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2007 | 10 | 153-170

Article title

The state as an institution and social reality


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The concept of the state does not need to be re-defined because it describes more permanent structures which were born together with modernity and which continue to endure. The modern state, symbolic dates for which are the American Constitution of 1787 and the French Revolution of 1789, is a nation whose sovereignty is defined territorially. The modern state is defined by the institutions of citizenship and representation, as well as by rules regarding the making of binding decisions. If we talk of a modern state, it is defined by the following, basic parameters: first of all, it is a nation state; secondly, it is a state which undergoes a democratisation that takes social obligations upon itself to ever larger degree. It is also a state which has ever more expectations addressed to it and which unremittingly stimulates such expectations, promising its citizens more and more, most often beyond its capability to deliver (government overload). While we are accustomed to attaching a democratic type of political system to the concept of the state, the extent of the term 'democracy' (as a type of a political system) is not identical with that of the term 'state'. Non-state forms of democracy (on a supra-state level) are possible. Arguments are being developed suggesting that the EU should evolve toward a non-state form of democracy. The term 'democracy' is thus not limited to defining only the political system of a state. The state continues to exist because it is still defined by the fundamental structures of the modernity: democracy and the values embroidered on the banners of the French Revolution - liberty, egality, fraternity.


  • T. Szwiel, Uniwersytet Warszawski, Instytut Socjologii, u. Karowa 18, 00-324 Warszawa, Poland


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