Let’s address the vagaries of statehood from the vantage point of practice. I’ll continue with the original formatting (see Part I) by way of random remarks.
(1) One would assume that the formation of the State was precipitated by a desire to deal with, and effectively resolve, inter-societal conflict. And indeed, given this premise, it’s a noble undertaking both in concept and in practice, because the State can be posited thus as the ultimate authority to resolve all manner of important disputes. But therein lies the rub. Since the State has been charged thus with this all-important function, it must, nominally at least (and provided of course that it takes it task seriously), pay lip service to all divergent and potentially conflicting interests. This is more true of the so-called democratic regimes than of the totalitarian ones; however, even the totalitarian states, such as the former Soviet Union or the present-day People’s Republic, can’t help but yield at times to international or domestic pressures resulting from the perception of state-generated injustices. The Third Reich represents a short-lived exception: the Nazi state was firing on all four, politically, economically and militaristically, no doubt because of Hitler’s charismatic leadership and especial vulnerability of the German people.
The irony is that whereas the State was conceived with the idea of doing away with, or at least reducing the intensity of, inter-societal conflict to manageable proportions, it turned into a crucible, a theater wherein said conflict has become legitimized (so at to form a leitmotif) and is continuously being re-enacted on the grandest possible scale. All of which seriously undermines the rather simplistic proposition that the State is governed by the ruling class alone, or that the State interests are therefore expressed by, and confined to, the ruling class interests. A far more reasonable hypothesis would be that just like a good neighbor, the State, especially a welfare state, aims at being all things to all people: no one is being excluded.
(2) Aside from the domestic pressures which keep the State forever on its toes lest it be perceived by any dissident group or faction as anything other than impartial, there are international pressures as well. Indeed, no state can rightfully exercise its intended function unless it is perceived by all its subjects as commanding a modicum of sovereignty. And that means, of course, a measure of independence from other, more powerful states, without which quality, if the State is perceived, that is, as weak and subject to other powers – think of the lord-vassal relations from our feudal past, for instance – none of its edicts, just and reasonable as they may be, are enforceable. Simply put, there is no projection or exercise of power from a position of weakness.
North Korea’s recent, what some might call, “belligerent attitude,” is a case in point: bolstering its dwindling authority at home could well be the basis for its bellicose attitude and posture with respect to other nation-states. Of course, our State Department officials can’t bring themselves to think outside the box: life outside of statehood is something they cannot possibly consider.
(3) The existing paradigm, along with the conditions which seem to preclude any other, makes for certain pathology (because of the erosion that inevitably sets in and corrupts what may have started out as a perfectly innocuous and well-formed, if not well-intentioned, concept). For let’s face it, the (institution of the) State is in a bind both from within and without. In the former instance, there is this constant pressure always having to appear fair-minded and just by means of a fine balancing act between ever-conflicting interests; but it’s the latter, I’d say, which circumscribes the inescapable dynamics of international relations, that sets the ship of state, state, on the road to perdition. For indeed, every state large or small, powerful or weak, must vie for comparative advantage not only for reasons already mentioned but just as importantly perhaps, lest it not be consumed by another. It is thus that the condition of ongoing conflict is part of the setup, a built-in feature of the dominant paradigm, and there’s no escaping the fact. Diplomacy is but a gloss we put on what is, at bottom, mortal combat, a zero-sum game. Aggression is the order of the day and war the ultimate solution. Machiavelli and Metternich both had it right. Both were realists to an extreme.