What is the state, that is the modern state, and what is its relationship with the grassroots, the people? Essay
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B. CONCEPTUAL ISSUES AND CONTEXT:
In order to lay a framework for analytical purposes, this paper indulges with various concepts to gain not only their definitional but also their contextual meanings and applications. These terms which include the State, and resistance will be unearthed in order to understand their interrelationships, which will precursor to answering the main question of the paper. For instance what is the state, that is the modern state, and what is its relationship with the grassroots, the people? Answering this question helps in locating manifestations of contestations or conflict between the state and the grassroots.
This scenario helps also in understanding how the state on the one hand and the people on the other hand respond to this conflict in form of resistance. The next section looks at the concept of the State.
i. The State
Defining the state has proved to be problematic and limited in anthropological literature, with scholars concurring that the state remains multilayered, contradictory, and always subject for negotiation by its actors (Gupta, 1995; Mbembe, 2003; Bouchard, 2011). The state for instance was earlier not conceptualized as anthropologists’ concentrated non state politics. Redcliffe Brown (1940) even warned against studying the state saying that it does not exist physically. He argued that critical in these fake states was legitimate use of violence to punish or to in the words of Hegel to defend the state. Eventually though scholarship emerged then moved on to analysis of the states which paved way to anthropology of transnationalism (Boas’s 1928 Anthropology and Modern Life) and globalization (Childe, 1950; Kurtz, 2001 modernity as a driver of political change) Rodgers and . Sahlins notes that a state has a ‘‘true’’ government that is structurally separated from the ruled population and, in conformity with the writings of Childe, affirms that a state is a social system richly textured with specialists, monumental architecture, and a dense and large population divided by class and often ethnicity, and he specifies that ‘‘a society so large, heterogeneous, and internally divided cannot stand without special means of control and integration’’ (1968:6). Sahlins’s definition of the state remains valid.
The state has been conceptualized broadly as bureaucratic, and that it can be governed without problems or challenges (Foucault’s myth of Governenmentaliy, 1993). Though not widely researched, there is a general consensus too for anthropology to study the state in relation to culture, states products and producers of history and states as universal (Clifford Geertz 1973; Bouchard, 2011). Essentially contemporarily anthropologists have struggled to study the states directly preferring to view states and the communities their favourite hunting grounds for research in binary terms. (Kurtz, 2001 in Bourchard, 2011).
Penguine Dictionary of Politics refers to the Geopolitical definition of a state as a nation state with a geographical boundary. This too is problematic since within states there are geographical differences and sometimes margins and boarders are created with the nation state. The Hobbes in 1651 in his Leviathan hypothesized that society was naturally selfish, that laws of the jungle applied in this society and that there was need for an institution in the name of the state that would govern, regulate monitor affairs and bring peace to communities through rule of law and accountability.
This state would thus have a social contract with the people. Marx Weber 1919 was the first to conceive the modern state as a sovereign authoritative state with institutions and a structure of formulation of decisions and creating identity. Thus states became a symbol of identity that brings people together, for instance to be called Zimbabweans, who subscribe to a Zimbabwean flag etc. More so, he suggested that a nation state in the modern society would also guarantee security of the people, hence the creation of boarders and security systems. The field of security has gone on to integrate other definitions of security other than state security to include human security. This further complicates both their role and their definition. The foregoing therefore recapitulates Philip Abrams remarks that: ‘‘we have come to take the state for granted as an object of political practice and political analysis while remaining quite spectacularly unclear as to what the state is’’ (2006:112).