George Snedeker snedeker at SPAMconcentric.net
Sat Dec 23 15:14:36 MST 2000

I have not read Poulantzas in several years. his first few books were
heavily structuralist, in the Althusserian mode. people were more impressed
with his last book where he argued for struggles over the state. he granted
what used be called "the relative autonomy of the state" against the
instrumentalism of Miliban. I think his last book is called CLASS, STATE,
POWER. I think Xxxx's comments about the lack of historical context is
important. however, his last book was much more historical than the first
few. this is a general criticism of Marxist structuralism.

----- Original Message -----
From: Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx <xxxxxxxx at xxxxxxx.xxx>
To: <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Sent: Saturday, December 23, 2000 4:20 PM
Subject: Re: Poulantzas

> >John Nolan wrote:
> > I have been reading about Poulantzas theory of the state. It is
> > going. Can anyone explain what is special and valuable about his theory?
> > he believe in revolution?
> >
> > John
> Hi John, I am not quite sure about if Poulantzas believed in revolution or
> but let me throw my few cents about what P specifically meant by his
theory of
> the state. You are probably familiar with P-Miliband debate on the nature
of the
> state in capitalist societies. This debate is important for understanding
> particular conception of the state among Marxists of different
> Miliband subscribed to the belief that ruling class in capitalist
societies uses
> the state "as its instrument for the domination of society". According to
> instrumentalist view, state is the instrument of the ruling or dominant
> The dominant class relies on ideological mechanisms that link ruling class
> instruments and state policies. Opposed to instrumentalists,  those who
> advocated the structuralist Marxist perspective such as P and Althusser
> attention to the contradictions of capitalism within the "_structure_ in
> the state is embedded" (Chilcote, p.161). This structure as a whole (which
> Althusser calls ideology and ideological state apparatuses such as
> army, police, education, family, etc..) rather than a struggle by classes
is of
> central concern. For example, P argued that the bourgeoisie as a ruling
> cannot _dominate_ the state as Miliband suggests  and that the state
> organizes  and unifies the interests of the dominant class and class
> By the help of the state not only the class domination is reproduced
> economically,  but also the cohesion of the capitalist social formation is
> assured ideologically. For structuralist Marxists, instrumentalists
downplay the
> role of the state in the reproduction of the capitalist system. On the
> hand, critics of the strucuturalist perspective have argued that the
> structuralism of  P&A   downplays class activity and cannot explain class
> arising from class consciousness. It has also been criticized for having
> historical conception of the state, lacking to come to grips with the
> nature of the state&class struggle throughout history--pre-capitalist,
> capitalist--post capitalist state--
> Rather than seeing the capitaliwsts state in the abstract, I think that it
> important to analyze the capitalist state  in its _historical_ context
with an
> attention to historical  specificity of  capitalism. This is exemplified
by the
> works of Baran and Sweezy (Lenin and to a certain extend Hilfeding) with
> to the emergence of monopoly capitalism. For example, the state, rather
> unifying the interests of the capitalist class let alone resolving the
> irreconcilability of class antagonisms in some real sense, obscures
> contradictions and averts crises related to monopoly capitalism. "If the
> is the product of irreconcilable character of class antagonism, if it is a
> standing above class society  and increasingly separating itself from it,
> it is clear that the liberation of the oppressed class is impossible not
> without a violent revolution, but also without the destruction  of the
> of state power, which was created by the ruling class and in which this
> separation is embodied" (Lenin, 1932 Note that, of course, based on Marx
> Engels, Lenin is talking about the capitalist state here. The modern state
> arises when the class antagonisms cannot be objectively reconciled).
> Xxxx
> --
> Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
> PhD Student
> Department of Political Science
> SUNY at Albany
> Nelson A. Rockefeller College
> 135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
> Albany, NY 12222
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