2013-2014 Schedule

Sept 20: Timothy Mitchell, Columbia University:
Keynote Lecture: “The Effect of the State”
Hagerty 180

October 4: Bob Jessop, University of Lancaster
Seminar: “The State as a Social Relation: Some Implications of the Strategic-Relational Approach”
Dulles 168
Comment:Joel Wainwright, Geography, OSU

The state is one of the most problematic concepts in the humanities and social sciences and poses important issues about the changing relations among historical development and transformation in forms of political organization, the historical semantics and pragmatics of political discourse oriented to the concept of the state, and the development of second-order social scientific reflections on the state and state theory. To clarify some of these problems, my lecture explores four issues: (1) the state as a contested form of territorialization of political power; (2) the historical semantics of the modern state – and the risks of Eurocentrism in subsuming this semantic system unreflectingly into social scientific analysis; (3) the comparative and critical heuristic power of an approach to the state in terms of Continental European state theory, or allgemeine Staatslehre, focusing on the changing relations among the state apparatus, state territory, and the state population and, just as importantly, the ways in which these relations can break down, leading to new forms of political organization; and (4) the importance of treating the state in these terms not as a thing or as a subject but as a social relation, i.e., of adopting a strategic-relational approach to state power as an institutionally-mediated condensation of a changing balance of political forces. On the basis of these reflections, I also offer some comments on the continuing validity of the concept of the state.

October 18: Gary Gerstle, Vanderbilt
Seminar: “The Illiberal Tradition in America: The States and Their Police Power, 1790-1920”
Dulles 168
Comment: John Brooke, History, OSU

Virtually everyone knows the importance of what Louis Hartz once called “The Liberal Tradition in America.”  One aspect of this tradition, embodied in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, holds that every individual has fundamental rights that no government can touch.  But almost no one in America, outside legal circles, knows about the contrary tradition, “the police power,“ that has sanctioned an anti-liberal, communitarian tradition in American law.  For most of American history, the police power doctrine gave individual states the right to tell Americans whom they could marry, what kind of sex they could have, whether they could drink or not, what kind of relations they could have with racial others, whether they could engage in commerce on the Sabbath, and whether they could regulate private property in the public interest.  In this essay, which is drawn from a book I am writing on the American state from the Constitution to the present, I reconstruct the history of the police power from the 1780s to the 1930s.  I explore its origins in eighteenth century England, examine its growing influence in the antebellum period, and analyze how and why it survived the great watersheds in American history, notably the Civil War and the New Deal.  Bringing the states and their police power back into the conversation about the “American state” compels us to contend much more we usually do with the complexity and paradox of public governance in America.  

Nov. 1:  Mark Bevir, University of California-Berkeley
Seminar: “A New Governance: Hierarchies, Markets, and Networks, c. 1979-2010”
Dulles 168
Comment: Chris Otter, History, OSU

When governance refers to changes in the state, it surely captures one of the major trends of recent times. Many social scientists, especially those who work on public administration and local government, argue that the leading forms of public organization and action have shifted from hierarchic bureaucracies to markets and networks. Debates rage about the extent of this shift: bureaucratic hierarchies clearly remain widespread and arguably the most common forms of government. It is clear, however, that successive governments have introduced wave after wave of public sector reform in their attempt to promote markets, contracting-out, networks, and joined-up government. This paper focuses initially on the intellectual sources of the transformation of the state and its relation to civil society, highlighting the role of modernist social science, with its reliance on formal explanations based on either economic models or sociological correlations. So, modernist social science informed the main narratives of the crisis of the administrative and welfare state in the 1970s and modernist social science also inspired the two waves of public sector reform that responded to this crisis. In Britain, the first wave of reform was most prominent under Thatcherism, at which time an economic modernism inspired marketization and the new public management. The second wave of reform was most prominent under New Labour, at which time a sociological modernism inspired joined-up governance and networks. The second half of the paper shifts the focus from the sources of the reforms to their impact on practices. It relies on a series of short ethnographic stories to illustrate some of the complex ways in which public servants now juggle the competing demands of bureaucracies, markets, and networks.

Nov. 22: R. Bin Wong, UCLA
“The Fiscal State: Modern Norm, General Model, or Historical Type of State?”
Dulles 168
Comment: Alice Conklin, History OSU

The creation of public finance figures prominently in the early modern European state’s formation.  The manner in which the state built its finances also had major consequences for economic activities.  From this history and the subsequent developments of taxation and expenditures in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, some economic historians now argue that we have a model of the fiscal state, a state necessary to modern economic growth.  This model and its norms are derived from European history and fit unevenly the historical experience of other world regions.  This paper presents features of early modern, modern and contemporary Chinese fiscal practices to consider what is general and what is specific about European practices in different historical eras.  At stake for historians is the way in which we identify the common and distinctive features of our studies in relation to social theories that ground their expectations in Western practices.  Our success in such exercises helps to determine how we can speak with each other and what we have to say to scholars beyond our discipline.

Spring 2014

Jan. 10: Julia Strauss, Senior Faculty Fellow, SOAS, University of London:
Seminar: “Repertoires, performances, and institution creation: Comparing Regime Consolidation in China and Taiwan, 1949-1955”
4:00 – 5:30, Dulles Hall 168
Comment:  Chris Reed, History, OSU
Co-sponsored by the OSU Institute for Chinese Studies

Much of the state building literature that comes from a Weberian perspective focuses on the creation and solidification of state institutions, particularly those bureaucratic institutions concerned with external defense, internal order, the extraction of sufficient resources to fund the state apparatus, and the recruitment and socialization for the state bureaucracy itself. Other literatures in a more rational choice vein, particularly associated with Robert Bates’ work on Africa, focus on how incentives for individuals within state bureaucracies often lead to rent seeking behaviour that undercuts the wider state building project. My work seeks to fill in the large grey areas and gaps between these two literatures on state building by focusing on they dynamics of how the higher reaches of the state mobilize the lower reaches of the bureaucracy through campaigns that intensely focus the nascent capacity of state agents  on a series of extraordinary actions and programs, and they ways in which these campaigns either support or undercut other processes in the institutionalization of the bureaucracy that tend towards regular procedures, processes and rules. In this paper I also draw on the related notions of repertoire and performance as critical elements to processes of both campaign mobilization and workaday bureaucratization. In so doing, I expand on Charles Tilly’s notions of “repertoire” (which he applied almost exclusively to social movements and protest from “below” as part of claim making) to consider two crucial factors in the consolidation of otherwise unproven and/or outright illegitimate new regimes of the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan) in the early 1950s. 1) how leaders themselves drew on particular repertoires as the  “frames” that established the boundaries of the desirable and achievable in terms of preference formation and 2) how leaders utilized particular performances to communicate new norms, vocabularies, and practices to the population at large while still remaining intelligible. The piece will conclude by linking these notions of repertoire and performance to campaign mobilization and institutionalization.

January 17: Diane King, Junior Faculty Fellow, University of Kentucky
Seminar: “Patriliny and the Modern State in the Middle East and the World”
Dulles 168
Comment: Morgan Liu, Comparative Studies, OSU

 “Patriliny” is a set of ideas and practices in which only one parent, the father, bequeaths certain identity categories, social roles, and goods to his children. Patriliny fosters particular understandings of ancestry and individual and group ontology. Drawing on anthropological theories of patrilineal kinship, I argue that patriliny is integral to conceptions of citizenship and group membership in the Middle East, and that it strongly influences ideas and practices pertaining to the state and nation there. The modern state was supposed to offer a new understanding of the body politic not drawn from concepts of autochthony or familial relationships. I will argue, however, that since the founding of the modern Middle Eastern states by European powers and local elites following WWI, Middle Eastern leaders have often drawn on, rather than turned away from, such concepts in their promotion of the modern. Despite doing so in diverse ways, patriliny is a thread through many of their narratives. I will also show how European colonizers worked to uphold patriliny even as they decried some of its concomitants, helping to produce ironic citizenship regimes that are today facing protest and dissent. I will conclude with the contention that productive links can be made between the institution of the patrilineage and the institution of the state generally, including the modern state as it is now found across the world.

January 31: Clifford Ando, University of Chicago
Seminar: “The ambitions of government: Territoriality and infrastructural power in ancient Rome.”
Dulles 168
Comment: Anthony Kaldellis, Classics, OSU  

The last thirty years have been much fluctuation in the estimation of ancient empires as regards assessment of both their power and style of governance. Did ancient empires formulate and implement policies, or was ancient government largely reactive? Did they have the power or aspiration to penetrate deep into the territories they ruled, or were they content to rule through the cooptation of local elites and pre-existing institutions? Related inquiries have been launched into the importance of territoriality to ancient states, as well as the relationship between territoriality and imperialism: did Rome, or Persia, for that matter, recognize or materially mark firm borders of its control? Did their practice differ in regard to borders between administrative units within the empire? For that matter, when did ancient terms like imperium or provincia, “power of command” and “bailiwick,” take on notions of spatial extension such that they could come to mean “empire” and “province?” These questions, which have scarcely been resolved, have taken on new urgency in light of the importance comparison has assumed in contemporary (ancient) empire studies. My paper takes its inspiration from two bodies of recent work: one recuperates the notion of infrastructural power from Michael Mann’s historical sociology, to develop a framework for assessing the elaboration of state power in terms of institutions and personnel as well as materiel (cf. Bill Novak, “The Myth of the Weak American State,” American Historical Review [2008]); the other poses the question of what meaning to grant to the fact that even very rudimentary ancient states (indeed, so rudimentary as to provoke the question, whether they were states at all) talked like states. That is to say, their legislation spoke as if its right of command extended uniformly through its territory and down through its population; their practice of diplomacy was conducted as if their territory ended where another’s began and the line firmly known, and so forth (cf. Seth Richardson, “The presumptive state” (Past & Present [2012]). I will attempt to lay out the stakes of these debates and then discuss the case of Rome, focusing on the organization of populations in the landscape and theory and practice in its governance of non-urbanized persons.

Feb. 28: Josiah Ober, Stanford:
Seminar: “Feb. 28: Josiah Ober
Stanford University
Seminar: “The Economic Rise and Political Fall of Classical Greece”
Dulles 168
Comment: Greg Anderson, History, OSU

Small-state ecologies are fairly plentiful in human history, and city-state ecologies make up substantial subset of them. The city-state (polis) culture of ancient Greece, which flourished from ca. 800 BCE into the Roman era, was the largest (ca. 1100 states, total population of over 8 million persons) and longest-lived city-state ecology in documented human history. Like other small-state ecologies, the Greek city-state ecology had no centralized locus of authority; moreover, the authority structure of a typical Greek polis was relatively decentralized, predicated on some form of collective self-governance by citizens. In Hobbesian (or Weberian) terms this seems a recipe for disaster, but the Greek city-state ecology was not only extensive and long-lived, but also saw remarkably high and sustained levels of economic growth (by premodern standards). The wealthy, densely populated Greek city-states successfully in fended off the predatory imperial states of Persia and Carthage. Yet relatively few Greek city-states were able to maintain their full independence after the rise of imperial Macedon in the mid fourth century BCE. Both the rise (growth of total population and per capita wealth) and the fall (loss of independence) of the Greek city-state ecology can be explained by reference to information exchange, human capital investment, and lowered transaction costs in the context of peer-polity competition and to the rapid spread of “rule egalitarian” institutions across an ecology of states sharing language and other key aspects of culture.

March 6: CHR Special Event: Deirdre McCloskey, University of Illinois at Chicago
“The Great Enrichment: Came and Comes from Ethics and Rhetoric”
12:00- 1:30, Dulles Hall 168

March 21: Michael Martoccio, Dissertation Fellow, Ph.D. Candidate, Northwestern University
Seminar: “Cooperation, Capital, and Italian States: AD 1100-1550”
Dulles 168
Comment: Diane King, Anthropology, University of Kentucky; OSU Junior Faculty Fellow

The emergence of the modern state in Europe remains one of the most critical questions across the disciplinary divide of international relations, comparative sociology, and diplomatic history. In a popular view, war was the evolutionary motor driving the transition from feudal polities to modern states. Conflict ground down the thousands of petty lords and cities into one common type of polity: the sovereign state. This talk moves out from one corner of early modern Europe, Central Italy, to question this relationship between competition and state formation. I begin with a simple question: why did the city of Florence achieve hegemony over its many Tuscan neighbors? Florence offers an excellent case for understanding the dynamics of late medieval/early modern power: the Tuscan state the city built endured until Italian Unification, leaving behind the best archival paper trail of any pre-modern polity. Most historians and political scientists/sociologists pin Florence’s success either on its economic power or stout army. I disagree. I argue that Florence survived because its political institutions projected confidence and collaboration, rather than fuelled military coercion or economic competition. Specifically, I make two claims. First, the institutions of early modern Europe remained essentially feudal. Early modern people thought of power as resembling a feudal contract, not as a manifestation of sovereignty. Written, codified contracts among neighboring cities and lords managed collective armies, dictated tax rates, and outlined the symbols of authority. To understand political development, we must understand feudal contract types, not bureaucratic/fiscal state structures, polities, or systemic changes. Second, I show that Italians created new political institutions in order to promote confidence with neighbors. Surrounding cities and lords believed Florence’s remarkably stable institutions and extensive diplomatic network made the city the most reliable partner in the region. In the end, territorial growth and bureaucratic development, the hallmarks of the modern state, emerged because Florence’s neighbors flocked to its banner, rather than cowed beneath it.

April 11: Greg Downs, City University of New York
Seminar: “Practical Freedom: Space, Sovereignty, and the End of Slavery in the United States”
Dulles 168
Comment:  Eric MacGilvray, Political Science, OSU

Ending slavery in the aftermath of the Civil War was not simply a legal challenge but a spatial one, a test of federal claims of sovereignty over the wide spaces of the southeastern states. As the military’s war powers endured beyond Confederate surrender, freedpeople and Army officers and Republican politicians tied the return of peace to the actual, not just legal, end of slavery. Since slaves were largely held in the countryside, not in cities, the Army spun widely outward into the Southern landscape in the months after Appomattox. Learning from the complaints of freedpeople, Army officers asserted that freedom was a status claim that could only be recognized in proximity to the federal government in the form of the military. It was useless, they wrote back to Washington, to rely upon proclamations since planters simply ignored them. The contest between federal and local power over slaves, then, would be won not simply in courtrooms or congressional debates but in forceful encounters. In the process, they raised broad, complicated questions about the nature of the post-conflict period. If the endurance of slavery justified the continuation of war, then what conditions of freedom would signal the return of peace? As Army officers eliminated slavery in most of the southeast in the summer and fall of 1865 and in Texas in the winter of 1865-1866, freedpeople pressed them toward broader definitions of “practical freedom.” This vision empowered freedpeople to seek additional help and officers to override legislatures, judges, and magistrates, but it made the return of peace distant and unpredictable. More broadly, if national power could only be forced by force, then were all forms of centralized government over local law essentially forms of occupation? Over the course of the post-conflict period, politicians increasingly placed the United States’ difficulty in overriding local power in its peripheries in a broad conversation about the new demands of global nineteenth-century government. What the United States faced was not just an end to a civil war but a piece of broader worldwide strains upon sovereignty claims that could be compared to many different forms of central assertions of power, from England over Ireland and India, to Austria over Poland, Switzerland over the Sonderbund, and France over Algeria. Seeing the end of slavery not just as a debate over race and emancipation but as a practical test of national authority helps us place the United States within those global currents of state-building and sovereignty assertion.

April 18: Michael Szonyi, Harvard University:  
Seminar: “State Institutions and Everyday Politics in Ming China(1368-1644): Towards a social history of the Ming military”
Dulles 168
Comment: Julia Strauss, SOAS, University of London; Senior CHR Faculty Fellow
Co-sponsored by the OSU Institute for Chinese Studies

The need to secure labor for military service is probably among the few universals of pre-modern states; states have devised a wide variety of mechanisms to address this need. Historians typically study these mechanisms by asking questions about the structure of military institutions, the policymaking process, and the effectiveness of these institutions and policies. But to better understand the human experience of statehood one should also ask about the ways in which institutions, policies and material practices are experienced by individuals, groups and populations; how they give rise to modes of calculation and strategizing; how they generate political resources that can be used in other political struggles not only with state agents but also with other subjects. As many others have shown, incentives created by the state may inadvertently lead to behaviors that undermine state goals. But that is not all they do. State policies may lead to compliance or provoke resistance. But they can also generate a wide range of behaviors that neither support nor oppose state interests, but are nonetheless highly significant. This project explores these questions through a study of the military system of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), in particular the institution of hereditary conscription. In response to the logics of the system, families developed strategies of remarkable complexity. They also found ways to take advantage of the differences between multiple overlapping regulatory systems through an early modern version of regulatory arbitrage. For example, soldiers and their families on the southeast coast took advantage of their position to participate actively in smuggling and even piracy. Were their strategies distinctive to the Ming state, to premodern Chinese states, or perhaps to early modern states in general? Are there links between premodern and contemporary everyday politics?