The German sociologist Max Weber famously defined the state as that "human community that successfully claims a monopoly of the legitimate use of physical violence within a given territory." This course will examine the major predicates of Weber's dictum with respect to the history of the Early Modern European state. We will explore the techniques, mechanisms, and instruments by which the state successfully asserted its power over rival claimants (religious groups and institutions, clans and families, autonomous communities) through its bureaucracy, modern finance, and above all, "monopoly" of military power. The other major focus of this course is on how the state came to be seen as "legitimate", so that its authority was recognized--against the countervailing claims of other groups--even without the direct resort to violence. In a close reading of important primary texts, we will ask to what extent the emergence of a modern concept of the morally autonomous rational individual was indebted to the assertion of an all-powerful state that could enforce laws and preserve order and property without recourse to religious authority. How did social and economic changes from the sixteenth century to the triumph of absolutism in the eighteenth century shape views of the powers and responsibilities of political authorities? What role did the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counterreformation play in the consolidation of state authority? We will also probe the limitation of these claims to authority, looking both at internal and external resistance to the all-embracing claims of the modern state.
COURSE FORMAT: Lecture/Discussion
Level: UGRD Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: SBS HIST Grading Mode: Graded
Prerequisites: NONE Links to Web Resources For This Course.
Last Updated on MAR-30-2006
Copyright Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, 06459