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Normative and Empirical Approaches

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1 Normative and Empirical Approaches
The State Normative and Empirical Approaches

2 Goals for this section You should be able to understand the differences between normative and empirical approaches to the study of the state. You should be able to distinguish the state from all other aspects of the political system.

3 The STATE defined: One of the most basic defintions of the state is;
“A set of political institutions that has the ultimate monopoly of coercion within a defined territory” This differs, subtly, from the defintion of the state proffered by Sodaro on page 119 of the text. Which do you prefer? Why?  The STATE possesses sovereignty. What we mean by this is that there is no higher political power; in the end, the state can do anything within its own territory (although these actions may not be without consequences).  BEWARE! The STATE is different from a government. The state is really the institutions, whereas we generally reserve the term government for the people who occupy those institutions at any point ALSO: The “states” in the United States are really (technically) misnamed… (this is to do with the 18th century notion of divided sovereignty in the original Articles of Confederation). This point is covered on page 120 of the text.

4 Normative Approaches to the State

5 Questions asked by normative theorists over the centuries about the state
Why does the state exist? Hobbes ( ) was one of the first to tackle this question in his great work Leviathan. His answer? To protect ourselves from the violence of others. Hobbes thought that we are all violent by disposition, and we could only be restrained from that violence by a powerful and imposing state. Locke ( ) thought that the real reason for the existence of the state was to protect private property and private enterprise. Unless we can accumulate property safely, argued Locke, there is no reason to work and thus no real reason for society to exist at all. Rousseau ( ) gave yet another answer. He believed that the state is necessary to restore freedoms that would otherwise be taken away by the more powerful in society. These contrasting views of the state are the bedrock of what we call democratic theory and are still with us today. Hobbes teaches us to be obedient to an all-powerful state for our own good; Locke, on the other hand, links the state to wealth and property. Rousseau makes the argument for the state to be involved in redistribution and what today would be called affirmative action.

6 How should we organize the State?
Once we have agreed that the state is necessary, we might ask; how should it be organized? Until the 17th century, most political theory had been silent on this question; it was taken as a given that political institutions were organized according to the will (whim?) of the ruler. But as we began to enter the democratic era and theorists began to imagine the possibility of states without absolute monarchs, the question took on a vital importance. The great French theorist, Montesquieu ( ) tackled this question in L’Esprit des lois, His answer? Power should always be divided (the separation of powers). He proposed three branches of government: - The legislature - The Executive The judiciary Ironically, his theories about the separation of powers were based upon his stay in Britain in 1734, where he thought that this was an integral part of the British system. He was completely wrong (as we shall see, there is no such thing as the separation of powers in a parliamentary democracy), but his ideas influenced the design of the American constitution more than anybody else’s.

7 Empirical Questions about the state

8 How should states be classified?
This is one of the oldest empirical questions about the state going right back to Aristotle. One common scheme that is often used: Democracy versus Authoritarian Regimes; Democracies: can be sub-divided into ‘separations of powers’ systems, parliamentary systems, mixed systems, transitional regimes… Authoritarian: may be traditional (monarchies, theocracies, etc.), military regimes, ‘dominant party’ regimes, dictatorships, civil war…

9 How should powers be ‘spatially’ allocated?
By this, we mean; which institutions should have which powers at what level of the system? In general we can distinguish between two common forms of spatial allocation of powers; Unitary States: here there isno vertical separation of powers, all power is reserved to the central state. This is not to say that local government does not exist, simply that it only wields power when and where it is allowed to by the central state. Federal States: in these systems, there is a true separation of powers between central and regional units. Certain tasks of sovereignty (law enforcement, legal arbitration, etc.) may be shared. We can talk about divided sovereignty in such cases. A third type exists in theory, and yet it is almost non-existent in today’s world. Confederations: powers are retained by regional units, there are only limited coordination powers vested in central government. The United Arab Emirates is one example of such a system; the United States under the Articles of Confederation is another.

10 What is legitimacy? The great German theorist and sociologist, Max Weber ( ), argued that political institutions inevitably depend upon the notion of legitimacy to survive. He argued that there are really three forms of legitimacy: traditional (ascriptive) found in pre-modern socieities, where legitimacy is vested in non-political institutions (such as the family, clan, kinship structures, etc.). legal-rational (vested in institutions) which is where legitimacy resides in political institutions charismatic legitimacy, when we might transfer legitimacy from institutions to an extraordinary leader, often in times of crisis For discussion: can you think of a charismatic leader? What makes them so? Is this a good or bad thing for democracy?

11 How is policy made by state institutions?
The Unitary Actor Model (Max Weber, ) Assumed that the institutions of the state act in a unified and coordinated fashion, and that the state is ‘rational’ in making policy. Incrementalism (Charles Lindblom, 1975) Lindblom took issue with Weber’s characterization of the state, particularly since he observed what seemed to be a lot of bureaucratic infighting. He sees the policy making process as involving (potential) competition between state institutions. This view also allows that different institutions may have different interests, and that there might be severe and sharp disagreements within the state. According to Lindblom, the outcome of this is that it is sometimes very hard to make policy, and extremely hard to make policy that is a radical departure from the past. For discussion; can you think of examples right now in the United States that back up Lindblom’s view? Why do you think Weber developed the unitary actor model?


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