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Poulantzas's Staatstheorie as a Modern Classic.

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/ProceedingsChapter


Publication date2006
Host publicationPoulantzas Lesen
EditorsLars Brettauer, Alexander Gallas, John Kanankulam, Ingo Stützle
Place of publicationHamburg, Germany
PublisherDas Argument Verlag
Number of pages336
ISBN (Print)3899651774
Original languageEnglish


Poulantzas claimed that Staatstheorie, his last major work, completed the theory of the capitalist type of state that Marx and Engels had left unfinished (1978b). While this immodest but provocative claim certainly merits discussion, it cannot be seriously evaluated in a short essay. Instead I will advance four main arguments. First, Poulantzas developed a major original contribution to the theory of the capitalist type of state that goes well beyond most conventional Marxist analyses and contrasts markedly with studies of the state in capitalist society. Second, he developed a broader approach to the state as a social relation that holds for the capitalist type of state, diverse states in capitalist social formations, and statehood more generally. Third, he adopted both approaches in his own theoretical and historical analyses. And, fourth, his analysis of the current form of the capitalist type of state was highly prescient, with �authoritarian statism� far more evident now than when he noted this emerging trend in the 1970s. After I have advanced all three arguments, I will also note some basic limitations to Poulantzas�s approach to materialist state theory, concluding that Staatstheorie should be regarded as a modern classic.