The role of the state in society has been extensively studied since the 1930s. However, very few scholars have since regarded the state as an independent social structure. To fill this gap, the book ‘The State and Society: Peru in Comparative Perspective’ by Alfred Stepan proposes a new model, which considers the state to be autonomous. The arguments supporting this approach have been presented in the preface, where Stepan (1978) used scholarly works of Max Weber to define and outline the features of a state, which makes it a concrete structure. The focus on modern society means that most of the views expressed in the book relate to the author’s observations and the contemporary literature in the field of political science.
The book has been based on many published and unpublished research, including the author’s extensive interviews with several Peruvian leaders. The relationship between the state and society has been thoroughly explored. Three political systems, which are liberal-pluralist, organic-statist, and Marxist-statist, are the main focus for Stepan (1978). However, the author presents an argument that, in the case of Peru, organic-statist has been the Peruvian experience. Five themes help explain why Peru has an organic-statist political system: the establishment of the Peruvian regime, organization of the urban squatter settlements, reorganizing sugar workers, foreign capital, and the failed institutionalization of the revolution.
The book ‘The State and Society: Peru in Comparative Perspective’ can be considered to be one of the most interesting and important publications on Latin American studies. Alfred Stepan is a prominent political scientist who has served in several top academic positions, including the dean of the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA, 2017). As a scholar, it can be expected that his works will reflect an academic approach to the subject. The writing style deployed in his book is analytical writing, which entails reviewing a topic in light of other evidence. It has been mentioned earlier that several published and unpublished works have been extensively explored to help Stepan (1978) justify his arguments.
In addition to the analytical style, a comparative method approach has been used to examine the evidence. The key advantage of this method is that it allows the author to explore his ideology and compare it with the evidence from other scholars to find similarities or contrasts. The use of the comparative method of analysis has resulted in Stepan (1978) develop a grounded theory, which shows the true nation of the state-society interactions. The main disadvantage of such an approach is that the author may be required to explore a wide range of publications. From the author’s perspective, it can be tedious and time-consuming work.
The primary theme in the book is the relationship between the state and society, which has been addressed using three other major themes in the form of the political systems. Additionally, the five more themes of the organist-statist Peruvian experience comprise the second and main section of the book. The structure of the book can also be described using the arrangement of the key subjects. The book has two main sections, where the first one described the theoretical background of the three political systems and presents a general overview of the relationship between the state and society. The second section is dedicated to discussing and explaining the organic-statist system as it applies to the case of Peru. At this point, it can be argued that Stepan (1978) has a theoretical orientation based on the idea that the state is a concrete and independent structure. Additionally, the relationship between the state and society is through the administrative function of the government. Most importantly, Stepan (1978) theorizes the political system of Peru is the organic-statist, which is illustrated using the five key themes in the second section of the book.
Latin American studies are key to understanding Latin America in contexts such as politics, sociology, and economics. The book by Stepan (1978) provides readers and scholars with a new approach to the discourse. Many scholars have failed to view the state as an independent and concrete social structure. Stepan (1978) sought to deviate from the abstraction of the concept and to help the audience understand those features giving the concept of state significant concreteness. With such a deviation, it can be argued that new theories and conclusions will be pursued by future researchers and authors as long as they accept the premise proposed by the book.
Some key lessons can be learned from the key chapters of the book. However, the most important lesson is the fact that the state can be viewed as an independent and concrete social and administrative structure. Such a perception allows scholars more freedom in examining the dynamics of the political systems in the interactions with the state. Additionally, the concept of the state is described as being more than just the government, which places more emphasis on the role of the networks elite classes in influencing the political climate and course of a country.
SIPA. (2017). In memory of professor and former SIPA deal Alfred C. Stepan. School of International and Public Affairs.
Stepan, A. (1978). The state and society: Peru in comparative perspective. Princeton University Press.