This article deals with the introduction of state administrative institutions at the district level in the Habsburg Monarchy and their several reforms in the period from 1848 to 1868. It analyzes these processes in a spatial perspective and with a focus on implementation. First, it shows that new spaces of administration were constructed on several levels, especially the districts themselves and the district offices. This was done not by unilaterally expunging earlier forms of spatial organization, but rather in complex interplay with them. Numerous groups of actors were involved in negotiating this, including not only politicians and bureaucrats, but also members of the general population in various roles. In this sense there was a substantial component of ›state-building from below‹ in the creation of the district administrations. Finally, some consequences arising from the new organization of space are outlined, from the quantitative increase in state administrative activity via improved possibilities for production and use of spatial knowledge to advances in the construction of the territory as a unitary space of the state.
A particular relationship with space, usually called territoriality, is one of the essential characteristics of the modern state. This statement was long considered a commonplace. Recent debates, however, have raised new fundamental questions about both space and the state which require a re-examination of both terms, and thus of the connections between them as well. This introduction maps out some of the terminological and theoretical ground for research into these questions. We successively examine the conceptual history of the state, of public administration, and of space, pointing out reifying uses of all three notions which have been repudiated in theoretical debates but remain influential in many historiographical accounts, as well as in popular discourse. We highlight alternative approaches suggested by newer authors. In particular, we describe both the state and administration in terms of assemblages of people, institutions, and objects. Given that this perspective is also used in some current socio-cultural theories of space, we conclude that states and administrations not only exist in space, use space, and create and shape spaces, but that they are themselves spaces and can be analyzed using the methodological tools which apply to spaces of any kind.