Miller Center

Colloquium - Mimicking War: How the Modern American State Grew at Home

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The Miller Center is a nonpartisan institute that seeks to provide critical insights for the nation’s governance challenges.

Desmond King
February 1, 2008
12:30PM - 12:30PM (EST)

Desmond King
Desmond King

Desmond King, Professor of Politics, University of Oxford

Desmond King is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of American Government at the University of Oxford. He focuses on comparative government and American politics, and his interests include race and politics in American political development, immigration, and democratization. His publications include "De-Centering the South: America's Nationwide White Supremacist Order after Reconstruction" in Past and Present (February 2007); "The American State and Social Engineering: Policy Instruments in Affirmative Action" in Governance (January 2007); The Liberty of Strangers: Making the American Nation (Oxford University Press, 2005); and Separate and Unequal: African Americans and the U.S. Federal Government (Oxford University Press, 1995).

This project investigates the growth of the national American State since the early twentieth century asking, how has a polity whose constitution is designed to prevent a National State developed into an activist and interventionist institution in a range of policy areas? This activism is bipartisan as both political parties engage equally in expansive national state activity; consequently the American State’s policies have become a significant source of division for Americans. In the paper I argue that two key sources of this expanded activism are first the routinized use of "war making" metaphors to justify major expansionary initiatives and second, relatedly, the role of the American State as an agent of national standardization, a key function of modern states.

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