The modern state is ubiquitous and we take its existence and services for granted, without stopping to think where it came from and why it should be the only form of political organisation that is recognised across the entire globe. The goal of this course is to ask the question that we do not usually ask: What the state is, where it came from and why we need it (or don’t). We will explore a variety of social science perspectives on this question. We will begin with classical political philosophy, move on to modern economics and sociology, and conclude with international relations. Among the key concepts explored will be anarchy, social contract theory, rule of law, absolutism, bureaucracy, mercantilism, social orders, nation-‐states/nationalism, democracy and international law. In addition to learning about key concepts in political thought and state theory, students will also get a rare glimpse of how completely disparate scientific and philosophical approaches think about the very same question, and sometimes arrive at similar conclusions despite their seemingly conflicting worldviews.