Synopses & Reviews
The institutional features and the past and future role of the state should be a central concern of contemporary sociological and political theory, but until now they have been sadly neglected. Lately, in particular, the state's increasing involvement in the management of industrial and industrializing societies has made it even more important to understand its past development, its current activities, and the related trends in its structure and in its relation to the larger society.
As a contribution to this task, Gianfranco Poggi reviews the main phases in the institutional history of the modern state. Restating a typology elaborated, among others by Max Weber, he outlines first the feudal system of rule, then the late-medieval Ständestaat and the absolutist state. Next the book discusses the nineteenth-century constitutional state, seen as the most accomplished embodiment of the modern, Western state. Finally, it points out the major developments which have occurred since the end of the last century in the relationship between the state and society, and identifies the threat these pose to the persistence of Western political values.
Throughout, the discussion draws upon an impressive body of literature on the modern state (much of it not available in English) from the fields of history, law, and the social sciences.
"What is the nature of the modern state, what were its origins, and what seem to be the present trends? In answering these questions . . . Poggi succeeds in presenting a well-informed but elegantly parsimonious statement. . . . In its historical depth and concise exposition, it should make very worthwhile reading for graduate students and many of their teachers. . . . An excellent historical introduction for political sociologies."
"A brief but careful introduction to the major forms of the political realm since the Carolingian period in Western Europe. . . . The author treats several prominent forms of political rule: feudal rule, rule by the Ständestaat
, rule by the absolutist regimes, rule by the nineteenth-century constitutional state, and the rule of present-day liberal regimes. He tells history well, with an admirably lucid and concise prose; and it is a story that is occasionally as penetrating as it is consistently informative."
Anthony M. Orum
"Poggi's expressed intent, namely to render intelligible centuries of political development via the presentation of a succession of highly abstract models . . . is achieved with clarity and distinction and in the process opens vistas for further exploration. . . . The book provides a useful base from which to launch a course on the modern state."
Social Science Quarterly