States of imagination

Summer 2014

This article recontextualises the way we think of the state, and asserts its continuing importance for the left. It argues that we need to re-imagine the state as a site of contestation and compromise, not a monolithic entity. Social movements and new ideas can lead to new settlements within the state: there are therefore always political possibilities for change. The article draws on a range of newspaper headlines that show something of the current contradictory responses to the changing role of the state, as well as the affective dimensions of those responses. Many of these headlines point to continuing attachments to collectivity and solidarity in insecure times – ‘residual attachments’, marked by the continuation of questions that cannot be answered in the terms of the dominant market ideology. But they also express newer identifications and politics, and these point to the need for state to also adapt to emergent, more dialogic, forms of engagement.

57: Spaces of debate