The Birth of the State from the Spirit of the Metropolis

A Study of State Formation in Argentina, Australia, and Canada from the Perspective of the History of Ideas and Sociological Planning
Start of project: April 2015

At the center of this project is the relationship between state, metropolis, and (hinter)land. The project focuses, in a historical and sociological comparison, on the histories of Argentina, Australia, and Canada, and in particular on the connection between nation building and the development of metropolises from roughly 1770 until 1945. What was the relationship of these export-oriented, agro-capitalist societies, in which metropolises like Buenos Aires, Sydney/Melbourne, and Toronto/Montreal developed early on, to their agricultural hinterlands and their frontiers? Three dimensions will be addressed:

1. First it will examine how intellectual debates on the relationship between state, metropolis, and hinterland emerged with liberal nuances that varied nationally and regionally. How metropolitan intellectuals behaved towards rural populations on the frontier promises to be especially instructive in this context. For example, in Argentina’s history, ideas about civilizing both the indigenous population and the European rural populations that often identified with their Spanish colonial heritage played an essential role well into the twentieth century. It was assumed that the necessary immigration from northern Europe for example, and the urbanization that accompanied it, would lead to the desired civilizing of "wild" rural populations.
What does this all mean for the development and shaping of specific national forms of liberalism? To what extent was European liberal thinking, with its highly authoritarian way of dealing with "other" ethnic groups, influential?

2. A question that is shaped more by political sociology or planning sociology addresses infrastructural forms of integration. How did societies develop in which there were strong contrasts between the metropolises and the hinterland? We can assume that integration developed differently in Argentina than it did in Canada and Australia since the latter two were dependent on directives from London in the cultural and political context of the British Empire. But even in these two British colonies, it is likely that their infrastructural forms of integration—not least due to the different involvement of their metropolises in the global market—differed significantly. In this regard, ideas about (state) plans that were supposed to determine how the hinterland was penetrated from the metropolis and the implementation of such plans are of particular interest. When and under which circumstances did the intended and then perhaps successfully implemented inclusion of peripheral rural areas occur by means of infrastructural measures ranging from rail and canal construction to the establishment of telegraph and telephone networks?
The project will analyze prevailing positivist planning ideas in Latin America in the nineteenth century as well as investigating how new disciplines and expert groups emerging at Canadian and Australian universities made planning expertise available.

3. The question, finally, is one related to political sociology and political economics, namely, whether, how, and when the social classes, their political representatives, and their intellectuals in the three countries urged converting their national agricultural export economies into more industrial modes of production. Studies in developmental sociology and political economics have in fact drawn attention to differences, perhaps decisive, between the paths taken by Australia and Canada, generally regarded as successful, and the supposedly unsuccessful path taken by Argentina’s economic system. The analysis of the debates and decisions of various national players, especially in light of relationships between the metropolis and the frontier/hinterland, should yield new and, in particular, comparative insights and thus extend the perspective of existing analyses, most of which are based in class theories.

(September 2015)