Nelson provides a historical overview of the theoretical and ideological evolution of the modern state, from pre-state and pre-modern state formations to the present. Major themes and key thinkers are treated in some depth and specificity. At the same time, structural changes, both socio-economic and political, underlying shifts in state consciousness are emphasized. The link between state ideologies of legitimation and forms of political consciousness is stressed, including those theoretical forms of consciousness characteristic of modern social and political science. A major theme of the book is the need to understand the modern state holistically, as a totality of social, political, and ideological factors.

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