State Formation-Anthropological Perspectives

(Anthropology, Culture and Society) Christian Krohn-Hansen, Knut G. Nustad - State Formation_ Anthropological Perspectives -Pluto Press (2005)

The question of the state has always been at the center of political and philosophical debate but interest has intensified of late across the social sciences. This has much to do with attacks on modernism, the state being seen as the arch-culprit in the human crises, destructions and disasters that have befallen humankind throughout its history, and most of all in the more recent centuries.

Political and economic developments – the fall of the Soviet Union, 9/11 and a new US militarism, the European Union and its reaction to the Treaty of Westphalia, contemporary globalization, the further growth of corporate power, the Internet – have dramatically affected the nature of state power. How this is so is a major problem to be examined, as are the human and social consequences that follow from the redrawing of the nature of state orders and power. The importance of such inquiry cannot be overstressed.

The state, at least the imagination of the state (the real or fantasized effect of the state on human existence) has likely been of major influence on the lives of human beings from the very beginnings of human history, even for those peoples who refused state forms of control and order. It has been integral within human subjectivity and part of the dynamics vital in the creation of human relations (even in contexts of the rejection of any kind of state control, as Clusters once discussed).

In some approaches (particularly since the rise of modern nationalism) the state has frequently been conceived as virtually synonymous with the imaginary of society. I am suggesting that an understanding of the state is crucial to an exploration of human being, for the social sciences especially, and that it is receiving a renewed focus of interest is appropriate to its centrality. This is especially so in the current situation of what today appears to many commentators and scholars alike as major changes of an almost cosmological and ontological quality that are taking place in contemporary state orders and the surrounding political and social fields of their operation.

Of course I am talking about the state in an over-general and in a far too uniform way. The state has taken widely diverse forms throughout history and the kind of state, or modern or contemporary state, that the essays in this volume address is a recent invention, although still highly diverse in its shaping.

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