BPSC-133 Unit-13 Contemporary Debates on the nature of state, Notes available for IGNOU.


SUBJECT NAMEComparative government and politics
COURSEB.A (General) political science (BAG)
TOTAL MARKS100 marks



  1. Introduction
  2. Traditional Debates
  3. Contemporary Debates


The state is of central importance in political science. Focusing on the diverse debates on the nature of state, this will address its part in society.


1. Classical liberalism :- In 19th century, it came into both as a philosophy and as a political programme. Its core values are individualism, rationality, freedom, choice, constitutionalism, consent and toleration. Its central assumption is hat the individual, as a rational and egotic being, is the best judge of his interest and so his freedom lies in leaving his private realm free from the interference of state. It argue for a minimal but not for a stateless society and looks it as a night-wathman. For them, state is important because it has the capacity of establishing and maintaining the environment necessary for enjoying freedom.

2. Modern liberalism :- In comes up by the end of 19th century. They unlike classical, conceptualise freedom and merely as absence of external  constraints, but as the presence of certain socio- economic and other conditions, which make enjoyment of liberty meaningful. It justify the necessity of welfare state, that is expected to do, wide range of services related to education, health, social security, housing etc.

3. Classical pluralism :- It is an extension of liberal tradition who believe that-

(a). Groups rather than individuals are the building block of politics and state.

(b). Political power is dispersed amongst a wide variety of social groups.

(c) State is like one of the associations present in society which are independent of its terms of their origin, existence and loyalty of members.

However, it believe that state has to justify the exercise of its special powers and its role should be to resolve the conflicting and competing interests of different groups by acting as mediator.

4. Classical Marxism :- It argue that state in a capitalist society is class institution which as an instrument in the hands of economically dominant class serves the interests of class. It sees state as an organ of class rule. It argued that most decision- making are controlled by dominant economic class.


In the latter part of the 20th century, the world witnessed unprecedented social, economic and political developments characterized by rise of big govern, global spread of capitalism and democracy, increasing power of business in a market economy, and rise of identity politics, among others.

  1. Neoliberalism :- It emerge in 1970s, It has faith in individualism, free market economics, competitive capitalism and absolute right to ownership of property. It treats liberty as a primary value and economic freedom as prerequisite for other freedoms. It believe that market delivers virtues and benefits only when state interventions are limited to maintenance, tax cuts, deregulation and reduced welfare provisions.
  2. Neo-Marxism :- It suggest that capitalist mode of production is not associated with economic structure but rather is composed of four distinct levels- economic, political, ideological and theoretical, which acts as a complex whole. Thus, to ensure the continuance of capitalist system, the state plays the role of maintaining cohesiveness between the levels of social formation. It believe that the state in capitalist society is not neutral and it maintain the exploitative capitalist system.
  3. Neo- Pluralism :- It shares the classical pluralism assumptions that groups are the building block of political process and state is fragmented but recognize that particular groups, especially business corporations, dominate politics. In capitalist economy, govern in order to realize its goal of economy growth and gain electoral popularity becomes dependent on business corporations. But they do not see the state as dominated by business class and treat sate as neutral institution.
  4. Feminism :– It put emphasis on eliminating the oppression of women and improving their conditions. It take different forms- (a). Liberal feminism insists that both men and women should have equal rights and liberties and should not be deied of legal and political equality also. They believe that the state as a netural mediator can function to achieve this. It should promote gender equality and promote the role and emancipaton of women. (b). Marxist feminism locate to oppression of women in class and economic relations rather than in denial of formal equality and procedural justice. Women’s domestic role plays a role in sustaining capitalist economy through making men free to work and through the production and reproduction of labour power, where they are subordinate to men. (c). Radical feminism locate the oppression of women in patriarchy ideology. Patriarchy here means a structural domination of men over all aspects such as personal, political, social, economic, cultural, educational and sexual existence, resulting in subordination of women. They see state as a patriarchal state where values and structures are created and dominated by men. It believe that womens are dominated in the home, bedroom, job, street and throughout social life.
  5. Communitarianism and multiculturalism :– It emerge in 1980s. They both shared a belief that human being are social animal and on this basis build or live in a community. Communitarians rejected liberal model and argue that the commitment of liberals to state neutrality is based on their belief that individual rights and personal freedom are prior to common good. It belief that the state should define and enforce the conceptions of good life in accordance with community way of life. Multiculturalism focuses on the celebration and recognition of two interrelated values- cultural differences and group- differentiate rights. Justice for them is about providing equal rights to all citizens regardless of their enthnicity, religion, race or culture. The state should take into account and recognize the cultural aspirations and identities of different disadvantaged the political and economic resources. So, the state should play a positive role in developing and protecting the rights of minority groups.

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