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Theories of the State: Politics, Institutions, & Power

at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research - Online

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Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 21 and older
Average Class Size: 14

Flexible Reschedule Policy: This provider has flexible, free rescheduling for any-in person workshop. Please see the cancellation policy for more details

What you'll learn in this politics class:

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.

Remote Learning

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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Refund Policy

Upon request, we will refund the entire cost of a class up until 1 week before its start date. Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to a 75% refund. After the first class: 50%. After the second: 25%. No refunds will be given after the third class.

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Reviews of Classes at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research (26)

School: Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

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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