Clearing the ground : historical sociology and the State in Aotearoa/New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Sociology at Massey University
This thesis attempts to "clear the ground" for the socio-historical study of the state in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The rationale for this type of reflexive or "meta-level" study is a) that the existing substantive literature remains somewhat under-theorised, and b) that the complexity of current sociological debates is such as to perhaps raise doubts about their applicability to concrete social formations. In this work, I try to develop a critical pathway through some of these problematic theoretical areas, showing how in spite of their considerable complexity, there are ways of coherently and usefully managing the general issues. In that spirit of optimism, I go on to develop ideas about how my preferred theoretical perspectives might be "applied" within the context of New Zealand history. The study has three main phases. Initially, I map the field of historical sociology, indicating my preference for a realist philosophical basis and a critical-pluralist theoretical approach. Then I tackle some of the key definitional and analytic questions around "the state" as a domain of study for the historical sociologist. Surveying the debate between society-centred and state-centred approaches, and between monocausal and pluralist explanatory frameworks, I articulate a neo-Gramscian model of analysis derived from the work of Stuart Hall and Bill Schwarz. Finally, taking elements of this model into my own field of empirical and political interest, I show, using a selection of existing analytical texts on the history of Aotearoa/New Zealand, how this preferred perspective can provide an improved overview of state formation in this country. It also, I hope, contributes to the impetus of post-colonial reflection on our political past and future.