Reaction on States and State Formation

Posted by: | Posted on: January 28, 2009

States and State Formation

There are numerous articles and researches digesting the states and state formation. Among those researches, I am intrigued by the book called “Understanding Nationalism” written by Margaret Hoogeveen published by McGraw-Hill Ryerson Publishing in 2008. This book explored the recipes of state actors leading to the state formation. Taking different approaches from Tilly, Moore and Skocpol, Margaret emphasized the importance of nationalism as the substantial factor having built a nation-state. But she dismissed the approach of ultranationalism. It would cause the destruction of a nation-state.

Nationalism is the by-product of sociopolitical movements in a society. It is essentially built by a collective sense of identity. This collective identity has been presumably expanded by individual identity, and it sprang to a national identity. Loyalty to their value and identity underpin the need of caring and protection. Till has collaboratively assured his thesis of the intervention of a state in making war to weaken, eliminate or neutralize rivals outside of their territory, making a state in the mission of eliminating or neutralizing those internal rivals inside their territory, making a trustworthy protection inside their state in order to convince their state-clients feel secure from enemies, and making an extraction activity to aggregate the means that can allow them to continue carrying out those three activities (Till, 1985, p.181). With this state’s monopolistic extraction activity, Skocpol elaborated the social classes of both elites and bourgeoisies have constantly played important role to shape the state formation and state’s changing phenomena particularly current modernity of state’s capitalist forms.

Social factors such as language, ethnicity, culture, religion, geography, relationship to land, spirituality, politics, shared value and beliefs have mainly proliferated the formation of a nation and a nation-state, Margaret assured. These factors have been extensively generated by national myths substantially leading to the political myths. Myths can also represent a nation’s identity. Most cultures are founded on a creation of myth such as a story that tells how a place, a city, or a nation and its people came into being. These myths had provided ancient peoples with a base for their future and a reason for their norms, laws and traditions. They also helped unite the members of the community. Today, myths are still used to unify a people and to promote national identity. National myths are stories that promote national values and perspectives. They can include ancient myths, such as stories of the Greek gods of Mount Olympus, and ancient religious texts, such as the Hindu epic poem Ramayana. Those myths can also include versions of historical events and personalities.


Margaret Hoogeveen 2008. Understanding Nationalism: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Publishing.

Evan, Peter B. 1985. Bringing the State Back in. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ch .1, 5

Moore, Barrington Jr. 1966. Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. Boston: Beacon. Intro, Ch.1

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