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The Expansion of the State

George M. Thomas and John W. Meyer
Annual Review of Sociology
Vol. 10 (1984), pp. 461-482
Published by: Annual Reviews
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2083185
Page Count: 22
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The Expansion of the State
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Abstract

The state has come to be a major focus of political and historical sociology in recent years. In the growing literature, there appears to be an underemphasis on the cultural and institutional contexts of the state's emergence and expansion. Two distinct issues are crucial: (a) the evolution of society as a collective actor, including the establishment of sovereignty and the expansion of its jurisdiction; and (b) the degree to which this sovereignty and jurisdiction are structured within a particular bureaucratic organization. We first review studies of the emergence of states in formerly stateless polities. We then discuss the processes of state formation and nation building in the Western system. Finally, we review more specialized theoretical works concerning classes, the world economy, and the construction of national institutions. The literature discussed has added considerably to macrosociology. More work is needed, however, in which the state is viewed as an institution that is essentially cultural in nature and that derives from a wider rationalizing project.

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