The abstract suggests the scope of inquiry:
This conceptual article draws on literature in the sociology of science on modelling. The authors suggest that if state theory can be conceptualized as an ‘engine’ rather than merely a ‘camera’, in that policy is mobilized to make the world fit the theory, then this has implications for conceptualizing states. To examine this possibility the authors look through the lens of actor-network theory (ANT) and in doing so articulate a relationship between two models of the state in the literature. They find that an ‘actor model’ of the state is accepted by many scholars, few of whom develop ‘network models’ of the state. In response, this study introduces an actor-network model and proposes that its contribution to state theory is in rethinking the character of modern states to be the outcome of actually performed assemblages of all those practices of building it, protecting it, governing it and theorizing about it. (Passoth and Rowland, supra, 818).
The jumping off point is the action-nature discourse: the state is captured within the being-doing matrix (Ibid, 818-19). Passoth and Rowland lean toward action theory, through the actor.network theory (ANT). (See, e.g., Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (Clarendon Lectures in Management Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). Passoth and Rowland argue:
If state theory is performative, then this implies that states are performed. To unlock this idea, we suggest, state theory could best see states as performed through the concepts and implied methodology of ANT. To that end, we review state theory and show how scholars depict the state to be an actor (i.e. a macro-entity with quasi-interests, quasi-goals and quasi-actions) and how few scholars depict the state to be a network (i.e. elaborate webs of dis- tributed agency). We then outline how an actor-network concept of the state helps to overcome (some of) the problems of the ‘state as an actor’ and the ‘state as a network’ models while at the same time not devaluing previous empirical findings or purporting that they are obsolete. (Passoth and Rowland, supra, 819).
The avoidance of trivialization, Passoth and Rowland suggest, is founded on Foucaukt's notions of gouvernementalité. "Crucial for this article: in the process of prioritizing the development of discourse analy- sis, these scholars neglected to develop the Foucauldian network model of modern statehood." (Ibid., 825). Yet it might have been as useful to consider the move from form to function within the realities of economic globalization that itself represents a presumptive universe that contextualizes the actions and effects of states in ways that might be different from that expected within the pre 1980s discourse in which the role of the state (against which theory reacted) was distinct.This conceptual movement towards a network model is tightly linked to the works of Foucault and his innovative reconceptualization of power. For Foucault, there are no states per se, but only stateness (étatisation) . . . . That which looks like a state takes the form of force, is constituted by human relationships and becomes a way of linking what can be said, done and seen. Stateness is the exercise of power under mod- ern conditions. But power is neither a capacity of someone ‘in power’ nor a possession of someone who ‘has power’. Instead, power is thought of as a network of influence: the machinery and mechanisms to discipline that regulate subjected subjects . . . . Rather than being something that a person, state, or political institution can possess, power is a network of ubiquitously interrelated forces produced by inter- woven discursive and non-discursive practices. Therefore, states cannot (and must not) be analysed as centres or instruments of power (as classic Marxist state theory did) or as the ability of individual states to achieve their interests (as neostatist theory did from the 1970s on). (Ibid., 823-24).
ANT accounts treat markets, bodies and states as sociotechnical assemblages that come into being as concrete actors are enrolled: price-calculation devices, traders trained in economic theory and Reuters terminals in the case of markets; flesh, medical devices and anatomic almanacs in the case of bodies; land, borders, measurement and counting procedures and ideological treatises in the case of states. Markets, bodies and states are not abstract entities, but concrete localities that one can visit to observe networks of ‘the social’ unfolding. (Ibid., 828).