Weber defined the state as being 3 key things:
- The State is created by people
- The State can use force legitimately
- The State rules over a geographical area, for example the UK
The role and power of the State is highly debated amongst sociologists, with a great variety of opinion surrounding it.
The Pluralist views of the State
Pluralists see the state as democratic and something that helps distribute power equally. Pluralists say that the fact that there are so many political parties and pressure groups within the state shows plurality and democracy.
Pluralists Dunleavy and O’Leary identified three views of the state, the weathervane, the neutral-state and the broker state model.
The weathervane model says that the State merely reflects public opinion, like a weathervane reflecting the direction of the wind. It therefore represents the opinions and concerns of the public, Westminster is merely a place used to approve the decisions already made by the public.
The neutral-state model says that the State is the referee of public opinion, ensuring everyone has a chance to voice their opinion and then assessing them to make a decision on the basis of what best for the country
The broker-state model says that the State acts as a broker, negotiating with a variety of pressure groups and coming to a compromise between the conflicting views of the pressure groups.
The Marxists views the State
The basic Marxist view of the State is that it supports the ruling-class. This is achieved in the following ways:
- Coercive force – police are used to stop any form of working class revolts, for example riots and demonstrations
- The illusion of democracy – The fact that everyone can vote to choose who runs the State creates the illusion that we live in a fair society, but in fact society and the State benefit the state regardless of who we vote for. This is known as a false consciousness.
- Ideology – The State socializes the working-class into believing the ideologies of the ruling-class
The New Right views of the State
The New Right believe that society acts best when left to natural causes, for this reason they disagree with the interference of the State in society.
They believe that if the market was free from State interference it would run more efficiently and productivity would increase. Similarly, New Right thinkers say the State has interfered in our personal lives too much at it threatens our personal freedom.