A theory of the state and of social order

Sun Ki Chai, Michael Hechter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The problem of order is addressed by considering the crucial role that social groups play in mediating between individuals and the state. We argue that existing individualistic models of anarchic order cannot account for order in large societies, while state-centered models cannot explain the state's origins. The origin of the state can best be explained as the result of interactions within and between highly solidary social groups. Accordingly, we discuss the bases of group solidarity, focusing on the costs of maintaining compliance via monitoring and sanctioning. We examine the relationship between member dependence and solidarity, as well as the conditions for coercive solidarity. Then we explore the implications of group solidarity for the attainment of socialorder. Highly solidary groups permit the creation and maintenance of social order by using their control institurutions to enforce member compliance at a lower cost than the state can. These groups can be considered to be unitary actors at the societal level of analysis. The attainment of group solidarity and social order are viewed as isomorphic processes. Social order is shown to be an outcome of multiple nested layers of group solidarity, with the optimal size and span of nested groups varying from society to society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRational Choice Sociology
Subtitle of host publicationEssays on Theory, Collective Action and Social Order
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781789903256
ISBN (Print)9781789903249
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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