chapter  3
The idea of the state
Pages 21

States and the idea of the state have traditionally formed the cornerstone of political geography, providing the key terms of reference for explaining the distribution and exercise of political power. Even though their continuing relevance has been increasingly questioned in recent years as regional and global institutions have begun to evolve which are less fettered by the constraints of state control, states remain central to understanding the social and economic dynamics of the political landscape. As Thomas Paine so cogently argued more than two hundred years ago, natural rights cannot be guaranteed by individuals on their own; they require the support of a collective, civil, authority if they are to be a reality. He was writing at the time when the whole idea of state identity being invested exclusively in the person of a monarch, or some other absolute ruler, was crumbling in the face of the rise of capitalism, the spreading urbanisation of the population, and popular demand for the people to have a greater direct say in government.