State, State autonomy (institutionalism)

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Summary

A state is an organized community living under one government. States may be sovereign. The term state is also applied to federated states that are members of a federal union, which is the sovereign state. Some states are subject to external sovereignty or hegemony where ultimate sovereignty lies in another state. The state can also be used to refer to the secular branches of government within a state, often as a manner of contrasting them with churches and civilian institutions.

Details

State autonomy theorists believe that the state is an entity that is impervious to external social and economic influence, and has interests of its own.

"New institutionalist" writings on the state, such as the works of Theda Skocpol, suggest that state actors are to an important degree autonomous. In other words, state personnel have interests of their own, which they can and do pursue independently of (at times in conflict with) actors in society. Since the state controls the means of coercion, and given the dependence of many groups in civil society on the state for achieving any goals they may espouse, state personnel can to some extent impose their own preferences on civil society.

G. William Domhoff claims that "The idea of the American state having any significant degree of autonomy from the owners and managers of banks, corporations, and agribusinesses is a theoretical mistake based in empirical inaccuracies," and cites empirical studies showing a high degree of overlap between upper-level corporate management and high-level positions in government.

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