In political science, statism is the doctrine that the political authority of the state is legitimate to some degree. This may include economic and social policy, especially in regard to taxation and the means of production.
While in use since the 1850s, the term statism gained significant usage in American political discourse throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Opposition to statism is termed anti-statism or anarchism. The latter is characterized by a complete rejection of all hierarchical rulership.
Statism can take many forms from small government to big government. Minarchism is a political philosophy that prefers a minimal state such as a night-watchman state to protect people from aggression, theft, breach of contract and fraud with military, police and courts. This may also include fire departments, prisons and other functions. The welfare state is another form within the spectrum of statism. Totalitarianism is that which prefers a maximum, all-encompassing state.
Authoritarian philosophies view a strong, authoritative state as required to legislate or enforce morality and cultural practices. The ideology of statism espoused by fascism holds that sovereignty is not vested in the people, but in the nation state and that all individuals and associations exist only to enhance the power, prestige and well-being of the state. It repudiates individualism and exalts the nation as an organic body headed by the supreme leader and nurtured by unity, force and discipline. Fascism and some forms of corporatism extol the moral position that the corporate group, usually the state, is greater than the sum of its parts and that individuals have a moral obligation to serve the state.
Economic statism promotes the view that the state has a major, necessary and legitimate role in directing the economy, either directly through state-owned enterprises and other types of machinery of government, or indirectly through economic planning.
Statism may be used to refer to state capitalism. State capitalism refers to forms of capitalism that feature high concentrations of state-directed commercial enterprises.
In some cases, state capitalism refers to economic policies such as dirigisme which existed in France during the second half of the 20th century and to the present-day economies of the People’s Republic of China and Singapore, where the government owns controlling shares in publicly traded companies. Some authors also define the former economies of the Eastern Bloc as constituting a form of state capitalism.
The term statism is sometimes used to refer to market economies with large amounts of government intervention, regulation or influence over a market or mixed-market economy. Economic interventionism asserts that the state has a legitimate or necessary role within the framework of a capitalist economy by intervening in markets, regulating against overreaches of private sector industry and either providing or subsidizing goods and services not adequately produced by the market.
State socialism broadly refers to forms of socialism based on state ownership of the means of production and state-directed allocation of resources. It is often used in reference to Soviet-type economic systems of former communist states.
In some cases, when used in reference to Soviet-type economies, state socialism is used interchangeably with state capitalism on the basis that the Soviet model of economics was actually based upon a process of state-directed capital accumulation and social hierarchy.
Politically, state socialism is often used to designate any socialist political ideology or movement that advocates for the use of state power for the construction of socialism, or to the belief that the state must be appropriated and used to ensure the success of a socialist revolution. It is usually used in reference to Marxist–Leninist socialists who champion a single-party state.
While political theory has long questioned the nature and rights of the state, skepticism towards statism in Western cultures is largely rooted in Enlightenment philosophy. John Locke notably influenced modern thinking in his writings published before and after the English Revolution of 1688, especially A Letter Concerning Toleration (1667), Two Treatises of Government (1689) and An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). In the text of 1689, he established the basis of liberal political theory, i.e. that people’s rights existed before government; that the purpose of government is to protect personal and property rights; that people may dissolve governments that do not do so; and that representative government is the best form to protect rights.
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- ^Michie, Jonathan (January 1, 2001). Reader’s Guide to the Social Sciences. Routledge. p. 1595. ISBN 978-1579580919. State capitalism has inconsistently been used as a synonym for ‘state socialism’, although neither phrase has a stable denotation.
- ^Badie, Bertrand; Berg-Schlosser, Dirk; Morlino, Leonardo (2011). International Encyclopedia of Political Science. SAGE Publications. p. 2459. ISBN 978-1412959636. The repressive state apparatus is in fact acting as an instrument of state capitalism to carry out the process of capital accumulation through forcible extraction of surplus from the working class and peasantry.
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Ofer Abarbanel is a 25 year securities lending broker and expert who has advised many Israeli regulators, among them the Israel Tax Authority, with respect to stock loans, repurchase agreements and credit derivatives. Founder of TBIL.co STATX Fund.