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Maturation of «the State»

War, Peace and the Course of History

Philip Bobbitt has provided a masterly analysisP. Bobbitt (2003). The Shield of Achillles: War, Peace and the Course of History. Penguin. of the modern State from the Western perspective, that suggests a relation to the trajectory of political maturation (and also provides validation). He adheres to the «strategic» approach for State analysis in which the use of force is the principal arbiter of international affairs.

The primary issue for a State is its constitution, and that is a matter not just for elites or members of the society being ruled but for other States as well. This external dependence is what differentiates the Society (and its Government) from the State. (Read more on the differences.)

As long as all major States are similarly constituted, some balance is possible. However, if a particular State constitution provides for a decisive strategic advantage, then that State is liable to encroach on other States, a behaviour that ultimately leads to war and imitation by the other States.

From Bobbitt's perspective, the evolution of the State is to be found in the history of wars and the peace formulations that brought lengthy destructive epochal wars to a (temporary) halt by ratifying a new State constitution and hence a new conception of the Society of States.

So far, six State constitutions have been identified:

Prior to the modern State, there were diffuse realms with feudal princes and a general subjection to ecclesiastical powers. Politics and governance as described in primitive pluralism existed, but there was no State apparatus as such.

The benefits of each State constitution cumulate, not unlike the political modes. It appears that State constitutions (whose viability depends significantly on other States) can be broadly aligned with the trajectory of Political Maturation, even if the political Stages are primarily perceived as an internal matter for the Society. The relation is two State constitutions for each political Stage.

The close correspondence permits a prediction of at least two future State constitutions that lie beyond Bobbitt's conceptions and our pragmatic horizons.

The State under «Privileged Pluralism»

Princely State

The Principalities were originally princely realms with politics but no state as such. In order to guarantee Princely rule, marshal the wealth of subjects, and protect these realms effectively from invasion, the Princely State was created.

These States required a defined territory, a permanent bureaucracy and a sufficient standing army. The Prince could more securely depend on these, in a way that was impossible with ill-defined lands, vassalage, and feudal customs.

This meant, however, that the State was an objectified functioning entity distinct from the Prince and the city or society. So it was the State that entered into binding Treaties. Its strategy and tactics had to be about survival not morality, and devised in the light of circumstances. The Prince in serving the State necessarily used deceit and violence.

This form of State was ratified by the Peace of Augsburg (1555). It's key feature was that whoever ruled would set the religion of the State. People were expected to move from one Princedom to another if the ruler's religious choice was not to their liking. This confirms that privileged pluralism-I was in play.

Rule was organised via laws rather than decrees, and it was recognized that it was best if laws evoked loyalty from subjects. However, Machiavelli's famous advice to the Prince, that it is better to be feared rather than loved, meant that loyal conscripts were hard to find and mercenary forces remained the mainstay of armies.


Princely States lacked a completely centralized authority and had little juridical sense of themselves. In 1500, on the eve of the Reformation, there were over 500 princely domains in Europe.

The religious struggle that followed after 1517 led to horrific civil and inter-state wars that lasted for decades and decimated the European population.

Two alternatives on offing during the next 150 years were ecclesiastical regimes with authority based in the Pope, and imperial regimes which comprised a variety of Princely States. However, neither option stood the test of time or the power of the Kingly State.

Kingly (Dynastic) State

To engage more effectively in the wars, larger professional armies were raised; muskets and artillery were developed, and a new design for fortresses emerged. All this required more money. As a result, a new larger and more effective form of State emerged between 1550-1660: the Kingly State (Kingdom). It was then typified by England, Sweden and France.

The State now required more consistent financing for a standing highly trained military. The need for complex logistic planning and comprehensive taxation meant a larger centralized bureaucracy. There was also permanent diplomatic representation abroad, and policies to promote economic wealth and commerce.

The essential additional element here was dynastic legitimacy. The monarch is not apart from the State but becomes a personification of the State: "L'état, c'est moi". This seeming reversal from the Princely State is only possible because the State's objectification is unequivocal.

The result was absolutism: the King could impose any laws on his subjects with or without their consent. (Again, the mark of privileged pluralism.) This centralization of power was modulated by the need for delegation to the State apparatus and for some consensus within society. The State apparatus had the executive task of ensuring choices were secular and rational, while the King became head of the church, and head of State with the moral task of inducing patriotic cooperation with State plans.

The Kingly State was ratified by the Peace of Westphalia (1648) that followed the Thirty Years War. It's key feature was that international society was universal, not Christian. That meant the rejection of papal authority. States were now equal in their sovereignty and wars between them were legitimate: but purely religious wars ceased.


Because privileged pluralism was still in play: •foreign mercenaries still predominated in the army; •a key diplomatic duty related to marriage contracts to handle dynastic succession; •commerce was focused on taxation; •kings often reneged on their debts; •people continued moving to States that fit their religion.

Inherent flaws in Kingly States included: •caprice of inheritance; •megalomania of kings; •lack of domestic support; •inter-state suspicion and distrust. To overcome these defects that weakened the State, it was necessary to develop social institutions that connected the State more reliably with the populace.

The State under «Legitimism»

Territorial State

The Kingly State created boundaries and people began to identify with the territory within which they lived. At the same time, war became increasingly professionalized. Because people became willing to fight for their country, a new form, the Territorial-State, emerged. It was initially typified by England and Prussia.

For the Territorial-State, borders become vital because they provided for legitimacy, strategy and a captive tax-base. Customs became organized at frontiers rather than internally. Because economic demands of standing armies and wars increased, the welfare of the state became a concern. Peace was recognized as supportive of commerce.

Ideally, Territorial-States desired wars that did not affect peasants or townspeople. The army was composed of those least necessary for economic well-being. Soldiers received good physical care, medical attention, proper housing often in barracks (rather than billeting), and regular pay.

This form of State was ratified by the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) that followed the expansionist wars of Louis XIV. It was recognized that States had a shared interest in stability, as distinct from kings who claimed rights to self-aggrandisement. Although wars to win territory were to be expected, these were relatively minor skirmishes limited by their dependence on a socially cohesive army. Wholesale annexation of another State was no longer deemed acceptable.

It was not long afterwards that two critical events occurred: the French Revolution and the American Revolution. These brought human rights and civic representation to the forefront of consciousness and suggests that the Legitimist ethos emerged at this point.

States were no longer person-like or person-based at all. They were distinct unified institutions that needed to wring effort from their societies. Development of a State's human resources depended on good laws, peace and economic growth in manufactures, trade and agriculture. Philosophically, it was recognized that human nature involved possessing a will, seeking to thrive, and desiring harmony. People were affected by how States functioned, and an absolutist regime was therefore unsatisfactory.


Territorial-States were naturally competitive and the balance of power was a balance of hostility and envy. But after the French Revolution and the genius of Napoleon, it became clearer that a benign collaborative relation, where the balance of power was based on rights underpinned by law, could generate greater prosperity and forestall war.

Defeat of Napoleon ultimately required cooperation and compromise amongst the other European States, as well as adoption of his new form of the State.


Napoleon dominated during the Wars following the French Revolution because his approach to ruling enabled near-universal conscription. He put many hundreds of thousands of soldiers into the field and commanded them brilliantly. But this required vast investments in the State, far beyond the capacity of a Territorial State; and it required far greater sympathy of the State with its society.

State-Nation emerges when the State functions by mobilizing a nation, i.e. an ethno-cultural group, to act on its behalf. Often that will mean suppressing or subordinating other cultural groups, as typified the British Empire of the 19th Century. History is depicted by such a State as the history of the Nation's military triumphs, with foreigners being those with whom one went to war and usually defeated (or soon would defeat).

This form of State was ratified by the Congress of Vienna (1815) which aimed to maintain peace in Europe through regular meetings of State representatives. The State-Nation was characterized by large armies of conscripts, meritocratic and bourgeois ministries, and broad-based taxation without exemptions for nobility. Business consortia, like England's East India Company, were expected to serve the State.

The Napoleonic Legal Code, still largely in force in Europe and beyond, was a Legimist expression beyond any doubt. It provided a clear and accessible framework of laws forever replacing the patchwork of feudal laws and customs. The Code forbade retrospective law-making and required official publication of all laws. It also forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs should go to the most qualified.


The State-Nation attempted to forge a national consciousness. Its existence was legitimated by cultural ideals and feelings. However, the State was not in the service of the Nation, nor did it see its duty to be providing for the welfare of the people. Public opinion was given great importance, not just within a State but internationally, even if elective assemblies and press freedom were not supported.

A State that maintains, nurtures and improves the conditions of its citizens is something else entirely. It requires treating citizens as individuals with needs and minds of their own. At the same time, it must expect people to associate so as to promote their specific interests.

The State under «Individualism»


The Nation-State emerged at the end of the 19th Century in association with the empowerment of individuals through free compulsory education and the continued impact of enlightenment thinking.

Prussia became the German State under Bismarck's skilful leadership. The Civil War (1861-1865) produced a Nation-State in the USA. Nation-State thinking in the UK led to electoral reforms and ultimately women's emancipation and working class representation. By 1914, Nation-States had become common.

Most of the 20th Century was taken up with wars to determine the appropriate constitution of a Nation-State. Was it to be ruled using a fascist ideology (and totalitarian regime), communist ideology (and oligarchic regime) or liberal ideology (and parliamentary regime)?

These wars required deep popular support based on those markedly different ideals and ideologies. Because war efficiently unleashed the power of a whole people, peace became more difficult. In addition, winning a war (i.e. defeating a State) meant utterly destroying a Nation—as occurred in Germany and Japan (so defeating fascism) and the Soviet Union (so defeating communism).

The Long War concluded with the Peace of Paris (1990) and reflected a decisive win for liberalism—which directly accords with the Individualist ethos in politics.

The Paris charter emphasized that the first responsibility of any government is to guarantee via law fundamental individual freedoms against the power of the State. Respect for persons is paramount. Democratic institutions should ensure representation, pluralism and accountability to the electorate.

Internationally, decolonization of state empires resulted because the new mantra was the right of self-determination for peoples. This right however, did not apply to minorities within established States e.g. Kurds within Iran, Turkey and Iraq; or the Catalans and Basques within Spain. So within the society of States, self-determination provided legitimacy only where existing national sovereignty was not threatened.


The difficulty with a welfare state, even run on a liberal basis, is the endless demands for benefits from the Government. To win elections, politicians felt compelled to make rash promises and take on massive debt. Between the incompetence and corruption that is endemic to government agencies, and the dominance of vested interests in policy-making, even the liberal Nation-State was destined to lose credibility and need replacement.

Nation-States have been undone by modern communications, computer technologies and the internet which, together, have democratized history and empowered individuals as much or more than the State. In addition, the multi-national character of most Nation-States, has led to an oppression and alienation of minorities which weakens social cohesion.

As a result, Nation-States now face a crisis of legitimacy because none can:


Instead of providing welfare, the Market-State only promises to provide greater opportunity for all. In so doing, it becomes meritocratic and materialistic.

The Market-State values economic competition and shows an indifference to cultural values. It seeks to maximize the choices available to individuals, which means removing regulations, reducing taxation and enlarging possibilities even if this offends the sensibilities of communitarians.

Key features appear to be:

Trends since the 1990's have revealed the porousness of State boundaries, and the subordination of sovereignty to economic betterment e.g. standards, services, licenses and permits now operate across many borders. This has been brought about by multi-state institutions, like the European Union and GATT, often to the dislike or distress of the domestic Societies.

There has also been increasing campaigning and service activities by a wide variety of non-governmental formal and informal international bodies. Many represent industries while others offer serve non-profit interests. The internet is a facilitator for both profit and non-profit bodies in that it permits nearly-costless cross-border relationships and transactions.

The internet has also disrupted traditional State control of the media by enabling easy production and consumption of a variety of histories and values.

Migration and refugee crises cause social heterogeneity within societies. However, effects on the national character become a lesser concern when immigrants are viewed as vitalizing their chosen Society with cheap motivated labour.

The Market-State values money. It accepts that money buys power at home. Externally, it recognizes and accepts its dependence on international capital markets, global trade, and multinational businesses. If States throw themselves behind its values, then there can be many benefits, but whether these are judged to compensate for losses in regard to social cohesion, stability and the common welfare is another matter.

Three variety of Market-states seem possible: the Mercantile, the Entrepreneurial, and the Managerial. Perhaps these differences will lead to future wars. Certainly, States will not cease expecting war and are covertly engaging already as daily reports of industrial espionage and computing hacking confirms. Such strategy is, after all, the essence of the State, whose wars are presented domestically as both moral and expedient.


The Market-State gives little attention to side-effects of market choices, and to values that lie outside the market, like justice, civility, solidarity, integrity, reciprocity, compassion or heroism. It can be predicted therefore that new State forms will emerge as the intrinsic callousness and spiritual poverty of economic materialism and crude meritocracy become more salient. This is likely to be associated with a transition of leading Societies to the Transcendentalist ethos within political maturation.

Market-State Wars have Commenced

A new State constitution only survives if it is supported by the Society of States. That support is ratified by a peace treaty that follows an epochal war. Typically, one State develops a new constitution for its own reasons, and then engages in wars that compel other states to respond and, typically, to imitate that constitution so far as they can. Wars are the means of forcing consensus, while formal peace resolves and confirms that new constitution (cf. Bobbitt's proposals below).

The USA appears to be abandoning the Nation-State. Clinton, Bush and Obama administration have ceased supporting its constitution and are undoubtedly aware that their Nation-State is losing its legitimacy. For example, it is evident to many that Congress barely functions, that vested interests and money control politicians and law-making, that government debts will never be repaid (in sound money), and that social security is a Ponzi scheme due to collapse soon.

The State's propagation of fear, militarization of the police, explosion in domestic security, and surveillance of all citizens are not just pointers to the loss of legitimacy, but a sign that the State is aware of that loss.

That is why the USA is currently engaged in a constitution-driven war to transform itself. The Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), the Transpacific Trade Partnership (TTP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and other inter-State agreements are being pursued in secrecy without opportunities for societies (including US Congress) to know and debate their contents until they become fait accomplit. The key features of these agreements is that they institutionalize systems and arbitration that bypass Governments. The US State is openly coercing its own Government and Society, as well as other States, to change current laws and give up control of many of their own values and standards to non-governmental international bodies.

ClosedBobbitt's Constitutional Conditions for A Society of Market States

  1. a force structure that can defeat a challenge to peace
  2. security structures to deal with population control, migration and ecological stability
  3. consensus amongst States on the minimum requirements for a Market-State
  4. a few structural rules governing permitted State behaviour (?)
  5. financial assistance to powers that intervene to ensure peace and security
  6. prohibitions on trading in weapons of mass destruction (WMD)
  7. practices to bribe States to prevent WMD profileration
  8. prohibitions against wholesale attacks of States on their own populations
  9. prohibitions against certain anti-competitive practices
  10. consensus that no State that has free elections (Pluralist), human rights (Legitimist) and a market economy (Individualist) should be threatened with force.

It is assumed that while future serious threats may emerge from States, they are as likely to arise from non-State actors, individuals or organizations or bio-physical entities. There will be a higher priority given to seemingly minor conflicts and a need for greater consensus amongst States. The diverse cultural identities of States will be more acceptable so long as no aggression to others results.

Speculative Implications

If this association between political maturation and State constitution is correct, then we can predict the successive emergence of at least two more constitutional forms of the State that will be brought into being by the influence of the Rationalist Ethos.

I would tentatively name the first as the Scientific State, because (under the influence of transcendentalist values internally) it will mandate technology to address growth constraints and side-effects; and it will confront the tendency to lie and to distort statistics when domestic and global harms need to be handled.

I would tentatively name the final version, the Social State because it points the way to Participative Pluralism-III. It might well be associated with the final internal political transition to the Communalist Ethos.

It is possible that even more forms of the State will emerge associated with the final three political ethos's. However, the second Cycle of political maturation develops under the influence of willingness-RL7 rather than purpose-RL6, and the State is a pragmatic goal-driven entity. So perhaps State development will conclude with the Social State.

Originally posted: 12-Jun-2015. Last updated: 23-Jun-2015.

All posted material is part of a scientific project and should be regarded as provisional. Visitors are encouraged to think through the topics and propositions for themselves. Copyright © Warren Kinston 2009-2016.
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