The State

The concept of state, like place, is difficult to nail down, and constantly changing. I’m starting to see a trend for political geography definitions. Another similarity I’ve noticed is the evolution from a simple catch-all definition to a complex, multifaceted framework to understand state. The history of the development of state, from accidental creation, to rulers and monarchs concerned only about security, to today’s modern combination of high and low politics was the most interesting part of chapter to me, particular how the state only become concerned about the common person when the rulers and elites realized money and resources could be made off of them.

The issue of sovereignty is very important to me. The reason I refused to answer the questions asked of me by one of the fine sheriffs of Delaware County is because, in the lower sub-state of my own home, I am sovereign. My sovereignty has been acknowledged by both the large “S” State of Indiana and the small “s” state of the United States. While not on the same level as the sovereignty of states, it is important none-the-less.

Painter and Jeffrey identify, through Tilly, the three types of state development, coercion-intensive, capital-intensive, and capitalized-coercion. Out of the coercion-intensive states grew large state institutions required to collect the taxes of their subjects. Capital-intensive states had no need for such large revenue collecting machines, culminating in small self-sufficient city-states. The intermediary capitalized-coercion proved to be the most effective, leading to long lasting states like France and England. Again, like most things political, neither extreme was the best course. This idea applies to most things political, and indeed, most things.

Following the historical developments of differing states, Painter and Jeffrey delve into the cultural differences. The place of a state influences the form that the state takes today. The authors comparison of a traditional English barrister to an American judge show how America’s differing path after separating from the Empire led to a different expression of the same state function. Place is important because the people that run a state are from different unique places. The layers of identity in a place guide the actions and feelings of state administrators.

Statehood is a complicated and variable thing, dependent on recognition from either capricious or selfish (depending on your preferred political theory) competitor states. Statehood is important on the large international scale, but not so much in the day to day operation of a nation. Just like with place, context seems to be the most important thing to consider when thinking about statehood.

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