Mark Smith has written a dense, challenging, and provocative analysis of three contrasting approaches to power and how they are shaped by different philosophies of social science. This is not a book for the theoretically faint-hearted or meta-theoretically challenged. Indeed, those who pick it up expecting to find a simple guide to recent state theory will be badly disappointed. For it does not provide a survey or critique of state theory as such. Nor does it provide a new theory based on self-evident assumptions about the nature of the state and politics. Instead its author offers a sustained meta-theoretical commentary on the intellectual conditions of possibility of serious engagement with the state and state power from a broader, societal perspective. Smith attempts this because he discerns a crisis in the taken-for-grantedness of the typical objects of inquiry of such disciplines as economics, politics, and sociology. He claims that their respective objects are increasingly seen as complex, uncertain, and contested spaces and that these disciplines themselves have become disoriented. Inter alia, this requires a rethinking of the state as an analytical object. In pursuing this meta-theoretical project, Smith draws heavily on the “critical realist” position (initially known as “transcendental realism” or “critical naturalism”) of the British-based philosopher of science, Roy Bhaskar. Thus his analysis begins with some crucial distinctions among empiricism, idealism, and realism and explores their different ontological, epistemological, methodological, and substantive implications for the analysis of social relations. It then addresses the philosophical and theoretical development of three very different theorists of power, who are taken as interesting if not wholly representative exemplars of empiricism, idealism, and a mixture of idealism and realism, respectively. Smith concludes with some of his own meta-theoretical comments on state theory.