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Marxist Approaches to Power

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Marxist approaches to power focus on its relation to class domination in capitalist societies. Power is linked to class relations in economics, politics and ideology. In capitalist social formations, the state is considered to be particularly important in securing the conditions for economic class domination. Marxists are also interested in why dominated classes seem to accept (or fail to recognize) their oppression; so they address issues of resistance and strategies to bring about radical change. Much recent Marxist analysis also aims to show how class power is dispersed throughout society, in order to avoid economic reductionism. This chapter summarizes the main trends in contemporary Marxism and identifies some significant spatio-temporal aspects of class domination. It also assesses briefly the disadvantages of Marxism as a sociological analysis of power. These include its neglect of forms of social domination that are not directly related to class; a tendency to overemphasize the coherence of class domination; the continuing problem of economic reductionism; and the opposite danger of a voluntaristic account of resistance to capitalism.