The role of the state within contemporary liberal democracies is an issue that perhaps more than any other has attracted the attentions of the social and political sciences. The concept itself is not accorded universal acceptance and there are a plethora of theoretical and ideological conceptualisations which seek to explain not only the constituent elements of the state, but also how the state functions and who actually influences its workings. In the past, much discussion has been devoted to the question of whether the state should be seen as an entity distinct from that of government. For some, the government is perceived as the executive force in society which acts through the structure of the state in pursuing particular objectives. For others, the state is merely a personification, a reflection of the nation as symbolised by the government. In order to explore these and other issues, it is my intention to examine the perceived nature and role of the state, from different theoretical perspectives.
[...] Although the state cannot completely strangle an important element within capitalism such as the tobacco industry it is autonomous enough to take a somewhat independent line in response to other interests, such as the health interest as part of the state's role in maintaining the structure of capitalism as a whole. Yet while there are many men who have power outside the state system and whose power greatly affects it, they are not the actual repositories of state power and for the purpose of analysing the role of the state in these societies, it is necessary to treat the state elite, which does wield power, as a distinct and separate entity. [...]
[...] (1980) The State Tradition in Western Europe, Oxford, Martin Robertson. Friedman, M. and Friedman, R. (1980) Free to Choose, London, Secker and Warburg. Green, David G. (1987) The New Right, London, Harvester Wheatsheaf. Hayek, F. A. (1944) The Road To Serfdom edn., London, Routledge and Kegan Paul. Hayek, F. A. (1960) The Constitiution of Liberty, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul. Hindess, B. (1987) Freedon, Equality and the Market, London, Tavistock Pulications. Levitas, R. (1986) The Ideology of the New Right, Cambridge, Polity Press. [...]
[...] Whether one views the state as a neutral umpire, arbitrating impartially between competing interests, or as an instrument of political dominance used to perpetuate the rule of one class in society over another, or to facilitate the existence and workings of a market system, capable of providing for the needs of countless free individuals, the state is an unequivocal feature of contemporary liberal democracies, as much a part of the social landscape as the very language we use to describe it. [...]
[...] It has been said that pluralists do not have a particular model of the state, but rather have a theory of the way in which the state behaves neutrally within a liberal democracy. American pluralists of the 1950's regarded the state as nothing more than a passive vehicle through which various inputs are codified and processed. In many respects, the state resembles a weathervane, that slowly swings about to meet the shifting winds of opinion. (Woolf, 1969:20) Where the state is conceived of as essentially neutral, as there either to respond or be `captured' for a period of time between elections, it follows that the state must be more or less open, open to access from outside, open to reasonable influence and pressure from groups and individuals within society. [...]
[...] Milton Friedman is another eminent economic commentator, within the tradition of the New Right, who has made an impact upon the formulation of social policy, through his contributions to the debate about the provision of welfare and the role of the state within this process. Friedman is the most notable representative of the `Chicago' School of economics, which was founded in the 1920's by Henry C. Simons and Frank H. Knight. Not only has Friedman attracted critical attention within the economics fraternity, but he is also far more popular outside the academic world than, for example, Hayek. [...]
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