chapter  2
24 Pages

Placing the state in modernity

In the opening pages of this book, I made it clear that I should be concerned, above all, with the state in modern times. In Chapter 1, I dealt with some of the most important organizational and institutional features of this modern state. What I offered was less an explanation of the state’s conduct than an attempt to establish the parameters of what have been seen as characteristically states’ activities. In this chapter, I want to try to refine this understanding by investigating the historicity of the state. The state is not an eternal and unchanging element in human affairs. For most of its history, humanity got by (whether more happily or not) without a state. For all its universality in our own times, the state is a contingent (and comparatively recent) historical development. Its predominance may also prove to be quite transitory. Once we have recognized that there were societies before the state, we may also want to consider the possibility that there could be societies after the state. It may be that, under new circumstances, the state will simply give way to an alternative form of social organization. This has always been the aspiration of philosophical anarchists and various schools of supranationalism. More recently, it has re-emerged in the literature of globalization (discussed in Chapter 6 below).