Bringing the state back in … again

Critical Review 14 (2-3):139-146 (2000)
Abstract
Abstract Previous scholarship on states? autonomy from the interests of society has focused primarily on nondemocratic societies, raising the question of whether ?state theory? is relevant to modern states. Public?opinion research documenting the ignorance of mass polities suggests that modern states may be as autonomous as, or more autonomous than, premodern states. Premodern states? autonomy was secured by their ability to suppress societal dissent by force of arms. Modern states may have less recourse to overt coercion because the very thing that legitimates them in the eyes of society?democracy?virtually ensures that society will not control the state, since the putative agent of control, the electorate, cannot possibly be well informed about the multitudinous tasks undertaken by modern governments. Instead of focusing solely on armies, taxes, and bureaucracies, state theorists can now direct their attention to how the vagaries of public opinion and the legitimating effects of popular elections may fuel state autonomy.
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