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Conceptualizing the StateInnovation and Dispute in British Political Thought 1880-1914$
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James Meadowcroft

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198206019

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198206019.001.0001

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The State and Political Argument

The State and Political Argument

(p.28) 1 The State and Political Argument
Conceptualizing the State


Oxford University Press

During the decades bracketing the turn of the century, ‘state’ was invoked in British political argument in many ways. To the extent that it was identified with the ruling segment of a community, ‘the state’ stood in contrast to those over whom authority was exercised — it was distinguished from the ruled or governed parts of the community. More typically, however, ‘state’ was simply the ‘government’, or ‘governing authority’. Identification of ‘the state’ with the whole fabric of a civilized community was most closely associated with idealism, and T. H. Green provides perhaps the classic illustration of this perspective. Between 1880 and 1914, much of the more elaborate reflection on the state appeared in general treatises on ‘politics’ or ‘political science’. This chapter provides an initial overview of the place occupied by the notion of the state in turn-of-the-century political argument in Britain. It examines the significance of organic imagery — at the turn of the century the favoured mode of understanding social constitution and development — for argument about the state.

Keywords:   Britain, state, community, government, authority, idealism, T. H. Green, politics, organic imagery, political science

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