, local
legislatures are guaranteed at least a measure of autonomous decision-
making authority. In a CONFEDERATION, a group of sovereign states
combine for specified purposes, but each state retains its sovereignty.
NUMBER OF UNITED NATIONS MEMBER COUNTRIES
Source: United Nations data.
END BOX 1_______________________________________________________________
See Civil Society (IFAD)
[From D. Robertson, "Dictionary of Politics", Penguin, 1987]
"Civil society is a concept in political theory, which, though useful,
is very seldom employed today, though it was familiar to most
important political thinkers from the seventeenth century onwards.
Among others, Hobbes, Locke and even Hegel distinguished
between the state and civil society, that is the organized society
over which the state rules. Such a distinction is not entirely valid,
since the state is itself part of society. However, we are aware that,
as well as institutions bound up with formal authority and political
control, there exists a set of interlinked and stable social institutions
which have much influence on or control over our lives. The
distinction, and the consequent importance of civil society as a
concept, originates with the STATE OF NATURE theorists, especially
Hobbes and Locke. They held that political authority was at least
hypothetically dispensable; that is, they argued as though it was
possible not to have a state, and they therefore needed a concept
to describe the remaining institutions. Civil society, then, is the
framework within which those without political authority live their
lives -economic relationships, family and kinship structures, religious
institutions and so on. It is a purely analytic concept because
civil society does not exist independently of political authority and,
it is generally believed, could not long continue without it; so no
very clear boundary can be drawn between the two.
The neglect of civil society as a concept in recent decades has two
main causes. One is the fact that the state itself has been discussed
less often, having been replaced, inadequately, by notions like 'the
political system'. The other is that the growing trend towards using
sociological models in political thinking has tended to efface the
barriers between political activity and social activity; both are
treated as manifestations of underlying ideological, cultural or even
economic patterns. In fact the question of the interpenetration of
state and society in this sense might more sensibly be treated as an
empirical question to be solved in each particular case."
END BOX 2____________________________________________BACK_______________
'Public Interest', like 'common good' and 'general will' is one of a
family of related terms which are used to distinguish the selfish or
personal interests or cares of individuals or groups from the best
interests of society as a whole.
The 'Public Interest' refers to some policy or goal in which every
member of a society shares equally, regardless of wealth, position,
status or power.
Most political theorists today are sceptical of the existence of more
than a very few goals that might, in the long term, really be seen as
'in the public interest'. Partly this is because there is almost always
the possibility of arguing that, were society reformed or changed in
some fundamental way, then it would be obvious that most people did not
benefit from the relevant policy, or that the policy is only solving
a problem that need to exist at all were such reform to be carried out.
Thus a major drive on crime, for example, otherwise a fairly obvious
example of a public interest (we are probably all equally likely to be
mugged) is not in the public interest in the long term if one takes the
view that violent crime is the result of 'alienation' caused by an
Even military defence, often used as the single clearest example of a
public interest, can be attacked on the grounds that it is not in the
interest of those badly treated by society that the political system
should be protected from its enemies.
However the basic idea that one can distinguish between policies that
are equally useful to all citizens QUA citizens, and those that are only
for the good of a few is clearly analytically useful.
Part of the logic of the argument depends on being able to strip away
the particular details of someone's life and position, and treat him
simply as a member of 'the public'. So one might, when considering, say,
industrial pollution, wish to claim that it is in the public interest,
even though there are some, the shareholders in a factory, perhaps, who
will lose money by having to pay for pollution controls. The argument is
that Mr X, 'as a shareholder' may lose money, but as an ordinary man
walking down the street and having to breathe, he will gain equally
with all other oxygen breathers.
[from D. Robertson, "Dictionary of Politics", Penguin, 1985]
END BOX 3____________________________________________BACK_______________
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