The state is like God, some believe that its the all mighty powerful being that controls all and others just think its a big overblown idea. The idea of the state (and God) is fairly confusing but rarely ever challenged, except by those rare few who seem to form their own opinions. The state is thought to be merely an idea, an ideological thing or an abstract formal idea. I know that the state is not an object and it doesnt seem logical to me that the state would be an abstract formal idea; the only logical explanation for the state is that of it being an idea. The state can also be seen to hold unknown amounts of power. How the state gets this power, why the state emerged to form this power and why the people legitimize this power is debatable.
In search for a better way of explaining the idea of power, I turn to Marxism. If the state were, as Marx thinks it, a real- concrete object, everything about the state would be a whole lot easier to explain. The state is an idea, not a thing. There is an integration of class societies that make up the state, that allow the state to have the power that it does. The classes come together to form some sort of balance within itself, which then gives that state utter and total control of the society. The state enables certain classes to hold more power than other classes.
Class power is exercised through specific institutions which are accordingly identified as power centres (Abrams 74). The power centres that the state gives to the certain classes are the institutions that hold this power. Given that, it would then be thought to have a simple answer as to what state power really is, the power of the classes. That isnt where the state holds its central power, its just where power is exercised. With the power of the state being institutionalized, that means that the power is given, or allowed, to the state by the people, society.
Society sees the state as providing th stability needed for increasing complexity and presumably desirable and beneficial overall growth and development (Nagengast 116). So, by allowing the state to control and have the power that it needs to achieve these particular things, the society benefits. With the state being an institution, it automatically organizes things; it makes things run more smoothly, like having laws, running in a democratic way and organizing itself so that it benefits to the society not only politically but culturally as well. When the state kind of caters to society needs, society gives the state the power that they possess.
Society recognizes and accepts this power and so it is formed. The state is, in a sense, an ideological thing; society wants the state to be seen as a legitimate thing, it is then recognized. The state can be viewed in many different ways. We are only making difficulty for ourselves in supposing that we have to study the state an entity, agent, function or relation over and above the state-system and the state-idea (Abrams 82). The state regulates society; the state determines what is acceptable and what isnt. I believe Abrams said it best, in his piece The Difficulty of Studying the State, when he said, The state for its part never emerges except as a claim to domination a claim with is so powerful that it is hardly ever challenged.
With the state being such a difficult topic to study, there is no right or wrong answer of what one thinks the state is and holds power to.