Political Power and Social Theory: Volume 19

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Table of contents

(20 chapters)

This year's volume of Political Power and Social Theory marks the end of my tenure as Editor. I thank the editorial board and all our dedicated readers for making this journal a leading venue for high quality scholarship in comparative and historical social science. I look forward to seeing the series continue under new leadership. The upcoming articles explore a variety of questions relating to states, citizenship and power, common themes examined with divergent analytical entry points and through deep knowledge of country cases as diverse as Russia, Germany, the United States, Israel, South Africa, Argentina and key nations in early modern Europe. Whether examined with a focus on revolutions and political parties, or cities and their physical and social transformation, or through development of the concept of the “familial state,” which marries a preoccupation with lineage and micro-cultures to that of national-state institutions, these articles expand our theoretical and methodological imagination of how citizens become included or excluded in local and national structures of power.

This chapter examines why the political collapse of Russia and Germany in the end of the First World War resulted in massive expropriation of private property in Russia and consolidation of private property in Germany. This historical divergence is explained by the different measure of coercive capacities of the provisional governments and, consequently, their different ability to withstand the assault of the radical Left during the periods of turbulent political transitions. The measure of coercive capacities was determined primarily by support of the army, which, in turn, was contingent upon the provisional governments’ decisions to negotiate peace and exit the war.

Moore (1966) once argued that the American Civil War was a fundamentally “bourgeois” revolution. As such, Moore's account falls in line with much of the larger literature on democratization, which emphasizes the class dimensions of democratic expansions and transitions, but is largely silent on how party politics are implicated in those processes. Such approaches miss a great deal of the party, inter-elite and discursive dynamics that are crucial to understanding the origins and consequences of democratic change. This chapter seeks to discern the impact of mass party formation and political discourse on modern routes to democracy through an examination of mid-19th-century Chicago politics. It holds to Moore's conclusion that the American Civil War was indeed a bourgeois revolution, while demonstrating that the trajectory of party politics before, during and after the war challenges Moore's interpretation of how class forces were mobilized in the American case. Partisan shifts, for example, worked at turns to weaken and strengthen the rhetorical and organizational basis of working-class mobilization, suggesting that democratization and the class coalitions that give rise to it are shaped and re-shaped by the context of partisan struggle.

The insights of T. H. Marshall and Pierre Bourdieu are drawn upon, integrated and extended to show how social spending policies have been key sites for historical struggles over the boundaries and rights of American citizenship. In the 19th century, paupers forfeited their civil and political rights in exchange for relief. Rather than break definitively with this legacy, major policy innovations in the United States that expanded state involvement in social provision generated struggles over whether to model the new policies on or distinguish them from traditional poor relief. At stake in these struggles were the citizenship status and rights of the policies’ clients. Both the emergence of such citizenship struggles and their outcomes are explained. These struggles emerged when policy innovations created new groups of clients, the new policy treated clients in contradictory ways and policy elites formed ties to social movements with stakes in the status and rights of the policy's clients. The outcomes of the struggles have been shaped by the institutional structure of the policy and the manner and extent to which the policy became entangled in racial politics. Historical evidence for these claims is provided by a case study of the Works Progress Administration, an important but understudied component of the New Deal welfare state.

Why are some of the municipalities located on the most dynamic, populous and productive region of a nation, also the poorest of the nation? Why after decades of being at the center of national development policies, the municipalities of Greater Buenos Aires are still suffering some of the worst development indicators of the Argentina?

This study explores the simultaneous transitions in Palestine/Israel and South Africa at the end of the 20th century through an analysis of the shifting geography of Johannesburg and Jerusalem. After analyzing the relationship between political, economic and spatial restructuring, I examine the walled enclosures that mark the landscapes of post-apartheid Johannesburg and post-Oslo Jerusalem. I conclude by arguing that these walled enclosures reveal several interconnected aspects of the relationship between neo-liberal restructuring and the militarization of urban space. They also exemplify different configurations of sovereignty under conditions of neo-liberalism and empire.

This article relates the recent rise of weblogs and examines their relationship to processes of urban transformation. Specifically, it looks at the history of Curbed.com, a weblog created in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan that presents a layman's perspective on real estate development and neighborhood change. Curbed began in 2001 as the personal blog of a local resident documenting the gentrification taking hold on the blocks surrounding his walk-up tenement apartment. It has since become more established, expanding to cover development in other New York neighborhoods and spawning franchises in San Francisco and Los Angeles. This inquiry seeks to examine what influence, if any, Curbed.com has had upon the neighborhood transition it has closely charted. This question is one aspect of larger questions about the relationship between virtual space and urban space; about the impact of growing use of the internet on the city. Has Curbed been a neutral observer of neighborhood change as it professes? By raising awareness of the processes underlying urban transition, has it provided any opportunities for community action to buffer gentrification? Or is the opposite true – have it and other neighborhood blogs contributed to the new desirability and market value of the Lower East Side? I would argue that although Curbed.com has increased the ability of local residents to understand the changes taking place around them, in the end it has helped accelerate gentrification by repositioning a site of local culture within a global market.

The central historical question that animates The Familial State – Why the rise and fall of the Dutch Republic? – at first sounds quite particular. Yet the diminutive Netherlands played an enormous historical role in the early modern period (1500–1800), which embraced what we still call the Dutch Golden Age. Its glorious artistic legacy is well known. The Dutch also created the first system of global commercial/colonial power. Dutch developments shaped the histories of other regions, both negatively and positively, in Europe, Africa, the Americas and the colonial territories in the East and West Indies. Furthermore, Dutch history is a window into general processes of European development and mechanisms of politico-economic stability and transformation. But the more we appreciate these facts, the more puzzling aspects of the Netherlands appear. How did its weak state dovetail with unprecedented economic hegemony? Why did not the ruling elite of the Netherlands capitalize on its new resources and reform the state, shoring up the global mercantile system? Why did the Dutch state ultimately decline? My answer to these questions, as well as the comparative optic that they necessitate, is inscribed in the title of the book itself.

The book focuses on the Netherlands as a distinctive case which, as the first hegemonic economic and political entity in Western Europe, sheds light on similar processes but different outcomes in France and England. The time periods considered are the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century when the Dutch established a position of world power through a global colonial system, and the decline of Dutch hegemony in the 18th century (although Adams is careful to point out that the timing of the decline is open to debate). The purpose of the book is at once historical and theoretical. It is to analyze Dutch ascendancy and decline in an effort to “build the foundation of a more adequate explanation of historical hegemonies, of varying patterns of state formation and collapse in early modern Europe (p. 12).” Accordingly, Adams treats the Netherlands in part as a “vehicle for tackling theoretical issues of the largest possible interest (p. 7).”

Whenever we speak of patrimonialism, the reference is to the rule of the pater. Weber theorizes this connection from a genetic perspective. The prototype of patrimonial governance is the household. The patrimonial ruler manages his realm as he would manage his household according to rules of traditional wisdom. This genetic and naturalist model makes patriarchy a constitutive dimension of patrimonial practices. In this conception, patrimony implies the dominion of fathers. Patrimonial officials are bound to be male.3 At least this is what we think. And we are all the more inclined to think so if we assume that the rule of the fathers is a fact of nature grounded in a biological necessity. Etymology comforts this bias: the reference to gender, being inscribed in the term, lends credence to a substantialist interpretation.

In contrast to some Second Wave structuralists (e.g., Skocpol, 1979), most contemporary comparative-historical sociologists support the non-reductionist version of methodological individualism (Weber, [1922]1978; Coleman, 1986) suggesting that any complete explanation of social phenomena must include an analysis of individual action as one of its components. However, in part because theoretical training in sociology tends to focus on macro-level causal processes, and in part because it is much easier to get macro-level data about history than good data about the motivations of historical actors, they have usually given less attention to the micro level. As a result, many of the micro-level arguments in comparative historical sociology are incomplete or ad hoc (Kiser & Hechter, 1991). The main exception to this criticism is the growing literature analyzing microfoundations from a cultural/interpretivist perspective. This work often employs complex theoretical arguments oriented to uncovering and decoding the meanings motivating or attached to actions, and sometimes uses rich archival data to illustrate these arguments. At its best, this type of work can allow the reader to see and understand an entirely different historical world from the perspective of participants in it. However, many interpretivists are not interested in doing causal analyses, and most reject the attempt to construct and test causal propositions. For scholars interested in discovering and testing the impact of general causal mechanisms, this is a serious limitation.

The key argument of the book is that parcellization of power between great merchant families and the patrimonial corporations they ruled, first fuelled the Dutch Golden Age and then contributed to its demise. Even though farsighted contemporaries realized that a measure of centralization was essential, they were unable to loosen the patricians’ grasp of particular hereditary powers. Were the internal dynamics of elite families one factor in driving political fragmentation? Adams stresses that the “betrayal of the bourgeoisie,” routinely used as explanation of Dutch decline, can also be read as “loyalty of the patriarch,” and notes that the patriarchs acted in defence of the lineage continuity they themselves imagined and represented. In this area in particular, systematic attention should also be given to the urgings, imaginings and interests of other household and family members, and the cautionary tales of kin and friends who, in one way or another, missed out.

It is hard to imagine more thoughtful and stimulating responses to The Familial State (Adams, 2005a) than the four gathered in this symposium. Mounira Maya Charrad, Ivan Ermakoff, Edgar Kiser and Pavla Miller raise important challenges not only for me but for all those who tackle questions of large-scale comparative history. Rather than arguing about this or that point of specific interpretation – in fact I think that unlike some “Author Meets Critics” sessions, these commentators have the main arguments of the book nailed down – I will immediately turn to those issues. These include the relationship of the argument to today's patrimonial states; patriarchal power and internal family dynamics; the reasons for the decline of hegemonic powers; the microfoundations of collective action and the place of evolutionary biology in comparative historical explanation.

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Political Power and Social Theory
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