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The state, wrote Nietzsche, is
the coldest of all cold monsters... (it) lies in all languages of good and evil; and whatever its says, it lies – and whatever it has, it has stolen... only there, where the state ceases, does the man who is not superfluous begin... (Nietzsche 1969: 75
As post-war ‘welfare states’ in the West and centralised ‘party states’ in the East have come under challenge, contemporary political debate has become suffused by images of the state as malign and potentially monstrous. Only
‘beyond the State’, it appears, can a life worthy of free human individuals begin. Criticising the excesses, inefficiencies and injustices of the extended
State, alternatives have been posed in terms of the construction of a ‘free market’ and a ‘civil society’ in which a plurality of groups, organizations and individuals interact in liberty. This concern has been paralleled in social theory, where analysts have challenged liberal pluralist and economic deter- minist theories of power, and argued that the specific form of the state is of crucial importance, not only in understanding geo-political relations, but also in comprehending modern forms of exercise of power over national territories.2
But the political vocabulary structured by oppositions between state and civil society, public and private, government and market, coercion and consent, sovereignty and autonomy and the like, does not adequately characterise the diverse ways in which rule is exercised in advanced liberal democracies. Politi- cal power is exercised today through a profusion of shifting alliances between diverse authorities in projects to govern a multitude of facets of economic activity, social life and individual conduct. Power is not so much a matter of imposing constraints upon citizens as of ‘making up’ citizens capable of bearing a kind of regulated freedom. Personal autonomy is not the antithesis of political power, but a key term in its exercise, the more so because most individuals are not merely the subjects of power but play a part in its operations.