Popular Politics. Mark Knights. Picking up earlier themes. Penny Roberts on popular culture Claudia Stein on print and on elite politics More recent lectures on the nature of the state And looking ahead: Case studies of the British civil war and later seventeenth century revolution
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Our view of the state changes according to how we approach it:
i) The state appears as hugely powerful, with power concentrated in the hands of the executives, with little choice but submission; or the state as impersonal machine, administered by magistrates; the state is the legal system. = power/might
iii) the state is more consensual, needing agreement of its members; the number of such members who count increases to include those with votes and other forms of influence. = authority
We thus get two very different and conflicting concepts of the state:
a)Traditional history: rely on state sources and you get idea of state. Or the history of the legislative body or the executive is the history of the state. Central institutions are important and ministers too.
b) marxist thinking:
This places most emphasis on state as force. Political power is the organised use of force to bring another class into subjection. Institutions are very important in this line of thinking – the state before it withers away.
But 1980s forced rethinking – were such states very strong, even if they seemed to be? Or was the strength of a state in fact determined by the extent to which central government co-operated with local power brokers and when they had popular legitimacy? In this scenario, legitimate authority is what is important rather than power.
The whole country must be overturned
For we peasants are now to be the lords
It is we who will sit in the shade
1594 Essex labourer ‘what can rich men do against poor men if poor men rise and hold together’.
1651 Fronde in Bordeaux threw up the Ormée which had mass support, argued for equality and said that ‘the real cause of sedition and political strife is the excessive wealth of the few’
A ‘durty proverbe’ of Gloucestershire:
‘A greate lord is sure of nothing for his hospitality save a greate Turd at his gate’