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The Rise and Decline of the State Hardcover – Aug 28 1999
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"...this study offers two major scholarly contributions. First, the state is regarded as "merely one of the forms" the organization of government has assumed; therefore it is not eternal. Second, Van Creveld points out that development and spread of new institutions--"abstract organizations" in the author's words--since a quarter of century ago have started to take over some of the state functions..." X. Hu, Social and Behavioral Sciences
"Martin Van Creveld provides an insightful history of the state and the most lucid analysis to date of the contemporary challenges it faces...This is an important book." Peter Schwartz, Whole Earth
"This is a book which many more should read than will, such as anyone teaching 'Western Civilization' or 'Modern Europe', anyone interested in intellectual history, or anyone simply interested in the political condition of the modern world." Richard A. Oehling, H-Net Reviews
"'The Rise and Decline of the State'--a tight display of erudition counterpointed by occasional heavy-handed attempts at humor--makes the case." Washington Times
"Van Creveld's latest study is an important and wide-ranging scholarly work, in addition to being both beautifully written and a thoroughly engaging reading. It is crucial reading not only for students of military and political history, but also for those of Western utopian literature, since it clearly highlights throughout the links between fact and fiction. Besides its value to academics, this expansive and interesting review of the evolution of the nation-state worthwhile and enjoyable reading for anyone with an interest in political science and history." UTOPIAN STUDIES
"This study is not only brilliant history; it is insightful and brimming with scores of fascinating and plausible hypotheses..." The Journal of Interdisciplinary History
The state, which since the middle of the seventeenth century has been the most important of all modern institutions, is in decline. From Western Europe to Africa, many existing states are either combining into larger communities or falling apart. In the future, Martin van Creveld argues, their functions are likely to be taken over by other organizations. This unique volume traces the history of the state from its beginnings to the present day. It will be invaluable to all who would understand the history of government, and its future.
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Top Customer Reviews
So if so many details are wrong where I know the facts, what about the places where I don't? And if the details are wrong, how good is the big picture?
This book makes you think, and has a lot of good references, but I don't trust its conclusions.
Prof. van Creveld's work revolves around this point: prior to the seventeenth century (with some exceptions) rule was seen as personal. The monarch personally ruled over a given region and the people owed him their loyalty. The state was not the abstract entity that it was to become. The change from personal to abstract rule brought with it profound consequences in virtually all aspects of life.
Along the path from personal to abstract rule, many thinkers and rulers played a role, but Hobbes was decisive. [p. 179.] Also important were Locke, Montesquieu and Rousseau.
Of course, personal rule didn't guarantee that you would live in a libertarian paradise. Nonetheless, personal rule carried with it certain obligations: the sovereign (generally as a servant of God) was under the law and his powers were limited. The modern, bureaucratic state has almost unlimited powers. Even worse, the total state often leads to total war. In earlier times, wars between "states" were really quarrels between ruling houses and the common man could escape involvement. Not so with the modern state: you are a citizen of the state and owe it your exclusive allegiance. [p. 185.]
There is a lot more a reviewer could comment on in this book. Prof. van Creveld has all sorts of interesting things to say about the rise of the state and changes in crime, education, war, and the economy.
I do have one quarrel with the book. On page 178, Prof. van Creveld says that Christianity teaches that God "is believed to possess no fewer than three different bodies." Since Prof. van Creveld is not (so far as I can tell) a Mormon, I'm at a loss to see how he came up with that idea.
Most recent customer reviews
This work illustrates that Martin van Creveld is more than one of our premier military historians and theorists. Read morePublished on March 10 2002 by Morgan H. Norval
Anything Martin van Crevald writes is a five, and this book, although over-priced (...), is as as good as history can get. Read morePublished on Nov. 12 2001 by Robert David STEELE Vivas