* The state as “coercion wielding organizations that are distinct from households and kinships groups and exercise clear priority in some respects over all other organizations withing substantial territories.” (Tilly)
Summary: This is a collection of essays which in various ways, ‘bring culture back in.’ I did not have time to read the essays, but they run from radical culturalism (rejecting the distinction between cultural and non-cultural objects) and a view of culture setting the context of constitutive rules within which strategic action occurs. States are not autonomous from cultural forces. The problems in the current literature are as follows:
* Culture is seen as the dependent, not independent, variable vis-a-vis the state
* Where cultural influences on the state are acknowledged, they are often referred to in formal and restrictive terms (the ideas of academics, ‘political culture,’ etc.)
* Where culture has been given a central explanatory role, it has been understood in foundationalist terms – as a universal homogenous rationality or as a timeless national essence.
Steinmetz wants to drive home that the importance of any variable on policy formation can be understood only by reconstructing what it meant to the relevant actors. Failure to culturally embed
Important Insight: Culture matters – taking culture seriously can change the way we understand states (not just non-‘normal’ states, but all states.)
Criticism: In order to allow for the project, Steinmetz must necessarily use an incredibly broad definition of culture – it’s essentially whatever his authors want it to be. Which is fair given the range of uses of culture, but difficult to use as a constructive tool for performing analyses.
=== Tilly’s Conclusion ===
Summary: More useful than the volume for our purposes. Tilly treats culture as ‘congealed history’ – assuming an intimate interdependence between shared understanding and social ties, and hence between culture and states. Tilly performs a relational analysis of political processes, demonstrating through the examination of ideas such as citizenship, democracy and nationalism how these concepts are tied up with cultural understandings. Similar to Foucault’s methodology in the Archaeology of Knowledge.