Miliband, R. (1969) The State in Capitalist Society: The analysis of the Western system of power (London: Quartet Books).
Crosland, A. (1956) The Future of Socialism, Jonathan Cape. (2006 edition, published by (Constable: London).
Crouch, C. (2011) The strange non-death of neoliberalism (Polity Press)
Reading and preparation
From the information already given you must ascertain which text/sources you are studying first and allow plenty of time to work through it/them at a reasonable pace.
Read manageable sections of the text/sources at a time, stop, reflect and attempt to summarise the arguments presented. In particular consider the following points:
a) The nature and composition of the state;
b) The relationship of the state with the individual;
c) What constitutes the proper range of state activities; and
d) Engage with the intellectual and theoretical debate which these texts/articles have engendered.
The essay title is as follows:
‘The nature of the state and the relationship between state, society and individuals are matters of profound significance for social theorists’. Critically analyse and compare the contrasting approaches to these themes adopted by each of the three texts above
From the texts we’ve read, you might want to consider the following as themes for analysis:
- The nature of the state: oppressive, benevolent or a mixture of the two depending on context? Always or never a force for good etc.
- Appropriate functions of the state: appropriate areas for intervention, scale of intervention. Where does the state have, or not have legitimacy?
- How do the authors regard issues such as collectivism/role of the individual; citizenship; markets; consumerism/consumption; equality; education; healthcare; social work etc.
Obviously, the extent and precise form in which each text approaches issues such as those noted above varies considerably. It makes sense to try and find examples where you can make direct comparisons between authors’ treatment of the ‘big’ social policy issues where possible, but also it’s perfectly sensible to note differences of emphases: these obviously reflect the different contexts within which the authors were writing, their own backgrounds and ideological perspectives.
Essentially, the essay is trying to get you to compare how different social policy theorists approach the ‘big’ issues of social policy.
As a matter of technique, it would help if you specified the particular themes you’re going to focus on in the introductory section of the essay: this would give you a clearer framework and sense of direction for your argument and hopefully help you produce more effective analysis.
On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
|Demonstrate a systematic understanding of theoretical perspectives on social policy.
|Critically analyse the strengths, weaknesses and contradictions of this work.
|Locate their understanding in a comprehensive appreciation of the significance of the cultural, economic, political and social changes associated with currently existing capitalism.
The Relationship Between the State, Civil Society and Individual
The relationship between the state and the society could be defined as the interactions between the institutions of the state and the groups of the society to establish a common understanding of how to exercise public authority and how such authority is to be influenced by members of the public. As such, some of the key issues that are covered under this include defining the obligations and mutual rights of society and state, determining allocation of public resources, and establishing the available modes of accountability ad representations. It is important to note that attention is not directed towards certain institutional forms. Instead, it is focused on the relational functions and the relations of society and state institutions. Neither the society nor the state can act in isolation. Instead, the legitimacy of the state is derived from its interactions with a civil society that is active and organized, and citizens. Social theorists acknowledge that individual citizens are persons with aspirations, rights and responsibilities to the state and other members of the community. As such, there is a clear relationship among individuals in the society and between those persons who live within a State’s boundaries and the state in itself.
The state confers various benefits to its citizens including the right to take part in political processes, hold office or vote; the right to nationality; to access health, education, among other services; to own different forms of property including land and businesses; and the freedom of movement together with the security of residence. It is thus clear that the state, the society, and the individual coexist in a mutual relationship, where each of the entities has a part to play in facilitating the sustainability of the relationship. This paper agrees that the nature of the state and the relationship between state, society and individuals are matters of profound significance for social theorists. As such, these themes are going to be critically analyzed in view of the contrasting approaches of three social theorists including Miliband, Crosland, and Crouch, according to their works.
The Nature of the State
The nature of the state as identified by different social theorists is important in defining the relationship between the state and other entities such as the people within it and the society as a closely woven entity. As much as social theorists have their contrasting approaches to the nature of the state, most of them converge at a point in terms of their perception of the fabric that makes up the state. Miliband shows this in his definition of the state. He strongly asserts that the government is not the same as the state. To justify this, he argues that if the government was the state, electoral victories by parties form the left-wing would be enough to end capitalism. As such, Miliband viewed the state as a nebulous complex and diffuse of institutions that intertwine, including the government, the military, the civil service, the police, the local authorities, and the judiciary (Miliband, 1969, p. 53). Miliband believes that these institutions, though differently, remain dominated by individuals with similar views, such as the independence of the private property’s primacy. The occurrence of fierce disagreements within such constraints only means to imply that it is permitted for different entities to share wide-ranging views. Nevertheless, any individual that believes that he or she can use these channels to advocate for policies that infringe on the private business interests is bound to be disappointed at the end (Deng, 2011, p. 158).
Milibands take of the nature of the State revolves around the notion that the state is made up of different entities that are brought together with channels of communication and what they mean to achieve (Miliband, 1969, p. 23). It is clear from his work that capitalism is still the order of the day in all states, whereby he believes that the different entities within the state have a shared motive of guarding their interests as private entities. As such, as much as the state has a complex, large, technologically advanced, and highly integrated economic base, private ownership accounts from the large part of economic activity, and hence there is increased contention in terms of control of the source of such activity (Miliband, 1969, p. 8). Miliband thus asserts that the state has disparities in terms of its composition, as the industrial system is majorly dominated by private ownership, an aspect that impedes all other aspects of social democracy. The private owners thus dominate the markets on highly individualistic grounds as each of the entities thrives to outdo the rest in the market (Laville, et al., 2015, p. 205). The concept of citizenship has been stained with reduced consumerism, even as the private owners are determined to push through with their interests at the expense of the consumers. Miliband believes that each individual within the state has a role to play towards a collective role of the state in ensuring equality among all persons. Nevertheless, he argues that capitalism has brought about a new definition of the state, whereby the public has surrendered their power to the private owners in exchange for resources and facilities such as education and healthcare facilities (Miliband, 1969, p. 14). In this case, the ruling class are believed to have ties with the government, an aspect that ensures that every state function is directed towards satisfying the capitalist interests of the few dominant at the expense of the majority poor.
Contrary to Miliband’s take, Crosland, in his book “The Future of Socialism”, took a different view of the nature of the state, whereby he argued that war had brought about significant change in terms of how the social structures of the state were distributed as compared to the period in 1930s when capitalism had engraved the very fabric of society (Crosland, 1956, p. 54). To Crosland, capitalism had faded away after the war, even as governments were forced to initiate reforms. He insisted that the theory of capitalist collapse as initially held by Marxists was not true. He argued that the characteristics that defined capitalism were no longer seen in the society. Such characteristics included the private property rule, the dominance of market influences in influencing all the aspects of life, the emphasis of profit as the motive of private ownership, the unequal division of income, and the government’s neutrality (Whitehead, et al., 2007, p. 122). He believed that the living standards of individuals were rising across the state and classes.
In addition, the government gained more power, which coupled with labor’s bargaining power, had led to a tremendous reduction in the power and influence that was initially held by the ruling class (Crosland, 1956, p. 61). As such, the ruling class no longer have the commanding position that they initially had, an aspect that defined their reduced influence overt governments. As a result of the rising standards of living, welfare benefits, and redistributive taxation, primary poverty had substantially reduced. In his recommendations of a good society, Crosland embraced a different view of a society as opposed to what socialists were advocating for. He argued that in as much as equality had been achieved in most aspects of the state, this was not reflective of uniformity. Hence, he downplayed the importance of equality in promoting uniformity across classes within the society and insisted on something more. He argued that the definition of equality based on distribution as promoted by socialists could not lead to uniformity (Crosland, 1956, p. 17). Socialists advocated for equal distribution of privileges, rewards, and status, with the view of promoting justice between individuals, reducing social resentment, and equalizing opportunities (Whitehead, et al., 2007, p. 76). On the other hand, Crosland believed that equality could only be achieved by weakening the stratification among classes, which was defined by consistent feelings of inferiority and envy, and getting rid of the factors that barred uninhibited interaction between the classes. It is clear that Crosland’s view of capitalism greatly differed from that of Miliband.
Nevertheless, it is important to note the causes of disparity between the views of the two social theorists on the nature of the state impedes the impact of Crosland’s take. As such, it is evident that Crosland’s definition of equality was highly rigid and doctrinaire. However, one could argue that as opposed to promoting the equality of outcome, which he viewed as undesirable and unsustainable, Crosland sought to remove the unnecessary and unfair barriers to the achievement of inequality (Crosland, 1956, p. 64). Crosland’s views tend to be only applicable at single state levels and not the international level, from where the Labor governments were forced to operate. On the other hand, Miliband’s take on the nature of the state is highly applicable both at the national and international level even as global capitalism takes course. It is clear that the developed countries control the global economy and the international functions are all directed at satisfying the interests of the developed countries at the expense of the underdeveloped countries.
Colin Crouch, in his book “The strange non-death of neoliberalism”, embraces the same stance as Miliband in his view of capitalism, where he insists that the contemporary society has only been defined with a new type of capitalism and that the actual meaning of neo-liberalism is not what may be presumed by those who do not have an in-depth understanding of the current market structures (Crouch, 2011, p. 37). Unlike the popular view of neoliberalism, whereby competitive markets become predominantly institutions for economic and social governance, it has led to the domination of private corporations in the markets. According to most definitions of neo-liberalism, a simple dichotomy of market versus state is presupposed. In neoliberalism, it is expected for the market to advance even as the state retreats.
According to Crouch, the modern-day capitalist countries’ collective governance functions through four major social institutions, including the state, corporation, market, and civil society (Crouch, 2011, p. 42). Such institutions consider different logics in their operation, embracing distinctive decision-making modes, and empower different sets of stakeholders which leads to varied distributional outcomes. Crouch insisted that all these institutions are existent across the globe, but are balanced differently in different countries. These institutions tend to complement each other, such that they can compensate for the weaknesses and excesses of each other (Bron, et al., 2009, p. 215). Nevertheless, in cases where the balance between these institutions is compromised, leaving one preponderant, changes are made in terms of the decisions made, which may not reflect the interests of the public.
According to Crouch, the Keynesian period was marked with a rise in demand management, which was characterized with economic growth, which led to an increase in the household incomes and a subsequent decrease in the income inequality levels (Crouch, 2011, p. 139). As such, this marketed a period that was highly beneficial not only to capitalism but also to those who were ruled by the capitalist system. Due to an increase in wages, the workers were able to act as consumers, with their increased consumption leading tom an increase in production. The enfranchisement of the workers as the voters ensured that their interests are reflected in public policy. Nevertheless, this was cut short with the increase in inflation followed by stagflation during the early 1970s, which led to neo-liberalism. Crouch notes that Keynesianism did not end as a result of factually proving wrong the Keynesian ideas but as a result of the decline in power of those who were served by this system, including the working class, and rise in power of global financial interests (Crouch, 2011, p. 98).
Crouch’s view of the nature of the state is thus embedded in the notion of capitalism, whereby the State, in the contemporary world, just like it was initially experienced by the Miliband has been stratified into classes, with the private entities gaining power and establishing control over all the functions of the state, ensuring that all the efforts put in place are directed towards meeting their interests. The private corporations use their resources and power to influence all the aspects of life including health and education, an aspect that has led the members of the public to surrender their power to the ruling class (Bron, et al., 2009, p. 16). Such disparities in power and control have facilitated increased economic and social inequality and a growth in the rate of poverty. Societal collectivism has also been impaired, such that individuals and corporation increasingly search for their individual profitability.
The Relationship Between the State, Society, and the Individual
According to the recent social change processes, it is clear that the state continues to amass more power and that there is a contradiction and problem in terms of the relationship between the state and the civil society (Deng, 2011, p. 74). Nevertheless, it is evident that for governance to be enhanced it is important to acknowledge and counter the state’s ability to concentrate power. Miliband was highly concerned of the relationship between the state, the civil society, and the individual in the capitalist environment. As such, Miliband attempted to offer individuals a different option in terms of the vision of governance in view of inducing the classical socialist theory. He felt that the capitalist governance was highly exploitative of the weaker members of the society. It is clear from Miliband that there was a distant relationship between the state, he civil society, and the individual, an aspect that could be attributed to capitalism. The society was ruled by the influence of the ruling class, who have used private ownership to enter and dominate all markets and hence to control not only the economic but also the social functionality of the state (Miliband, 1969, p. 81). The state is stratified into classes, which form a hierarchy in the society. The lower members of the society in terms of social class and hierarchical position have been forced to be subjective to the decisions that are made by the ruling class on matters of governance, whether they are agree with them or not.
Capitalism also facilitates the development of individualism and reduced cohesion between the state and the civil society (Whitehead, et al., 2007, p. 258). The individual in this case is more aligned towards achieving personal goals and interests as opposed to those of the larger society. This system of governance is characterized with increased inequality and high levels of poverty. In this view, Miliband suggested adoption of liberal democracy mechanisms to promote state democracy. This can be achieved through the establishment of the separations of powers and the rule of law. He also argues that the judiciary should be reformed and independent to ensure that justice is equally served to all and that the ruling class understand their boundaries. Miliband also highlights the importance of opposition parties that are effective in criticizing the government and overseeing its performance (Miliband, 1969, p. 177). This would ensure that the government takes back its power and that it is able to effectively eliminate all the barriers that prevent proper distribution of resources and promotion of an inclusive government that would put the interests of all the classes at their heart in both policy development and implementation.
Crouch’s work tends to coincide with the work by Miliband, whereby capitalism is seen to be the definitive factor in both contexts. Crouch asserts that unlike it is believed, that neo-liberalism revolves around the dominance of markets, it has more to do with the market dominance of large corporations (Crouch, 2011, p. 93). This is a form of modern-day capitalism, whereby such firms later take advantage of their economic influence to influence other areas of governance. Large corporations establish their boundaries by ensuring that some activities are outsourced while others are insourced. These firms use ‘fiat’ or hierarchy (authority relations) to plan, implement, and coordinate the internal activities, while using arm’s-length prices and contracts to govern transactions within the external markets. When they become sufficiently large, such firms employ internal ‘planned economies’, yielding external power that is great enough to allow them to successfully influence the political environment and guide the setting of marketplace rules (Laville, et al., 2015, p. 198).
As such, in Crouch’s view, there is a distant relationship between the state, the civil society, and the individual persons within the state as a result of the influences that large corporations have on the government. Using their influence on the economy, these corporations, manipulate the government into flowing with their desires as opposed to those of the public (Laville, et al., 2015, p. 199). Governments cannot afford to lose such large contributors to the economy and hence are left with no option but to play along any of the schemes that are put in place by these large companies even as they aggressively and openly chase profits. The individual citizens are forced to succumb to market place provisions that are meant to satisfy the interests of the large companies including heightened prices. With increased rates of inflation and reduced consumerism contribute to reduced consumption and hence reduced production, an aspect that leads to reduced wages and increased levels of primary poverty. It is without doubt that neo-liberalism has strongly endured the test of time as a set of practices and a doctrine. One of the factors that has led to its endurance is the fact that is can easily adopt to varying national institutions (Crouch, 2011, p. 216). Neoliberalism’s concepts of collective efficiency and consumer welfare have also greatly contributed towards the increased transformation of the practices of government, whereby, instead of regulating the markets, the governments have embraced efforts towards emulating it. However, practically, neoliberalism is a form of capitalism, whereby the welfare of the consumers comes third to that of the large corporations and the state, an aspect that has led to development of communities with social and economic inequalities.
The relationship between the state, the community and the individual as identified by Miliband and Crouch is different from the position held by Crosland. Crosland believes that it is no longer significant to define capitalism based on ownership of property as such ownership no longer defines the relationships that occur within the state. Instead, he believes that it would make more sense to define societies based on class relationships, equality, or political systems (Crosland, 1956, p. 36). Crosland’s stance could be explained by his emphasis on the increase in Labor’s negotiation power, an aspect that has made the private owners of companies to lose some of their power to the labor market and the labor government. Crosland is well renowned for his distinction between the means and the ends. He defined “ends” as aspirations or basic values, while “means” were defined as the institutional methods or the policy required to promote such values in practice (Crosland, 1956, p. 43). Crosland emphasized that unlike ends, means were not constant and thus could be revised. As such, contemporary socialism is less of public ownership and more of enhancing social equity and improving welfare. Crosland held the position that capitalism is something of the past and that socialism had taken course. He insisted that the definition of socialism is what has made it difficult for the relationship between the state, the civil society and the individual citizen to be enhanced (Crosland, 1956, p. 66). Socialism advocates for equality with regards to the distribution of resources among other materially defined aspects. However, achievement of such distribution does not mean equality as the very boundaries that defined such differences may still be maintained regardless of redistribution of resources and privileges.
Crosland suggests that it is more important to achieve equality at a different level, one that involves identifying the various factors that impede interactions between the state, the community and the individual, such would ensure development of a clear realization of the benefits of their relationships as they coexist and contribute to the welfare of each other (Crosland, 1956, p. 100). Just like the state draws power from the civil society, the civil society and the individual is highly dependent on the state in developing of policies and rules that will allow for equal opportunities of distribution of not only material commodities but also social and political rights that would ensure equal representations across the state. Crosland’s vision of the relationship between the three entities is largely optimistic but ignorant of the hierarchical structure of the community.
Political settlement’s nature can have a great impact
on the relations between the state and the society. In most conflict-affected
and fragile states, lack of accountability and patronage define the foundation
for relations. Prominence of unofficial processes, relationships, and informal institutions
leads to divergences between rules, formal systems, and actual practice. The
ruling political elites, whop gain from natural resource rents income,
patronage, and criminal activities, generally lack the incentive to interact
with citizens and establish effective public authority. Miliband and Crouch
note the wielding of power by a few entities including the ruling class and
private owners. It is important to note that when power is concentrated among a
few elites, citizen participation in public life is limited. State repression
may also be used to exclude citizens from public participation. This would
further lead to weak and negative relations between the state and the society.
As such, it is only in a state with increased efforts to facilitate an inclusive
political environment that relations can be reshaped and social and political transformation
promoted. In the current society, most of the state building focus has been directed
towards increasing the central state institutions’ capacity. It is important
for attention to also be directed towards supporting citizen and civil society
engagement, so that they can be empowered to demand accountability of the state
and require it to respond to the interests of the society. Policies and
strategies that are focused on the interaction between the citizens and
institutions are needed at all stages of governance in order to promote both
vertical and horizontal equality within the state.
Bron, M., Guimarães, P. & de Castro, R. V., 2009. The State, Civil Society and the Citizen. Berlin: Peter Lang.
Crosland, A., 1956. The Future of Socialism. London: Constable.
Crouch, C., 2011. The Strange Non-death of Neo-liberalism. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Deng, Z., 2011. State and Civil Society: The Chinese Perspective. New Jersey: World Scientific.
Laville, J.-L., Young, D. R. & Eynaud, P., 2015. Civil Society, the Third Sector and Social Enterprise: Governance and Democracy. London: Routledge.
Miliband, R., 1969. The State in Capitalist Society: The analysis of the Western system of power. London: Quartet Books.
Whitehead, M., Jones, R. & Jones, M., 2007. The Nature of the State: Excavating the Political Ecologies of the Modern State. Oxford: Oxford University Press.