The State

In chapter two, Painter highlights the particularly important phenomena of the workings of the state in our daily lives.  It is widely known that the state affects our lives because we are indeed inhabitants of a particular state, and therefore we abide by the laws and norms that are in effect in our state.  However, it is less obvious that the state is constantly at work behind the scenes in our daily activities.  Being residents of the United States, an economically powerful country, this is especially true.  Personally, I was unaware of how much the state impacted my daily life until I travelled to a different country where the laws and norms were different.  The United States possesses a strong consumer culture.  I see advertisements every where, every day, all the time in the United States.  The United States uses consumerism to ensure that the economy stays active, therefore the state influences this consumer culture.  However, while I was living in a rural area in Costa Rica, I seldom saw advertisements and therefore, I rarely purchased things.  The consumer culture I had been living amongst my entire life simply disappeared while I was living life in a different state.  

Also stated in chapter two, states are not natural or inevitable, but they are products of social and political processes.  This ties in with the Newman article because “natural” and “artificial” boundaries are compared and contrasted.  States are formed by these so-called “artificial” boundaries because the borders are defined by people.  Interestingly, the Newman article explained how many of these present-day “artificial” boundaries have been influenced by “natural” boundaries.  This is because the spread of pre-modern societies was often inhibited by seemingly impassable natural features such as mountains or bodies of water.  This lack of movement fueled people to form separate national and/or ethnic identities within a single state.  However, in today’s more modern society, movement is no longer prevented by environmental obstacles.  Also, globalization has led to state boundaries becoming more permeable.  According to Newman, increasing levels of permeability cause the formation of multicultural identities, and therefore causes the relationship between national identity and territorial absolutism to weaken.  Personally, the most interesting concept from the Newman article was the idea of the “borderless” world.  Globalization has caused power to become less concentrated territorially, and now much political power is shared with supranational organizations, such as the United Nations.

The UN, like many other supranational organizations, is known for providing aid to states that are in need.  This ties in nicely with chapter three, which focuses on welfare provided by the state.  Rich countries have benefited from welfare, while poor countries have not.  Economic funds must be available to cover the costs of social benefits.  However, welfare has been debated because it is often distributed unevenly and this can lead to issues regarding social justice.  It is impossible to please everyone with welfare opportunities due to the size and power of the state and the various functions and roles that the state has to perform.  Another critique of welfare systems is that they are more accessible to certain groups of people, and as a result, welfare has become very conditional.  This conditionality introduces a gradual transition from a welfare state to a workfare state.  The welfare state deals with the structural issue of a lack of jobs.  The workfare state deals with the problem of the individual who lacks skills, which are necessary in the job market.  Due to many criticisms regarding the welfare state, many welfare programs are now being provided through private or voluntary organizations.  These organizations have become known as the “shadow state” and rightfully so.

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