Debating the state - Rival theories of the state - The pluralist state

5 important questions on Debating the state - Rival theories of the state - The pluralist state

What is the pluralist theory of the state?

Belief that the state acts as a referee in society. The institutions are seen as independent actors in their own right, rather than as elements of a broader state machine.
State can be ignored only because it is seen as an impartial referee that can be bent to the will of the government of the day.

What are two key assumptions of the view that the state is the servant of society?

- State (non-elected bodies: judiciary, police, military etc) is effectively subordinate to government.
- the democratic process is meaningful and effective: it ensures that the government remains sensitive and responsive to public opinion.

What are the origins of the pluralist state?

Social contract theory (Hobbes, Locke).
State had arisen out of a voluntary agreement. State (sovereign power) would protect individuals.

State is neutral and reflects the interest of all citizens. Servant of society.

What is the difference between Hobbes' and Locke's view of the state?

Hobbes: stability and order could be secured only through the establishment of an absolute and unlimited state (only choice that citizens have is absolutism and anarchy).

Locke: clear distinction between the responsibilities of the state (maintenance of domestic order and protection of property) and the responsibilities of individual citizens.
As state may threaten natural rights, citizens must have some protection against the state (constitutional and representative government).

What is the neopluralist theory of the state?

Modern pluralist view.
Modern industrialized states are both more complex and less responsive to popular pressures than classical pluralism suggests.
Business enjoys a privileged position in relation to government + the state has its own sectional interests (state elite might pursue the bureaucratic interests of their sector)

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