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Overview - The State in Political Science: Transformations in a Twenty-First Century Social Context

Государство в политической науке и социальной реальности XXI века
Отв. ред. И.С. Семененко
2020 г.
700 Р
525 Р

This book was conceived by the research team of the Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO RAS) as a study both in political theory and in comparative politics. The authors discuss the transformations occurring in the state and with the state, taking into account the variety of theoretical and methodological approaches to the topic and the uncertainty of the contours of the world order in which the changes we have in focus take place. We see an urgent need to clarify the conceptual framework of “the state” and to differentiate the concept of the state as a set of institutions and a sphere of public relations, the nation-state (and its nonsynonymous variant - the state- nation) as a model of political and institutional organization of the civic, legal and cultural community, and the national-territorial state as a form of power organization and support of sovereignty within administrative-territorial borders. Making this distinction is important for assessing the state as a category of political science, which is a key theoretical and methodological dimension of our research. We share the urge to overcome “methodological nationalism” (in the logic of Ulrich Beck), and seek to contribute to this end through a scrutiny of state agency and of the actors and institutions that the concept of “the state” encompasses. Our assumption is that though the state is a key agent of contemporary political change, it is not the one and only agenda setter, nor is it a consolidated entity. This approach implies incorporating macro-political (the level of the state as a constellation of institutions), meso- political (state institutions and interest group networks) and micro-political analysis (or “methodological individualism”, i.e. the level of the “political man”) in assessing the prospects for a social paradigm shift.

Our approach is based on the interpretation of national, civic, political, and other social identities we have focused on in several previous studies: we seek to evaluate the potential of identity as a resource of social development. We regard identity politics as a significant area of interaction between the state and non-state actors to either promote values of social solidarity or to create new cleavages in multicultural societies and contribute to deepening these divides. The choice of priorities here is largely determined by the ethical motivation of the participants involved in the ongoing “struggle for identity”, acting under the flag of the “state” on behalf of public interests. New challenges for the individual and for society have emerged in the new millennium, so assessing imminent risks, and seeking potential positive answers is a challenge for the expert community and for those engaged in public policy. We foresee an “ethical turn” emerging in the social sciences (following the “cultural turn” of the previous two decades), but a consistent positive agenda has yet to be formulated and adequate research tools to help promote it – to be found. Our call to our fellow researchers representing different spheres of social sciences is to help contribute to this end.

The authors of the chapters on country and regional features of trends transforming the state and its institutions focus on the dynamics of the nation-state in Western Europe in a comparative perspective. Special attention is paid to the formation and development of statehood in the post-Soviet space and in the peripheral regions of the European Union that were previously part of the socialist camp – the Baltic states and the Balkans. The study of these processes of nation- and state-building makes it possible to assess universal traits and to highlight specific features of the European nation-state model. We see this as a contribution to the discussion on the diversity and complexity of modern statehood trajectories. An overview of the global political context allows to evaluate the impact of risks and threats to the security of individual states and regions and to perceive possible responses to such challenges. An important priority is to identify the contours of political spaces that develop during interactions between various state and non-state actors, the spatial approach (outlining the contours of political spaces where actors communicate to promote politically relevant interests and resolve political issues and evaluating their agency) provides a level of analysis that has so far been underestimated in social studies and particularly, in politics and international relations field. This is to a great extent due to insufficient analytical tools so far available to researchers. Based on the results of the study, a development policy agenda is formulated. This agenda determines the effectiveness of the state in solving current management and long-term strategic tasks and perceives a possible (though not highly probable at the time of writing) paradigm shift to responsible development. Responsible development is not a universal model, nor a set of fixed goals, but a reference frame to pursue development priorities based on a strategic vision of the future and on innovative approaches to governance. This framework has several dimensions: a moral value- oriented motivation for choosing development priorities and stimulating individual capabilities, recourse to non-material, intellectual and, where possible, renewable resources to promote this agenda and an institutional basis for stimulating agency, engaging and empowering individuals and communities and fostering civic political identity. Assessing the prospects for such a paradigm shift allows us to identify possible alternatives in social and political transformations. This is especially important for developing an up- to-date agenda for a consistent development policy in Russia – a task which for our team is a long-term research priority.

Part I is devoted to the theoretical context and methodological approaches for assessing trends in the transformation of the modern world order, in which the state remains a key player. The focus is on the state as a political actor, on contradictions of modern representative democracy, on opportunities and limitations of governance in divided societies and possibilities to overcome them through accountable institutional involvement and responsible individual moral choices (Chapter 1). The analysis presented in Chapter 2 reveals the “hidden structures” of power and of political networks which determine strategic priorities and specific policy choices. The prospects for the state in a transforming global political reality are considered in three main perspectives: a) based on the analysis of the global context and the impelling need for a paradigm shift; b) based on the contradictory internal dynamics of the modern state, reflected in terms of the its changing image and social functions; c) based on the potential of adaptation to changes (both external and internal) inherent in the ideal-typical model of a national-territorial state and the limitations of such a potential (Chapter 3). Possibilities and systemic limitations of a transition to a new social paradigm of responsible development and a new world order in which the state is assigned an important, but not self-sufficient role, are evaluated. Considering identity as an intangible source development resource, the authors prove that such changes can occur if there are deep shifts in the individual perception of life priorities, based on moral motivation in goal setting and goal attainment.

The chapters composing Part II describe the trends of reformatting the global world order and their impact on the state and statehood. The focus is on comparing trends in the dynamics of statehood in the Western and non-Western worlds, and the query as to what types of statehood can ensure effective social development to reduce inequality, minimize social cleavages and promote social cohesion (Chapter 4). As illustrative examples, we analyze the processes taking place outside Western Europe. We consider trends in the dynamics of institutions and management practices that have emerged in the post-Soviet space and in the new member states of the European Union representing the Baltic and Balkan regions. State and nation-building in the post-Soviet space appear to develop as separate processes, with the state taking the lead (Chapter 5). On the EU’s Balkan periphery, the process of forming full-fledged nations is also far from complete. The countries of the Baltic region rely on the EU’s dedicated support in maintaining social stability and moving towards the formation of national statehood, while preserving features of divided societies (Chapter 6).

The chapters in Part III are dedicated to changes in the political landscape in leading EU countries (Chapters 7-10) and at the pan-European, supranational level (Chapter 11). The authors analyze these changes and the implications they can have for the nation-state in the hearth of its origin – Western Europe – bearing in mind the latest challenges (including the COVID-19 pandemic) both to security and to individual freedoms of its citizens. Ethnic and cultural diversity is changing the welfare state agenda, and the rise of populism and right-wing nationalism is reshaping political landscapes in European democracies, these trends have direct consequences for the nation-state. (Chapters 7 and 8). Decentralization and regionalization, the formation of a new agenda for political interaction on top of the established divisions between the Centre and the periphery indicate, among other things, the need to find new tools and formats for consolidating national communities. For example, in Spain and Italy, models of a “regional state” have emerged and are in the process of resetting the present institutional design of the state (Chapter 9). Special attention paid to Southern Europe is due to significant changes in party-political landscapes, in institutions and governance practices in the Mediterranean countries where new social divisions on top of the existing traditional cleavages have emerged.

The authors of the chapters constituting Part IV suggest looking at the spaces and territories of modern politics as special dimensions of the contemporary political process and as a promising tool for political analysis. This approach becomes crucial in the era of fundamental transformation of the world order. We are witnessing a revision of ideas about the universal nature of the national-territorial paradigm of state- building and the organization of political macro-communities. A coherent integration of the spatial approach into the political science toolkit opens new horizons for political and social forecasting (Chapter 12). Diaspora worlds (Chapter 13), the global city (Chapter 14), and cyberspace (Chapter

15) are analyzed as new spheres of social and political communication, new and largely independent spaces of XXIst century politics. Different in nature, they are united by a common agenda, which focuses on the search for effective responses to global threats and risks of modern development. The authors describe various configurations of modern political spaces in which state and non-state actors interact and contemplate the prospects for promoting a viable development policy agenda which can benefit from their coherent involvement.

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