Who’s in Charge?
Chapter 6: Governing via the State
No matter how much we believe in our institutions and in the regularized procedures of our societies, no matter how just, rational, and durable we think them, they are at best only loosely grounded on some form of bedrock reality or immutable truths that endure beyond human beings. To a considerable degree, they are sustained by collective belief and consensus, by tacit, unquestioned, and often grossly simplistic assumptions about how the world works, and often by mutual and willful self-delusion. Our societies cohere and function in no small part because most of us want them to cohere and function, and because the alternatives are, for must of us, literally unthinkable. Thomas Homer-Dixon1 INTRODUCTION While some are concerned about the apparent retreat of the state from governing in some areas, others argue that we have too much governing by the state. When it comes to grappling with the role for the state, one can find justifications for both views. Since the dissolution of the empires, we have seen a large increase in the number and orders of government operating around the world. With more than 192 independent states, 4010 first-order administrative divisions, an estimated 4 or 5 million local governments and 6415 international governmental organizations, we certainly are not short of examples of statedriven governing. Each state system represents a discrete slice of society that can and usually does differ by geography, history, race, social stratification, cultural attributes, economic interests or functional activities. Different governments, faced with similar situations, thus may...
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