Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, March 10, 2017

Is "deep state" a real thing?

The concept of a "deep state" is being thrown around in American politics. Ishaan Tharoor, writing in the Washington Post tries to clarify the idea. As I read it, I thought of ways in which there are elements of a deep state in Nigeria, Russia, Mexico, and Iran. Which elements of the regime and civil society might be part of a deep state in each. And could a deep state be part of the political systems in China or the UK?

Is the concept of deep state different from the concept of an iron triangle?

What an actual ‘deep state’ looks like
Key figures in the White House see themselves locked in a battle with the "deep state" — a term they're using, as my colleagues explained, to describe "a group of Obama-aligned critics, federal bureaucrats and intelligence figures" as well as the media…

[T]here has been a great deal of chatter — and a good number of articles — pondering the "deep state" and its reach in the United States… Some observers on the American left see the nexus of the national security apparatus, arms companies and corporate lobbies as the basis for a kind of all-pervasive shadow government dominating political life in the country…

But the "deep state" in its more well-established contexts is something more concrete. The term is most closely associated with the turbulent politics of Turkey, a country whose democracy was for decades routinely interrupted by cabals in the military and civil bureaucracy…

The concept of the "deep state" also resonates strongly in countries where the military is vast and difficult to check. Think of Egypt, where an army-led putsch ousted an elected Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013; or Pakistan, where the military and its powerful intelligence arm remain the most influential actors within the state…

The distinction between these countries and the United States is incredibly important: "In the American case, the bureaucrats themselves don’t control, or want to control, the system they are trying to protect," wrote Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations…

Turkish experts will tell you that discussion of the "deep state" flourishes in a climate of conspiracy and political polarization. It encourages the public to doubt the pillars of civil society — from the judiciary to the press — and take shelter in the shadow of a populist leader…

See also Rumblings of a ‘Deep State’ Undermining Trump? It Was Once a Foreign Concept from The New York Times.

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