In political science, statism is the doctrine that the political authority of the state is legitimate to some degree.[1][2][3] This may include economic and social policy, especially in regard to taxation and the means of production.[1][2][4][5][6]

While in use since the 1850s, the term statism gained significant usage in American political discourse throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Opposition to statism is termed anti-statism or anarchism. The latter is characterized by a complete rejection of all hierarchical rulership.[7]


Statism can take many forms from small government to big government. Minarchism is a political philosophy that prefers a minimal state such as a night-watchman state to protect people from aggression, theft, breach of contract and fraud with military, police and courts. This may also include fire departments, prisons and other functions.[8][9][10][11] The welfare state is another form within the spectrum of statism.[12][13] Authoritarian philosophies view a strong, authoritative state as required to legislate or enforce morality and cultural practices.[14][15] Totalitarianism is that which prefers a maximum, all-encompassing state.[16][17][18][19][20]

Political theory has long questioned the nature and rights of the state. Some forms of corporatism extol the moral position that the corporate group, usually the state, is greater than the sum of its parts and that individuals have a moral obligation to serve the state. Skepticism towards statism in Western cultures is largely rooted in Enlightenment philosophy. John Locke notably influenced modern thinking in his writings published before and after the English Revolution of 1688, especially A Letter Concerning Toleration (1667), Two Treatises of Government (1689) and An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). In the text of 1689, he established the basis of liberal political theory, i.e., that people's rights existed before government; that the purpose of government is to protect personal and property rights; that people may dissolve governments that do not do so; and that representative government is the best form to protect rights.[21]

Economic statism

Economic statism promotes the view that the state has a major, necessary and legitimate role in directing the major aspects of the economy, either directly through state-owned enterprises and economic planning of production, or indirectly through economic interventionism and macro-economic regulation.[22]

State capitalism

Main article: State capitalism

State capitalism is a form of capitalism that features high concentrations of state-owned commercial enterprises or state direction of an economy based on the accumulation of capital, wage labor and market allocation.

In some cases, state capitalism refers to economic policies such as dirigisme, which existed in France during the second half of the 20th century and to the present-day economies of the People's Republic of China and Singapore, where the government owns controlling shares in publicly traded companies.[23] Some authors also define the former economies of the Eastern Bloc as constituting a form of state capitalism.

State interventionism

Main article: State interventionism

The term statism is sometimes used to refer to market economies with large amounts of government intervention, regulation or influence over markets. Market economies that feature high degrees of intervention are sometimes referred to as "mixed economies". Economic interventionism asserts that the state has a legitimate or necessary role within the framework of a capitalist economy by intervening in markets, regulating against overreaches of private sector industry and either providing or subsidizing goods and services not adequately produced by the market.

State socialism

Main article: State socialism

State socialism broadly refers to forms of socialism based on state ownership of the means of production and state-directed allocation of resources. It is often used in reference to Soviet-type economic systems of former communist states and, by extension, those of North Korea, Cuba, and the People's Republic of China.

Critics of state socialism argue that its known manifestations in Soviet-model states are merely forms of state capitalism[24] claiming that the Soviet model of economics was based upon a process of state-directed capital accumulation and social hierarchy.[25]

Politically, state socialism is often used to designate any socialist political ideology or movement that advocates for the use of state power for the construction of socialism, or to the belief that the state must be appropriated and used to ensure the success of a socialist revolution. It is usually used in reference to Marxist–Leninist socialists who champion a single-party state.

See also


  1. ^ a b Bakunin, Mikhail (1990). Statism and Anarchy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-36182-8.
  2. ^ a b Cudworth, Erika (2007). The Modern State: Theories and Ideologies. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0-7486-2176-7.
  3. ^ Barrow, Clyde W. (1993). Critical Theories of State: Marxist, Neo-Marxist, Post-Marxist. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-13714-7.
  4. ^ Kvistad, Gregg (1999). The Rise and Demise of German Statism: Loyalty and Political Membership. Providence [u.a.]: Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-1-57181-161-5.
  5. ^ Levy, Jonah D. (2006). The State After Statism: New State Activities in the Age of Liberalization. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 469. ISBN 978-0-674-02276-8.
  6. ^ Obadare, Ebenezer (2010). Statism, Youth, and Civic Imagination: A Critical Study of the National Youth Service Corps Programme in Nigeria. Dakar, Senegal: Codesria. ISBN 978-2-86978-303-4.
  7. ^ Craig, Edward, ed. (31 March 2005). "Anarchism". The Shorter Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. ISBN 978-0-415-32495-3.
  8. ^ Machan, Tibor (2002). "Anarchism and Minarchism: A Rapprochement". Journal des Économistes et des Études Humaines. 12 (4): 569–588. doi:10.2202/1145-6396.1077. ISSN 1145-6396. S2CID 153541595.
  9. ^ Block, Walter (2007). "Anarchism and Minarchism; No Rapprochement Possible: Reply to Tibor Machan". The Journal of Libertarian Studies. 21 (1): 61–90. ISSN 0363-2873.
  10. ^ Long, Roderick T. (2008). Anarchism Minarchism: Is a Government Part of a Free Country?. Aldershot, England: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-6066-8.
  11. ^ Parker, Martin (2010). The Dictionary of Alternatives Utopianism and Organisation. London, England: Zed. ISBN 978-1-84972-734-1.
  12. ^ Friedrich, Carl (1974). Limited Government: A Comparison. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-537167-1. OCLC 803732.
  13. ^ Marx, Herbert (1950). The Welfare State. New York City, New York: Wilson.
  14. ^ "authoritarian"., LLC. 9 October 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  15. ^ West, Robin (1988). "The Authoritarian Impulse in Constitutional Law". Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. Georgetown University Law Center. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  16. ^ Arendt, Hannah (1966). The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York City, New York: Harcourt Brace & World.
  17. ^ Cernak, Linda (2011). Totalitarianism. Edina, Minnesota: ABDO. ISBN 978-1-61714-795-1.
  18. ^ Friedrich, Carl (1964). Totalitarianism. New York City, New York: Grosset & Dunlap.
  19. ^ Gleason, Abbott (1995). Totalitarianism. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-505017-2.
  20. ^ Schapiro, Leonard (1972). Totalitarianism. New York City, New York: Praeger.
  21. ^ Boaz, David (2010). The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Writings from Lao Tzu to Milton Friedman. Simon & Schuster. p. 123. ISBN 1439118337. ISBN 9781439118337.
  22. ^ Jones, R. J. Barry (2001). "Statism". Routledge Encyclopedia of International Political Economy (1st ed.). 3. New York City, New York: Taylor & Francis. Print.
  23. ^ Musacchio, Aldo (2012). Leviathan in Business: Varieties of State Capitalism and Their Implications for Economic Performance.
  24. ^ Michie, Jonathan (January 1, 2001). Reader's Guide to the Social Sciences. Routledge. p. 1595. ISBN 978-1579580919. State capitalism has inconsistently been used as a synonym for 'state socialism', although neither phrase has a stable denotation.
  25. ^ Badie, Bertrand; Berg-Schlosser, Dirk; Morlino, Leonardo (2011). International Encyclopedia of Political Science. SAGE Publications. p. 2459. ISBN 978-1412959636. The repressive state apparatus is in fact acting as an instrument of state capitalism to carry out the process of capital accumulation through forcible extraction of surplus from the working class and peasantry.