The State

Achieving statehood is the ultimate goal for any particular group defining itself as a nation, and here we are introduced with the idea of state formation. When looking at state formation, one has to be able to understand the concept of space and place and how these ideas are interconnected. In the textbook, “Political Geography,” by Painter and Jeffrey, we are introduced to the concept of state formation and different aspects of it that make it important to understanding political geography.

In the introduction of the chapter, Painter and Jeffrey explain that the recent approach that political geographers are taking is different from what was used in the past and that they now using social, political, and cultural theory to examine aspects of this idea. When reading this, it helped trigger the previous discussion our class had about place and how there are many different “pieces” that make up the idea of place. This connection helped me see that place and state is particularly very similar to each other. Similar to place, the conceptualization of state has no set definition, which results in a lot of variation, debate, and alteration of the idea. In the textbook, Painter and Jeffrey explain three conceptual issues surrounding the state. The first consists of how state formation is a social process. Because we define the state as an effect of a social process, we can view the continual formation of the state over time as it is continually becoming. The second involves the relationship between high and low politics. I thought this section was interesting because mentioned the transition from the past of rulers being only concerned with issues regarding territorial conquest, to the more current focus to what Foucault calls governmentality today. This shift from high to low politics increases the “density” of relations between the state and society. The final issue was that of sovereignty. Painter and Jeffrey mention that the states that claim sovereignty are often recognized by other states, however, challenges such as the globalization of economic processes, the growth of political authority and governmentality, and international belief systems affect state’s attempts at being sovereign. After these three issues, ideas of resources and war come into play. The textbook explains that preparing for and waging war influence state formation and it is difficult because it requires a large amount of people and resources, along with precise organization. These key ideas are extremely important in the foundation of the formation of states. From here, we get into the ideas of contrasting trends of state development which include: capital-intensive, coercion-intensive, and capitalized coercion paths. This ultimately leads to administrative power and how it is central to modern states (Jeffrey and Painer, 2009). Overall, all of these ideas combined help in the formation of states, making it a very long and complicated process that requires a great deal of organization.

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