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November 8, 2008 / C H Thompson

The State

uk-stateThe modern state

We have already identified what the UK state is and examined what constitutes sovereign power. In order to examine it further it helps to understand what Weber defined the state as being. Weber defined the state as ‘a human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory’  and this provides clarity to what we uncovered about the state having legitimate authority over those people living within a specific geographical area.

For Weber the state was part of the rationalisation of society. This means everything people do has a ‘reasoned’ purpose as opposed to an emotive one. For example you go jogging not for fun but in order to keep fit for work.  And so keeping fit has a deliberate outcome which is well thought out before hand. When a society is constructed on rational lines everything that society decides to do is based on clear reasoning.

For example education has a rational objective; to get people educated so they can contribute to uniformsociety. This rational process of educating citizens can only happen if there are enough people running large institutions like schools. This is known as bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is a term to describe all the people and processes which operate in order to run an organisation.

For Weber bureaucracy, or bureaucratic control, is the main instrument of the state. The state controls its population through bureaucratic control.

Question – think of an institution you are familiar with which operates through bureaucratic control?

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