The Multiple Faces of the State and its Underlying Unity

Guillermo O'Donnell

in Democracy, Agency, and the State

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199587612
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191723384 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Democratization

The Multiple Faces of the State and its Underlying Unity

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This chapter begins by noting that the state offers numerous faces, from the great rituals it enacts to the opaque daily transactions of its multiple bureaucracies. It also stresses that those faces of the state vary substantially depending on the social position of those it interacts with, especially in countries marred by deep inequality and extensive poverty. These multiple faces make it difficult to find and reconstruct theoretically the underlying unity of the state, which has led several currents to deny it; the chapter argues that such unity derives from the cascade of legal authorizations that result from the legal system of the state. Furthermore, against what some legal and democratic theories presume, even under democratic regimes, in some countries the state, especially as a legal system, may be absent in sometimes extensive regions (brown areas) and in relation to some social sectors. On a related matter, the chapter discusses some legal aspects of the expansion of capitalism, including the features it has had on countries outside of the Northwest.

Keywords: faces of state; rituals; inequality; corruption; informal institutions; legality; brown areas; capitalism

Chapter.  7630 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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