Every aspect of our lives is shaped by the state. How do social theorists conceptualize the state? How did the modern state come to be? From where does it derive its legitimacy? We will look for the answers to these questions in the works of Marx, Weber, Foucault, Bourdieu, James Scott, critical and feminist scholarship, as well as libertarian and anarchist scholarship. We will then talk about how the involvement of the state in social and economic life has varied cross-nationally, and seek to understand in what ways the American statecraft is considered "exceptional." We will learn about welfare states, penal states, racial states, straight states, submerged states, authoritarian states, strong and weak states.