Bureaucracy, Administration and Authority: European State Formation Reconsidered
23 Pages Posted: 9 May 2016
Date Written: May 7, 2016
This article is an attempt to push the state formation literature away from a reified model of power and towards a more properly sociological account that takes seriously social organization and not merely administration. The argument can be summarized as follows. The focus on administration in the state formation literature has led to conceptual and empirical problems because it fails to adequately account for what is actually going on within the bureaucracy and simply assumes that the organizational forms are sufficient to induce particular patterns of behavior. It is, in effect, held that the mere existence of modern administrative structures produces particular categories of good administrative outcomes. Against this perspective I seek to show the following that the rise of administration did not: 1) lead to a transformation of the nature of authority (i.e. it remained patrimonial and therefore operated according to a different logic than is implied by the state formation literature); and 2) lead to a shift in a more coercive form of governance: it remained, instead, fundamentally a legal, contractual and even moral relationship between the crown and the principle urban and landed elites and therefore the consequences of the emergence of administration have been misunderstood. I seek to show this in three sections. The first examines the state formation literature from Weber to the recent shift towards authority. The second section examines the nature of political authority in Europe during the early modern period by examining the evolution of the political structure of European monarchies. The final section seeks to address head-on the fundamental problem of the change in military organization over the early modern period in order to demonstrate that even in the most coercive administrative organs of the state - the army - the overall patterns of change and continuity has been misunderstood. If the emergence of the ‘modern’ military administrative structure did not produce a ‘modern’ army then it is time to reconsider some deeply held assumptions about power and social order.
Keywords: state formation, political development, political authority, administration, bureaucracy, war
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