The State

Why the state is the elephant in the room of political theory, too long ignored, and how to put this right

The future of our species depends on the state. Can states resist corporate capture, religious zealotry, and nationalist mania? Can they find a way to work together so that the earth heals and its peoples prosper? Or is the state just not up to the task? In this book, the prominent political philosopher Philip Pettit examines the nature of the state and its capacity to serve goals like peace and justice within and beyond its borders. In doing so, he breaks new ground by making the state the focus of political theory--with implications for economic, legal, and social theory--and presents a persuasive, historically informed image of an institution that lies at the center of our lives.

Offering an account that is more realist than utopian, Pettit starts from the function the polity is meant to serve, looks at how it can best discharge that function, and explores its ability to engage beneficially in the life of its citizens. This enables him to identify an ideal of statehood that is a precondition of justice. Only if states approximate this functional ideal will they be able to deal with the perennial problems of extreme poverty and bitter discord as well as the challenges that loom over the coming centuries, including climate change, population growth, and nuclear arms.

Publication Date: 
March 14, 2023