Philosophies of the state
Different political philosophies have different opinions concerning the state as a domestic organization monopolizing force. In broadly-defined liberal thinking, the role of the state is to express the public interest, the interests of the whole society, and to reconcile that with those of individuals. (This job seems best performed by a democratically-controlled state, where different types of liberalism put different meanings on the word "democracy.") The state provides public goods and other kinds of collective consumption, while preventing individuals from free-riding (taking advantage of collective consumption without paying) by forcing them to pay taxes.
Within this school, there is a wide variety of differences of opinion, varying from free-market libertarianism to modern, New Deal, or statist liberalism. The main debate along this spectrum concerns the ideal size and role of the state. While libertarians argue for a small or "minimal state" which simply protects property rights and enforces individual contracts, the New Deal liberals argue that the state has a greater positive role to play, given the problems of market failure and gross inequalities in the distribution of income and wealth.
In Marxian thinking, the main role of the state is to use force to defend the existing system of class domination and exploitation. Under such systems as feudalism, the lords used their own military force to exploit their vassals. Under capitalism, on the other hand, the use of force is centralized in a specialized organization which protects the capitalists' class monopoly of ownership of the means of production, allowing the exploitation of those without such ownership. In modern Marxian theory, such class domination can coincide with other forms of domination such as patriarchy and ethnic hierarchies.
Further, in Marxian theory, when classes and other forms of domination are abolished, the state will "wither away" in the sense that it will be dominated democratically by the people rather than being a force that coerces people to accept relationships of domination and exploitation.
In some conservative thinking, the existing structure of tradition and hierarchies (of class, patriarchy, ethnic dominance, etc.) are seen as benefiting society as a whole. So these conservatives merge the Marxist perspective with that of the liberals: the state forces people to accept class and other kinds of domination, but this is seen as being good for them. Further, as with the liberals, the state is seen as always existing and/or "natural." "Withering away" will never happpen.
In anarchist thinking, the state is nothing but an unnecessary and exploitative segment of society. Totally rejecting Hobbesian ideas, anarchists argue that if the state and its restrictions on individual freedom were abolished, people could figure out how to work together peacefully while individual creativity would be unleashed. Rejecting the Marxian perspective, the anarchists hope that the withering away of the state can and will precede -- or coincide with -- the abolition of non-state forms of domination.
The anarchist vision is only vaguely similar to the free-market libertarian (classical liberal) view: the "libertarians" want to minimize the role of the state, but want to keep its use of force to protect property rights and to enforce contracts (while providing national defense). In truth, the libertarians are part of the broadly-defined liberal tradition discussed above, putting more limits on the role of the ideal state than do other liberals.
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