By Bernard Crick
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Additional info for Basic Forms of Government: A Sketch and a Model
TIIE MODERN NATION STATE So 'the state', strictly speaking, is a unique form of government unknown in Europe before the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and reaching its full development in the seventeenth century. It is this form of state which Max Weber's famous definitionthe monopolist of the legitimate means of violence- alone fits. 48 As the concept developed, it became associated with an attendant philosophy- that of sovereignty, and an attendant form of society - that of a nation. From a world that had known such varying and sometimes coexisting forms of government as wouldbe universal empires, city-states, the great hybrid of Rome, despotism and feudalism, there eventually emerged with the age of discovery and the brief period of European global imperialism, a world entirely constituted of nation states all claiming sovereignty.
Feudalism was a distinct growth, certainly in Europe, a fusion ing property in cattle, but later in land, and from which 'fief' derives. 31 Such property was personal, in the sense of possession, but also communal in that it must be used for the common benefit. A strong sense of ownership in land and things arose compared to that of the ruling class in the Eastern empires, but weak and limited by traditional and customary obligations when compared to modern capitalism. Ownership was always limited by the traditional rights of others and by personal duties towards tenants : even serfs, unlike slaves, had some minimal feudal rights.
In all the last three categories there is often an astonishing amount of free speculation, but only 'within these four palace walls': nothing must get out that might shake the faith of the people or their belief that their rulers are, from their point of view, hopelessly omniscient and united. But stability of government in an autocracy is commonly purchased at the price of social and economic stagnation. Autocrats are strong in the business of oppression, but are usually weak in responding to sudden social or economic change.
Basic Forms of Government: A Sketch and a Model by Bernard Crick