Why have continental European societies developed the idea of the abstract impersonal state as the fundamental institution of political rule? Why, on the other hand, has this idea played a relatively insignificant part in the history of English-speaking countries? It is to such questions that this major study is addressed. With clarity and conciseness, Kenneth Dyson examines the fascinating tapestry of thought about public authority that the state tradition represents, and identifies the major individual contributions to that tapestry. In addition to offering a clear conceptualisation of state, he deals with such key issues as the role of the intellectual, the social function of state theories, and the difficulties of accommodating state and democracy.