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The state is both an omnipresent and an elusive feature of modern political life. Hardly any political and social relationship exists outside of its reach and influence; and yet, it is impossible to point to a person, group, or institution that represents the state as a whole. As the sociologist Philip Abrams once noted, “We have come to take the state for granted as an object of political practice and political analysis while remaining quite spectacularly unclear as to what the state is.”
What, then, makes a state? Is it successfully laying claim to the monopoly of the legitimate use of force? Or is it better understood by its ability to control class conflict and stabilize capitalist societies? What role has it played in the spread of colonial relations of domination, and in the reproduction of contemporary forms of patriarchy and racism? Does the state even exist, or is it just an illusion of unity projected onto diffuse power relations? And if the state has a historical origin, does this also mean it will one day give way to a different kind of organization?
In this course, we will attempt to answer these questions by considering some of the foundational modern and contemporary perspectives on the state as a form of organized political power. First, it looks at why and how the state has come to be the exclusive and definitive feature of “the political” in modernity. Then, it examines its role as a repressive power and a guarantor of political order, from the early modern period to the present. Following that, it turns to the state’s role in both reproducing social (class, gender, and racial) differences and subduing their antagonisms. Lastly, it ends by examining some critiques of the state and statist thinking, on both theoretical and political grounds. Readings will be drawn from works by Thomas Hobbes, Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin, Max Weber, Carl Schmitt, Antonio Gramsci, Michel Foucault, Nicos Poulantzas, Stuart Hall, Wendy Brown, Charles Tilly, Theda Skocpol, and Ruth Wilson Gilmore.
This course is available for "remote" learning and will be available to anyone with access to an internet device with a microphone (this includes most models of computers, tablets). Classes will take place with a "Live" instructor at the date/times listed below.
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Brooklyn Institute for Social Research
New York, New York Online
New York, New York
This class isn't on the schedule at the moment, but save it to your Wish List to find out when it comes back!
The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...
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Marxism and anti-colonialism were once deeply intertwined in national liberation and other movements, from Vietnam to Angola to Algeria and beyond. However, by the end of the 20th century, Marxist and other socialist thought often seemed dated in a world with a waning Soviet bloc and an emerging neoliberal consensus. Postcolonial theory, itself often...
Tuesday Apr 6th, 6:30pm - 9:30pm Eastern Time(4 sessions)
While international politics has been a topic of discourse since at least Thucydides, international relations, as a branch of study distinct from political theory, emerged in the late 19th century—just as the European nation-state was making itself felt as the dominant political actor on the world stage. While arguably no discipline evolves...
Sunday Apr 11th, 3pm - 6pm Eastern Time(4 sessions)
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