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Retrieving the State for Radical Politics - A Conceptual and Playful Challenge

Cooper, Davina (2016) Retrieving the State for Radical Politics - A Conceptual and Playful Challenge. Journal of Social Policy Studies, 14 (3). pp. 409-422. ISSN 1727-0634. (KAR id:58663)

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Abstract

Whether states can ever contribute to progressive social transformation has long divided the left. But is this division dependent on a particular state conception? If the state can be meaningfully conceptualised in multiple ways, are there ways of conceptualising that might bridge this political divide, granting the state a constructive part within radical left politics? This essay adopts a utopian conceptual methodology to consider more politically hopeful ways for reimagining what it means to be a state. It challenges an anti-state left perspective on four grounds: to avoid the reification of a bounded state; to avoid romanticising civil society as the state’s antithesis; to pay attention to dissident intra-state actions; and to recognise the importance of different governing scales. But if the state concept should be retrieved, what can statehood mean? Does local government offer a more progressive paradigm than the nation-state with its radically different relationship to space and governing? And what then follows? What does imagining progressive states do since they cannot be practiced in any simple sense? If reimagining the state is not to be hopeless, are modes of take-up available that can prefigure the state without relying on its material actualisation? This essay explores the possibilities 'play' offers for representing what states and institutional systems could be like. Taking pop-up republics, crowd-sourced constitutions, fictive feminist legal judgments, and local currencies as contemporary examples, it considers play as a register for experimenting with other modes of political government. The essay closes by addressing two questions: if counter-representational forms of play involve performing institutional activities differently, are there good reasons to articulate these together into reimagined states, using play to experiment with new forms of assemblage? Second, what can playing at other kinds of states or institutions accomplish politically?

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: the state; radical politics; concepts; play; political simulation
Subjects: K Law
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
Depositing User: Sarah Saines
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2016 11:47 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:39 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/58663 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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