Reaction papers for course “The institutional structure of democratic regimes”

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2010 10 Pages

Politics - Basics and General


CEU 2010, MA Political Science Karina Oborune

Reaction papers for course The institutional structure of democratic regimes”

Seminar 1 The Polity and its defining features. The Modern State

Three authors Skocpol, Mitchell and Gill in their works define and analyse the origin, development and possible decline of the modern state. How we can define the modern state? What is the role and functions of modern state? What kind of place does society have in modern state? The opinion of three authors differs, especially in relationship between state and society and understanding of the autonomy of the state.

Skocpol argues for “bringing the state back in” because one can explain social changes by using the state as a powerful independent variable. Moreover, to her mind the powerful state is necessary for social justice. However and unfortunately, there are just few scholars who have thought about potential consequences of powerful and autonomous states. Mitchell argues for conceptual distinction between states and societies and emphasizes the “boundary problem”. He raises criticism against statist approaches which neglect autonomous social-psychological processes and the role of collective emotions. Gill conceptualizes the state and tries to understand development of state capacity rather than the development of the state in general. However, his work contains some parts which could be criticized. First, he understands state as autonomous actor while neglecting society and other important factors, as well as social classes. Second, for Gill the European state was the most successful example. Third, his analysis lacks answers for many questions of the current debate about the modern state. Instead he just gives theoretical background.

If we look at analysis done by Skocpol, Mitchell and Gill, then I would conclude that Gill’s paper is written for high school students, lacking deeper analysis, Mitchell emphasizes that he proposes new, alternative approach, but does not elaborate more on it. Skocpol gives a new argument of bringing state back in, but lacks the deeper understanding and new ideas of this proposal. In the 50s-70s of the 20th century the political science forgot about notion of “state”, but afterward there appeared scholars who “brought” state back in. Among them are these three authors, but they lack the novelty, the new proposals, probably even revolutionary thoughts are lacking. Therefore I have a question: why scholars have come back to the notion of the modern state? What new ideas scholars can bring nowadays? And the last question - is there a post-modern state?

Seminar 2 Beyond the State model. Challenges to the State model. Weak and failed states.

In this reaction paper I will analyse and evaluate papers written by Schmitter and Patrick.

The first issue that Schmitter deals with is dual paradox and “locking in” situation when there are high costs to exit the union because countries have invested a lot. This dual paradox can also be described as spill around – gridlock situation, not further, not back.

Second issue he touches is political organization of Union while analyzing four concepts: stato, confederatio, consortio and condominio. Unfortunately, none of this describes the EU because there should be combined components of supranational and intergovernmental cooperation. Also “constitu­tion­alization” process that takes place in the last years changes the political organization of the EU.

Therefore Schmitter’s paper lacks the crucial answers for the following questions. First, how to avoid dual paradox? Second: what is the end product of the EU? Moreover, are we bound to choose between federation and confederation? And last but not least - can a new type of political organization emerge?

Patrick gives overview of term “weak and failing states” that has emerged since Robert Kaplan’s influential 1994 article “The Coming Anarchy”. The term has been criticized for being too vague. First, there is no consensus about how to define fragility, second - how to measure fragility and, third, what strategies can be pursued to reduce fragility. Most countries fall somewhere between the extremes of "forget it" and "yes, we can".

I would criticize Patrick on being on the side of catch-all framework. Moreover, his article does not give responses on crucial questions. Can be state-building achieved from the outside? Why U.S. has a right to intervene but no Canada as for example? Why U.S has not intervened when Rwanda genocide occurred? How does U.S. choose the countries which to help? Is really security that matters for U.S. or economic benefits? And last question - the most important and not answered in Patrick's paper - how to help weak and failing states?



ISBN (eBook)
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Institution / College
Central European University Budapest – Political Science
Democratic regimes



Title: Reaction papers for course “The institutional structure of democratic regimes”