Module Leader:
Gábor Győri
2012-2013 Autumn
Social Sciences

The goal of the Politics seminar is to chart the evolution of the modern nation-state through a series of intriguing writings that cover a variety of perspectives on why the state emerged and how it took on the form we know today. The idea is that the variety of approaches introduced will also illustrate how one can look at the same social phenomena in different ways. Importantly, we will also see how completely different, sometimes even opposing, methodologies and schools of thought can provide compelling explanations for a given phenomenon. Though it is difficult to classify many of them, the readings touch upon problems from economics, political science, sociology and philosophy.
In the first week we start with the way a methodological school called rational choice views the modern state: as a specific response to the problem of organising violence, or a way of ensuring that rulers get to extract more resources from their subjects. Week 2 will take us in a whole different direction. We will explore how ideas transform the organisation of society and also how institutions and ideas mutually interact to create the modern state, with all its manifestations: territoriality, standing armies, bureaucracy, etc. Week 3 finally addresses how the awesome powers of the bureaucratic state in modernity are – ideally – tempered by arrangements associated with liberal democracy, such as the separation of powers and popular accountability of political power (not to mention civil and human rights, which we will not be discussing, however).

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