The State and the People: Relations Old and New
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University of Warsaw
Publication date: 2011-03-23
Polish Sociological Review 2011;173(1):3–20
This article strives to assess the condition of the contemporary state. The author thinks that the contemporary state is more powerful than ever in history and that this power is strongly rooted in the wants of its citizens. The recent global economic crisis has legitimized the state even further. Although the contemporary state is increasingly polycentric and its structures are less and less hierarchic and transparent, the identity and integration of the political system are not in danger. The state’s immense power is a serious threat to its citizens and to democracy. The processes of nationalization of societies are stronger than the processes of socialization of states. Hence one of the (widely understood) key problems of theWest is how to preserve citizen autonomy. This autonomy is being increasingly threatened by various state agencies and the welfare state’s typical clientism, which try to control each and every citizen. The usual response to this danger is to call for limitation of the state’s role, for a minimal state, etc. This author thinks that such postulates are unrealistic, because citizens want the state to be a welfare state and because such a state is functional for democracy. The best response to the threat to individual autonomy and to democracy is the republican response: only the politically mobilized people can maintain an elementary level of state socialization and an essential degree of state segmentation, both of which create the necessary space for individual freedom.
Paper presented at the Plenary Session of the 14th Polish Sociological Congress, Kraków 2010