The Sociology of the Modern State
Convenor and lecturer: Robert Fine ()
Tel.: 23068 Room R2.09
Seminar tutor and lecturer: William Smith ()
Tel.: 28429 Room R2.36
Outline of the module
Week 1: Basic ideas in the sociology of the modern state (RF, WS)
Week 2: Classical theory: the original idea of the modern state (RF, WS)
Week 3: Contemporary theory: the revised idea of the constitutional state (WS)
Week 4: The socialist critique of the modern state: Marx and Lenin (RF)
Week 5: Sociology, socialism and the modern state: Max Weber (RF)
Week 6: Reading and researching week
Week 7: What’s left of the revolutionary tradition? Hannah Arendt (RF)
Week 8: The idea of civil society and its independence from the state (WS)
Week 9: The contemporary revival of civil society theory (WS)
Week 10: Beyond liberalism and Marxism: Foucault’s deconstruction of the modern state (RF)
Week 11: The decline of the nation state and the end of human rights: Hannah Arendt (RF)
Week 12: The totalitarian revolt against the modern nation state: Hannah Arendt (RF)
Week 13: The prevalence of nationalism in the modern age (WS)
Week 14: The revival of civic nationalism and constitutional patriotism (WS)
Week 15: Limiting the sovereignty of the nation state: Kant’s idea of cosmopolitan right (RF)
Week 16: Reading and researching week
Week 17: The revival of cosmopolitan ideas (1); Jürgen Habermas (WS, RF)
Week 18: The revival of cosmopolitan ideas (2): critical debates in modern social theory (RF, WS)
Week 19: Military interventions and the cosmopolitan paradigm (WS)
Learning outcomes for the Sociology of the Modern State
By the end of the module students should have a basic knowledge and understanding of
a) Enlightenment and sociological theories of the state and civil society;
b) Sociological analysis of the functions and pathologies of the modern state;
c) Marx’s and Marxist critiques of civil society and the modern state;
d) Totalitarianism and the modern state: Hannah Arendt;
e) Power, discipline and the modern state: Michel Foucault
f) Civil society, civil disobedience and the public sphere;
g) Nationalism, post-nationalism and cosmopolitanism.
With reference to these substantive areas of study, students should be able by the end of the module to:
a) Compare, contrast and assess a range of social theories of the modern state;
b) Construct your own sociological arguments by drawing on theoretical and empirical materials;
c) Relate social theory to contemporary political debates;
d) Do some independent research in the area;
e) Make presentations of research and scholarly work orally and in writing;
f) Contribute to group discussions;
g) Make use of the library and IT resources.
Learning and teaching methods
- A programme of 17 lectures is delivered.
- Weekly seminars are held for which students are required to
a) prepare by reading selected materials;
b) answer specified questions about these materials;
c) contribute to discussions in the seminar group of the materials and the seminar questions
d) and in some cases do independent research.
- Students write two non-examined class essays for which they receive qualitative feedback and a quantitative mark.
- Students must access books and journals in the library.
- Revision seminars are held in the third term during weeks 2 to 4.
- Individual advice and tuition is available and given to students during the tutors’ office hours or on appointment.
Students either take
a) one three hour unseen examination in which they answer three questions; or
b) one two hour unseen examination in which they answer two questions and one assessed essay of 3000 words (plus or minus 20%); or
c) two assessed essays of 3000 words each (plus or minus 20%).
Assessment takes into account the following criteria: extent and thoroughness of reading; use of sources; presentation of work including spelling and grammar; structure of the essay; fluency, clarity and authority of writing; strength and soundness of argument; knowledge of relevant theories and methods; independence of thought and critical character of analysis.
The assessment methods indicate the students’ achievements within a specified range of learning outcomes.
The students’ performance in seminars and their achievement of transferable skills are assessed as part of the Department’s review of student progress and are recorded on the Student Record Cards. The student is sent a copy of this card and may make comments on it. This assessment does not enter into the final mark.
Two class essays are expected – one for each term. They are due in by the end of 7th week of each term.
Assessed essays must be 3000 words long plus or minus 20%.
These will take place in weeks 2-4 in the Summer Term during the usual lecture and seminar times.
The following reading list offers an initial guide. Do not hesitate to supplement it with your own reading or to ask us for further reading. Amendments and additions may be made to this programme in the course of the year.
Week one: Basic ideas in the sociology of the modern state
Christopher Pierson, The Modern State, Routledge, ch.1 ‘Modern States: A Matter of Definition’, ch.2 ‘Placing the state in modernity’
Stuart Hall, ‘The state in question’ in G McLennan et al (ed.s) The Idea of the Modern State, Open UP, 1984, pp. 1-28
Gianfranco Poggi, The State, Polity, 1990, ch.s 1 and 2
Philip Abrams, ‘Notes on the difficulty of studying the state’, Journal of Historical Sociology, 1. 1977.
Johan Heilbron, The Rise of Social Theory, Polity, 1995, ch.4 & 5
- What do you think are the distinguishing features of the modern state?
- What is modern about the modern state?
Week two: Classical theory: the original idea of the modern state
Hobbes, Leviathan, Cambridge UP, ch.s 13-18
Rousseau, Social Contract, Penguin, Book 11, chapters 1-4
Bob Fine, Democracy and the Rule of Law, Pluto, 1985, ch.1 ‘Classical jurisprudence’, pp. 10 50.
David Held, Models of Democracy, Polity, 1997, ch.2 ‘Republicanism’ and ch.3 ‘Liberal Democracy’
Quentin Skinner, ‘The Ideological Context of Hobbes’ Political Thought’, Historical Journal 9, 1966
Frisby, D. and Sayer, D. 1986 Society, London: Chichester.
Lucio Colletti, 'Rousseau as critic of civil society' From Rousseau to Lenin, Verso, 1972
Ian Hampshire-Monk, A History of Modern Political Thought, Blackwell, 1992, chapter 1
Reinhart Koselleck, Critique and Crisis: Enlightenment and the Pathogenesis of Modern Society, Berg, ch.s 1, 2
Carl Schmitt, The Leviathan in the state theory of Thomas Hobbes, Greenwood Press, 1996
- According to Hobbes and Rousseau, why do we need a state?
- What are the differences between the conception of the state in Hobbes and Rousseau?
- In what sense might Rousseau’s theory of the state be described as democratic and Hobbes’s theory of the state be described as authoritarian?
Week 3: Contemporary theory: the revised idea of the constitutional state
Jürgen Habermas: ‘Three normative models of democracy’ in J Habermas The Inclusion of the Other, Cambridge, Mass: MIT 1998
John Rawls Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press, 2001, Part 1 ‘Fundamental Ideas’, pp. 1-38.
John Rawls A Theory of Justice, Oxford, Oxford University Press: 1972, sections 1-4, 32, 33, 36.
Jürgen Habermas Between Facts and Norms, Oxford, Polity: 1996, chapters 3, 4, 7.
Jean Hampton Political Philosophy, Oxford, Westview Press: 1998, pp.133-144.
Will Kymlicka Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction (2nd ed.), Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 53-57 (for the curious see also pp. 57-75 and pp. 228-244).
William E. Scheuerman ‘Between radicalism and resignation: democratic theory in Habermas’ Between Facts and Norms’ in Peter Dews (ed.) Habermas: A Critical Reader, Oxford, Blackwell, 1999, pp. 153-177.
- According to Rawls and Habermas, what are the functions of a political constitution?
- Are there any similarities between Rawls’ ‘well-ordered society’ and Hobbes ‘Leviathan’?
- How does Habermas’ conception of democracy differ from that of Rousseau?
- Is there a tension between rights and democracy in the work of Rawls and Habermas?
Week 4: The socialist critique of the modern state: Marx and Lenin
Marx, K. ‘The Communist Manifesto’ (extracts)
Marx, K ‘The civil war in France’ (extracts)
V. Lenin 1976 State and Revolution, Peking: Foreign Language Press. Ch. 1,3 & 5.
Ralph Miliband, ‘Marx and the state’, Socialist Register, 1965.
‘On the Jewish Question’ in The Marx Reader 1978 (ed. By C. Pierson) GB: Polity Press.
Bob Fine, Democracy and the Rule of Law, Pluto, 2002, chs.2 and 3.
David Held, Models of Democracy, Polity, 1997, ch.4 ‘Direct democracy and the end of politics', pp. 121-154.
Hal Draper, Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Volume One, State and Bureaucracy, MRP, 1977, Part 2, ‘The theory of the state'.
Hal Draper, ‘The death of the state in Marx and Engels’, Socialist Register, 1970.
Lucio Colletti, From Rousseau to Lenin, 'Lenin's "State and Revolution"', NLB, 1972, pp. 219 228.
Rosa Luxemburg, ‘The Russian Revolution’, in Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, Pathfinder, 1970, sections 1, 4 8, pp. 367 375 and 385 395.
A J Polan, Lenin and the End of Politics, Methuen, 1984, ch.2 ‘A subterranean authoritarianism’.
Hal Draper, The Dictatorship of the Proletariat from Marx to Lenin, MRP, 1987, ch.4 ‘Lenin and dictatorship’.
Marcel Liebman, Leninism under Lenin, Merlin 1980, part 3, ch1 'The state'.
Leon Trotsky, Revolution Betrayed, Pathfinder Press, ch2.
Neil Harding, Lenin’s Political Thought
- According to Marx, what went wrong with the enlightenment idea of the modern state?
- What did Marx see as the democratic potential of the Paris Commune?
- What did Lenin mean by the ‘withering away of the state’?
- What did Lenin see as the limits of bourgeois democracy?
Week 5: Sociology, Socialism and the Modern State: Weber
Weber, M. 1994 ‘Socialism’ (extracts) in Max Weber Political Writings, GB: Cambridge University Press.
Weber, M. 1994 ‘The profession and vocation of politics’ (extracts) in Political Writings, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Weber, M. 1994a  ‘The Nation State and Economic Policy’ in Max Weber Political Writings, GB: Cambridge University Press.
Beetham, D., Max Weber and the Theory of Modern Politics, Polity, ch.3
Mommsen, W., Max Weber and German Politics, Chicago,  1974, ch.3
Mommsen, W. 1992a  ‘Politics and Scholarship: The two icons in Max Weber’s life’ in
Mommsen, W. The political and social theory of Max Weber. Collected Essays, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
David Held, Models of Democracy, Polity, 1997, ch.5 ‘Competitive elitism and the technocratic vision’ pp 157-198.
Giddens, A. ‘Modernity, history and democracy’ Theory and Society, 22 1993.
Giddens, A. 1972 Politics and sociology in the thought of Max Weber, GB, Macmillan.
Mayer, J.P., Max Weber and German Politics, London, 1956
- What did Weber see as wrong in the Marxist critique of the state?
- How did Weber seek to solve the problem of bureaucracy in the constitution of the modern state?
- What is the difference between Weber’s ‘ethics of conviction’ and ‘ethics of responsibility’?
Week 6: Reading and researching week
Week 7: What’s left of the revolutionary tradition: Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt, On Revolution Penguin
ch.2 ‘The social question’ and ch.6 ‘The lost heritage’
David Ingram ‘Novus Ordo Seclorum: the trial of (post) modernity or the tale of two revolutions’ in Larry May and Jerome Kohn Hannah Arendt: 20 Years Later London: MIT Press 1997, pp. 221-250
Albrecht Wellmer ‘Arendt on revolution’ in Dana Villa (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Hannah Arendt CUP 2000
Phillip Hansen, Hannah Arendt: Politics History and Citizenship, ch5 'Revolution'.
Margaret Canovan Hannah Arendt: A re-interpretation of her political thought Cambridge: CUP, 1992, ch6
Bonnie Honig, Political Theory and the Displacement of Politics, Cornell, ch4 ‘Arendt's accounts of action and authority’.
Andrew Arato and Jean Cohen, Civil Society and Political Theory, MIT, 1992, ch4 'The normative critique: Hannah Arendt'.
Jeffrey Isaac, Arendt, Camus and Modern Rebellion, ch4 ‘Revolt and the foundation of politics’.
Jürgen Habermas ‘Natural law and revolution’ in Theory and Practice Heinemann 1974
1. What is meant by the modern idea of revolution?
2. What are the different revolutionary traditions in the modern world?
3. How does Arendt reconstruct what she calls ‘the lost heritage of the revolutionary tradition’?
Week 8 The idea of civil society - de Tocqueville, Hegel and Ferguson
Alexis de Tocqueville Democracy in America, London:David Campbell,1994 
Part 1, ch.12; Part 2, chs. 27-31
Adam Ferguson, An essay on the history of civil society, Farnborough 1969,
Part 6 ‘Of corruption and political slavery’
GWF Hegel Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Cambridge University Press, section on ‘Civil society’, paragraphs 182-188
Aron, R., Main Currents of Sociological Thought, Vol.I, Weidenfeld, 1965
Jardin, A., Alexis de Tocqueville, Halban, 1988
Ernest Gellner, Conditions of Liberty: civil society and its rivals, ch.8 ‘Adam Ferguson’, 1996.
John Varty ‘Civic or commercial? Adam Ferguson’s concept of civil society’ in R Fine and S Rai, Civil Society: Democratic Perspectives, Frank Cass, 1997.
Robert Fine, Politicial Investigations: Hegel, Marx, Arendt ch.s 1 and 3
M Riedel Between tradition and revolution, CUP ‘Civil society’
Herbert Marcuse, Reason and Revolution, RKP, 1986, ‘Hegel’s political thought’
- Why is majority rule potentially tyrannical?
- Why are ‘associations’ important in overcoming the problem of individualism?
- What did Ferguson see as the ‘corruptions’ of civil society and how did he seek to remedy them?
- What did Hegel see as the primary tensions in modern civil society?
Week 9: The contemporary revival of civil society theory
Ernest Gellner, Conditions of Liberty: civil society and its rivals, ch.1 ‘A slogan is born’, 1996, pp.1-14
H. Arendt Crises in the Republic chapter 2 ‘Civil disobedience’ extracts.
Robert Fine, ‘Civil society, enlightenment and critique’ in R Fine and S Rai, Civil Society: Democratic Perspectives, Frank Cass, 1997.
Jean Cohen and Andrew Arato: Civil Society and Political Theory, MIT 1992, Ch 1 ‘The contemporary revival of civil society theory’ and ch11 ‘Civil disobedience and civil society’
Vaclav Havel: ‘The power of the powerless’ in Living in Truth, ch.2.
Ellen Meiskins Wood: ‘The uses and abuses of civil society' in Socialist Register 1990 pp. 60 84.
Aviezer Tucker: ‘Vaclav Havel's Heideggerianism’, Telos 85 Fall 1990 pp. 63 78.
Jurgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms Cambridge, Polity, 1996 , ch.8 ‘Civil society and the political public sphere’
Charles Turner, `Civil society or constitutional patriotism?’ in R Fine and S Rai, Civil Society: Democratic Perspectives, Frank Cass, 1997.
J. Habermas, “Civil Disobedience: Litmus Test for the Democratic Constitutional State”, Berkeley Journal of Sociology 30 1985
Martin Luther King “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” in Bedau (ed.) Civil disobedience in Focus
John Keane (ed.): Civil Society and the State, Verso 1988
Adam Seligman, The Idea of Civil Society, Princeton Univ. 1992.
Keith Tester, Civil Society, Routledge, 1992.
- How do contemporary ideas of civil society differ from earlier conceptions?
- What role does civil society play in constitutional democracies?
- Is civil disobedience a case of civil society in action?
Week 10: Beyond liberalism and Marxism: Foucault’s deconstruction of the modern state
Michel Foucault: The Foucault Reader (ed. by Paul Rabinow), Penguin, 1991,
‘The great confinement’ (pp.124-140), ‘The body of the condemned’, ‘Docile bodies’, ‘The means of correct training’ (pp.188-205), ‘Panopticism’ (pp.206-213)
Michel Foucault Power/knowledge : selected interviews and other writings, 1972-1977 New York; London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1980.
Peter Dews: ‘The Nouvelle Philosophie and Foucault’, Economy and Society, 8,2,1979
Bob Fine, Democracy and the Rule of Law, 'Foucault: Power without People' pp. 189 202.
Bob Fine: 'Struggles against discipline: theory and politics of Michel Foucault', Capital and Class 9 1979
Mark Poster: Foucault, Marxism and History, Polity, ch.s 1 & 4
Thomas L. Dumm, Michel Foucault and the politics of freedom London: SAGE, 1996
Barry Smart Michel Foucault: critical assessments. Vol.s1-6, London: Routledge, 1994-1995.
Árpád Szakolczai Max Weber and Michel Foucault: parallel life-works London: Routledge, 1998.
Graham Burchell et al (ed.s) The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, Harvester 1991
Peter Burke (ed.) Critical essays on Michel Foucault Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1992.
Simons, Jon. Foucault & the political London: Routledge, 1995.
Lois McNay Foucault : a critical introduction Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994
David Couzens Hoy (ed.) Foucault : a critical reader Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986.
1. What did Foucault see as the historical significance of ‘the great confinement’?
2. What is the significance of ‘discipline’ and ‘panopticism’ in Foucault’s deconstruction of the state?
4. In what way is Foucault’s theory of power ‘beyond liberalism and Marxism’?
The Sociology of the Modern State
Spring Term 2003-2004
Revised reading list
Robert Fine and William Smith
Week 11: The decline of the nation state and the end of human rights
H Arendt: The Origins of Totalitarianism, Andre Deutsch 1973,
ch.9 ‘The decline of the nation-state and the end of the rights of man’, extract
ch.10 'A classless society' , extract from ‘The temporary alliance between the mob and the elite’
Richard Bernstein Hannah Arendt and the Jewish Question Polity 1996, ch. 3 ‘Statelessness and the right to have rights’
Claude Lefort, The political forms of modern society: bureaucracy, democracy, totalitarianism Cambridge: Polity, 1986.
Anthony Giddens: The Nation State and Violence. Volume Two of A Contemporary Critique of Historical Materialism, Polity, Cambridge, 1989, ch.11 'Modernity, Totalitarianism and Critical Theory'.
- What did Arendt see as the perplexities of the rights of man?
- What role did ‘statelessness’ play in the origins of totalitarianism?
- How did the ‘spiritless radicalism’ of the elite contribute to the origins of totalitarianism
Week 12: The totalitarian revolt against the modern state
H Arendt: The Origins of Totalitarianism, Andre Deutsch 1973,
ch.12 'Totalitarianism in power' (extracts ‘The so-called totalitarian state’ and ‘Total domination’)