The management of contemporary public affairs involves many different centres of social power, engaged in complex and mutable relations, ranging from willing cooperation, to competition, to out-and-out conflict.
This book emphasises the role played in these relations by political institutions in particular. Generally, these claim a special competence to authorise and regulate the activities of other institutions, but their claim is often contested by other power centres, serving different and sometimes contrasting interests.
To explore those processes, the author, after identifying the nature of ‘the political’, considers its dealings with other forms of social power. Among these, economic power gets particular attention, in view of the contemporary salience of the ‘state vs market’ issue. But this book also considers the relations between politics at one end, and law, the public sphere, citizenship, and religion at the other.
'Poggi's essays on central topics in political sociology reflect the formidable depth and breadth of his scholarship. Learned, lively, and with a critical edge, they cast historical as well as contemporary light on many corners of politics, the state, civil society and the economy.'
Charles Raab, Professor of Government, University of Edinburgh
'Poggi reflects on one of the two central subjects of his life of writing – power, particularly political, and its institutional embodiments. These reflections are deeply enriched by his mastery of another subject – the writings of virtually everyone who has thought well about such matters. The book distils, clarifies and theorises vast and complex historical processes, paying equal attention to the constants of human affairs and to their numerous transformations. These are sorted, and their movements plotted, with magisterial command. He illuminates the nouns of power and politics – state, society, economy, politics, law; the many adjectives by which they come to be qualified, amended and transformed over millennia; and the interactions among all of the above. His ability to bear heavy weight lightly, to combine erudition of remarkable depth with deftness and lightness of touch, also makes this work that rare thing in social science: a truly engaging, spirited, and splendid read.'
Gordon Samuels Professor of Law and Social Theory
Co-Director, Network for Interdisciplinary Studies of Law
Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales
'Over the decades, Gianfranco Poggi's work has acquired classic status within scholarship on political power, the nature of the state and its historical development. The texts assembled in this volume are testament to the author's unique skills in bridging political theory, political sociology and public law, and link his empirical investigation to the great sociological tradition of the nineteenth and twentieth century from Tocqueville and Marx, to Weber, Parsons and Lipset, including neglected scholars such as Heinrich Popitz. This volume includes new additions to Poggi's invaluable contribution to the understanding of the state in our present time and of the challenges that its national, liberal and social features face in the age of globalisation.'
Daniele Caramani, University of Zurich
'This collection is simply full of treats. It has all the generosity of spirit and intellect of its author, whose contribution to our understanding of the state and power over the years has been significant. Gianfranco Poggi is not afraid to tackle big issues and survey large conceptual landscapes with refreshingly scant regard to distinctions between sociology, political theory, political science and public law, and with a profound understanding of the classical tradition. These essays – some published, others not, or not yet in English – cover themes he takes to be ‘upstream’ from the state: power and the political. He writes here with his customary energy, panache and infectious enthusiasm. This alone would make this a very welcome contribution, but he has a further gift for the Anglophone reader: a translation of a section of Heinrich Popitz’s Phänomene der Macht.'
Alan Scott, Professor of Sociology, University of Innsbruck
'This book reflects the intellectual trajectory of Gianfranco Poggi; his preferred themes – the relationships between different forms of power, the modern state and its juridical/bureaucratic underpinning, the changing organisation of civil society and its relation to political authority – and his preferred authors, from Weber to Popitz. It also reflects Poggi’s continuous attention to the main social science debates, which he divests of fashionable conceptual innovations to uncover the old concerns beneath. The book is also testament to the author’s ability to frame pressing contemporary issues through classic social theories and concepts, revealing their relevance to our understanding of where we stand, and where we might go. It is a small book, magnificently written and argued. Reading it is pleasure and enlightenment.'
Peter Mair Professor of Comparative Politics, European University Institute, Florence