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dual theory of the state

  A theory developed by Peter Saunders (1986) which analytically separates the state\'s role in promoting production and wealth creation in a capitalist society from that of ensuring satisfactory levels of consumption for its resident population. Saunders argued that these functions involved separate, though overlapping, arenas of conflict — the \'politics of production\' and the \'politics of consumption\' — in which the actors are differently mobilized. Conflicts in the politics of production are largely class-based (involving, for example, employers\' organizations and trades unions in conflict with each other and with the state); in the politics of consumption the interested parties are sectoral groups — such as those reliant on different sources for housing, transport, health services, education and so forth — which may not be mobilized across a class cleavage.

The main geographical component of Saunders\' theory is his claim that whereas the politics of production are largely organized at the national or regional level, the politics of consumption are played out locally (see local state). Major contentious issues over which conflicts might threaten the rate of capital accumulation are focused on the national state, where capitalists\' interests can best be safeguarded. Other issues, which are sub-national in their impact and carry less threat to the capitalist imperative, remain at the local level: most are concerned with consumption issues, with conflict over relative access to public goods rather than over shares of the national wealth, and these can be relatively safely left to the more pluralist political ethos of local governments (see pluralism) whilst production issues are handled in the national government which is more influenced by corporatism.

A simple reading of this theory suggests a clear distinction between central and local governments in their respective roles within the state apparatus, although the relative allocation of functions varies over time and between places. (RJJ)

Reference Saunders, P. 1986: Social theory and the urban question, 2nd edn. London: Hutchinson.



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