"Statist" redirects here. For other uses, see Statist (disambiguation).

In political science, statism is the belief that the state should control either economic or social policy, or both, to some degree.[1] Statism is effectively the opposite of anarchism. An individual who supports very limited intervention by the state is a minarchist.

While the term "statism" has been in use since the 1850s, it gained significant usage in American political discourse throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Ayn Rand[2] made frequent use of it in a series of articles in 1962.[3][4]

Forms of statism

Statism can take many forms from minarchism to totalitarianism. Minarchists prefer a minimal or night-watchman state to protect people from aggression, theft, breach of contract, and fraud with military, police, and courts.[5] Some may also include fire departments, prisons, and other functions.[5] Welfare state adepts and other such options make up more statist territory of the scale of statism.[6][7] Totalitarians prefer a maximum or all-encompassing state.[8][9]

State, society and individuals

Some analysts use a dichotomy between state and market, viewing the state as a homogeneous institution capable of using political power to force policy on private economic actors with different priorities. Such an analysis depends on an elitist theory of power rather than a pluralist theory of power; that power is exercised by individuals and competing organisations within society.[10]

Authoritarianism, on the other hand, views a strong, authoritative state as required to legislate or enforce morality and cultural practices.[11][12] 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 the family and exalts the nation as an organic body headed by the Supreme Leader and nurtured by unity, force, and discipline.[13] 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.[13]

Economic statism

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.[14]

State interventionism

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, attempting to promote economic growth and trying to enhance employment levels.

State socialism

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[15] on the basis that the Soviet model of economics was actually based upon a process of state-directed capital accumulation and social hierarchy.[16]

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.

State capitalism

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.[17] Some authors also define the former economies of the Eastern bloc as constituting a form of state capitalism.

See also

Contrasting views:

Related ideologies:


  1. Levy, Jonah D (2006). The State After Statism: New State Activities in the Age of Liberalization. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 469. ISBN 978-0-674-02276-8.
    • Obadare, Ebenezer (2010). Statism, Youth, and Civic Imagination: A Critical Study of the National Youth Service Corps Programme in Nigeria. Dakar Senegal: Codesria. ISBN 978-2-86978-303-4.
    • Kvistad, Gregg (1999). The Rise and Demise of German Statism: Loyalty and Political Membership. Providence [u.a.]: Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-1-57181-161-5.
    • Bakunin, Mikhail (1990). Statism and Anarchy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-36182-8.
  2. "The term “statism” was tirelessly promoted by Ayn Rand. A computer search of her published works for “statism” or “statist” gives over 300 hits. She described statism as the idea that 'man’s life and work belong to the state–to society, to the group, the gang, the race, the nation–and that the state may dispose of him in any way it pleases for the sake of whatever it deems to be its own, tribal, collective good'.” --Binswanger, Harry, Forbes, Nov 13, 2013.
  3. Rand, Ayn, “Introducing Objectivism,” The Objectivist Newsletter, Aug. 1962, p. 35
  4. Rand, Ayn, “War and Peace,” The Objectivist Newsletter, Oct. 1962, p. 44
  5. 1 2 Machan, T (2002). "Anarchism and Minarchism: A Rapprochement". Journal Des Economistes et Des Etudes Humaines. 12: 569–569–588. ISSN 1145-6396.
    • Block, W (2007). "Anarchism and Minarchism No Rapprochment Possible: Reply to Tibor Machan". The Journal of Libertarian Studies. 21 (1): 61–61–90. ISSN 0363-2873.
    • Long, Roderick (2008). Anarchism Minarchism: Is a Government Part of a Free Country?. Aldershot, England: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-6066-8.
    • Parker, Martin (2010). The Dictionary of Alternatives Utopianism and Organisation. London, England: Zed. ISBN 978-1-84972-734-1.
  6. Friedrich, Carl (1974). Limited Government: a Comparison. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-537167-1. OCLC 803732.
  7. Marx, Herbert (1950). The Welfare State. New York: Wilson.
  8. Arendt, Hannah (1966). The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York: Harcourt Brace & World.
  9. Cernak, Linda (2011). Totalitarianism. Edina, MN: ABDO. ISBN 978-1-61714-795-1.
    • Friedrich, Carl (1964). Totalitarianism. New York: Grosset & Dunlap.
    • Gleason, Abbott (1995). Totalitarianism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-505017-2.
    • Schapiro, Leonard (1972). Totalitarianism. New York: Praeger.
  10. Timothy Mitchell (March 1991). "The Limits of the State: Beyond Statist Approaches and Their Critics". The American Political Science Review. 85 (1): 75–96. JSTOR 1962879. The state has always been difficult to define. Its boundary with society appears elusive, porous, and mobile. I argue that this elusiveness should not be overcome by sharper definitions, but explored as a clue to the state's nature. Analysis of the literature shows that neither rejecting the state in favor of such concepts as the political system, nor « bringing it back in », has dealt with this boundary problem. The former approach founders on it, the latter avoids it by a narrow idealism that construes the state-society distinction as an external relation between subjective and objective entities. A third approach, presented here can account for both the salience of the state and its elusiveness. Reanalyzing evidence presented by recent theorists, state-society boundaries are shown to be distinctions erected internally, as an aspect of more complex power relations. Their appearance can be historically traced to technical innovations of the modern social order, whereby methods of organization and control internal to the social processes they govern create the effect of a state structure external to those processes
  11. "authoritarian"., LLC. 9 October 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  12. West, Robin (1988). "The Authoritarian Impulse in Constitutional Law". Georgetown University Law Center. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  13. 1 2 Rocco, Alfredo (1926). "The Political Doctrine of Fascism". Carnegie Endowment For International Peace. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  14. Jones, R. J. Barry. "STATISM." Routledge Encyclopedia of International Political Economy. 1st. Volume 3. New York, New York: Taylor & Francis, 2001. Print.
  15. 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
  16. Bertrand Badie; Dirk Berg-Schlosser; Leonardo Morlino (2011). International Encyclopedia of Political Science. SAGE Publications, Inc. 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
  17. Leviathan in Business: Varieties of State Capitalism and Their Implications for Economic Performance, by Musacchio, Aldo. 2012.
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