process of class formation

Chris M. Sciabarra sciabrrc at is2.NYU.EDU
Thu Nov 30 19:05:56 MST 1995

On Thu, 30 Nov 1995, Lisa Rogers wrote:

> From: "Chris M. Sciabarra" <sciabrrc at is2.NYU.EDU>
> ...the state creates differential privileges that are structurally
> biased in favor of certain groups, and that these privileges
> themselves are the basis of the formation of structural  classes,
> rather than say, any primarily economic dimension... but the really
> interesting question is  WHAT factor is primary, even as one notes
> that there is an  interpenetration between the factors.
> Lisa: But Chris, must _one_ to be primary?  What if reality is just
> not like that?  Multiplicity is possible, if not tidy.  The
> "interpenetration" or the exact nature of the links themselves and
> how that interconnection works, _that_ is interesting to me.

	Oh, I agree wholeheartedly.  I was only positing a difference
between Marxists and anarchists on the issue.  But I think that the links
are not only political and economic, but multifarious -- reaching into
culture and social psychology as well.  And one of these factors need NOT
be primary; there are a host of historical considerations that one must
investigate in order to understand the class dynamics that are involved.

> Which groups does a state "create" privileges for?  For those that
> are powerful enough to make the state do so?  For those that are
> running the state?  For the already rich and powerful?  For those
> that can be bribed with privilege to give their support to the state?
	Well... how about all of these and more.  There are certainly
structural biases in favor of corporate wealth, but there are also a host
of welfare privileges in place for the vast proliferation of groups that
are fragmented along lines, in contemporary society, that emerge from
nearly every discernable human characteristic.  Statism will do that --
people are simply powerless outside of their group affiliations, and they
will unite politically on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, height,
weight, sexual orientation, nationality, hair color -- you name it.
Hayek used to say that when political power becomes the only power worth
having, however, there will be a structural bias toward those groups that
are the best at utilizing such power --- which is why the worst always
seem to "get on top."

> And who creates the state?  Those that hope to gain/maintain
> power/wealth by doing so?  Those who want to preserve and expand
> their own privileges?
	Difficult to say on the creation issue.  Marx and Engels argued
that the state emerged out of common interests, but slowly became the
instrument by which certain classes enriched themselves.  On the other
hand, the great sociologist Franz Oppenheimer, argued that the state was
born not out of common interests, but in spite of common interests, and
that it dripped with blood and oppression from square one.  As for the
preservation of privilege -- I think Marxists and libertarians would
agree that the state certainly serves that function, among others.

> I mean, I can't think of a privilege that does _not_ relate to
> economics, in two ways.  Those that get them are likely to be the
> rich or serve the rich in some way, and those with privilege will use
> it to get more money/power.
	I can't think of a privilege that does not relate to economics in
SOME sense, either.  And the relationships you emphasize are certainly
internally connected.

> Maybe I should have just asked what is a "privilege", but for now I
> define it in terms of access to more power/money than others have.
	Well, yes... but this can take a variety of insidious forms --
everything from macro management and the tax structure to specific
regulations, tariffs, controls, guarantees, subsidies, and even military

> So, far from taking sides with "political" _or_ "economic" as "the
> primary" factor in class formation, I'd rather call into question
> that polarization itself.  The way I figger, reality just doesn't
> separate along those lines.
> Wha'd'ya think of that?

	I think the polarization needs to be called into question, yes.
But by the same token, I do believe that the historical circumstances
must be investigated carefully to distinguish the causal connections,
even if one does recognize reciprocal links and a mutual constellation of
many factors that jointly contribute to a specific social formation of
class.  It is a very complex undertaking, which is why I've always shied
away from formulaic assertions -- from either Marxists OR libertarian
anarchists or anybody else for that matter!
					- Chris
Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra
Visiting Scholar, NYU Department of Politics
INTERNET:  sciabrrc at

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