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Ironies of State Building: A Comparative Perspective on the American State
This paper challenges prevailing assumptions about the American State. It rejects the conventional distinctions between strong and weak and activism and inactivism as no longer adequate to the modern reality of the expansive and extensive American State. With this premise, the paper undertakes three tasks. First, it examines the reasons for the scholarly neglect of the State amongst students of American government and politics, concluding that the level of federal activism (including taxing, spending, regulating and war making) observable in respect to both Democrat and Republican administrations renders this oversight unsustainable intellectually and analytically. Second, the paper develops a typology of ways in which the American State has been an effective presence in the US political system including its role in sustaining and then ending segregation, in standardizing national rights of citizenship, and in militarizing society. Last, the paper shows how recent advances in comparative studies of the state, notably with respect to federalism and state-society relations, offer lessons for developing scholarly knowledge of the American State.
No. 073/2008
Desmond King
Robert C. Lieberman

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