Reflections on “State Formation”

The immediate connotations that come into my mind when I think of the concept of  “The State” are not overly positive. My thoughts are echoed in the beginning of the chapter when the authors discuss what a British election commission posted in a number of newspapers in 2004. The newspaper adverts attempted to show younger generations that elections matter because politicians hold a lot of control over their daily lives. Though the newspaper advertisements were there to drive people out to vote, as noted by the authors they also proved unintentionally that “The State” holds immense power over the average citizen; this concept is somewhat scary to me, western society is built on the idea of freedom and individualism but the idea of “The State” seems contrary to those ideals.

In the following pages one of the concepts that struck me is when the authors note that while humanity has existed for hundreds of thousands of years, states have only existed for the past 8,000 years. It definitely makes you think. The next main theme of the chapter is the 5 “distinctive” features of a state. The first feature is that states have defined boundaries, and where there is dispute a sort of national pride goes into maintaining the disputed area. The second theme is that States are administered both on the small scale and the large scale. The third theme noted by the authors is that seats of government must be centrally located and that their architecture will often be dependent on the type of state they are a part of. Theme 4 is that states will try to keep an eye on their populations, as mentioned earlier and lastly theme 5 is that this surveillance and exertion of control is growing over time. I would personally agree with the authors on all of these points, and having them laid out in this easy framework makes them easier to comprehend.

Another important concept that the authors touch on is the idea of high and low politics. High politics being the fundamental aspects of a state, and low politics being the policies that effect a state. What I get from this section is that low politics is almost becoming more important than high politics in the Western World, and that as the importance low politics grows so does the role of government in our daily lives. An interesting bit of economic geography is pointed out in this section, it is noted that LDCs are still focused on the high politics side of things and are simply trying to survive. This means however that they have few resources to put towards low politics.

Another important section in this chapter deals with how many people are still trying to become a state today. Many territorial boundaries today are the result of colonization, and these boundaries do not represent the cultural identities of the people who reside within them. To me it is important to note that today many people still lack a state they feel a personal attachment to.

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