State Theory: Putting the Capitalist State in Its Place

State Theory Putting the Capitalist State in Its Place Bob Jessop

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Paperback: 432 pages

Publisher: Polity Press (1990)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0745602908

ISBN-13: 978-0745602905

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Table of Contents

  • Preface and Acknowledgements.
  • General Introduction.
  • Part I. On Marxist Theories of Law, the State, and their Relative Autonomy from the Capitalist Economy and Class Struggles.
  • Part II. Political Representation, Social Bases, and State Forms: Corporatism, Parliamentarism, and the National Interest.
  • Part III. The Value Form, The Capitalist State, and Hegemonic Projects: From State Forms and Functions to the State as Strategy.
  • Part IV. Putting States in their Place: Towards a Strategic-Relational Theory of Societalization. Selected Writings of Bob Jessop.
  • General Bibliography.
  • Index.

Preface and Acknowledgements

In this book I have assembled 12 essays concerned with different aspects of the state and state theory. Three appear here for the first time; three were previously published in obscure journals and working papers; three have been substantially rewritten for this collection; and three appear more or less unchanged. As far as possible I have written out significant overlap across the articles and, where appropriate, added new material. But the main lines of argument in each essay remain the same so that, should anyone be interested in such matters, the course of my theoretical development can be traced. Many other past essays and articles have been omitted because to include all my previous work on the state would have made this book too long and produced too much redundant material. And, although it might have made intellectual sense to include further work on regulation theory and political economy, since these issues are so closely connected with my arguments on the state, this would have overburdened a volume that is already unconscionably lengthy.

Not unnaturally, in writing these essays over a period of many years, I have incurred many intellectual debts. Some of these debts are acknowledged in particular essays but I would like to record here my lasting thanks to all my graduate students over the years at the University of Essex who have endured in good humour the ramblings of a Marxist state theorist and even come back for more. Over the years the Conference of Socialist Economists has also provided a forum for debates on the state and regulation theory. Simon Clarke, John Holloway and Werner Bonefeld have been unfailingly good-humoured protagonists in this context, and we have enjoyed disagreeing with each other. Other friends or colleagues with whom I have exchanged ideas over the years include Grigoris Ananiadis, Natascha Apostolidou, Ted Benton, Kevin Bonnett, Simon Bromley, Noelle Burgi, Michael Kraetke, Tom Ling, David Marsh, Rob Stones, Hugh Ward, Harold Wolpe and Tony Woodiwiss. Most of the unimportant mistakes are theirs and I can only suggest that, if some minor theoretical misdemeanour or other upsets readers, they ’round up the usual suspects’ from among those just listed. Where more serious offences are concerned, however, I am happy to assume full responsibility. Should this burden prove too great or my discharge of it leave the mob dissatisfied, then some of the following could be unjustly incriminated for having made me stray from the theoretical straight and narrow.

No one who reads these essays will fail to notice the influence of Nicos Poulantzas, whom I still regard as the most important postwar theorist of the state. Although we met only once and exchanged only a couple of letters, I have spent more time and energy struggling with Poulantzas’s work than with that of any other state theorist. This work is often infuriatingly difficult and obscure but it remains the most important starting point for any critical modern account of the capitalist state. Poulantzas apart, the most important postwar influences on my approach have been German. Both Joachim Hirsch and Josef Esser from Frankfurt have in their different ways strongly influenced my approach. Joachim showed me how political economy and political sociology can be integrated theoretically and introduced me to the useful German concept of Vergesellschaftung (societalization); and Jupp Esser has always stressed the need to test state theory against relevant evidence and, for as long as I have known him, has not stinted himself in the German practice of hospitality. Another friend and colleague from Frankfurt, Alex Demirovic, has an intellectual energy and enthusiasm for debate which knows no bounds; he has acted as a sounding board for some of my wilder ideas and has helped to domesticate some of them. For more of the same and for hospitality in Berlin, I would also like to thank Hans Kastendiek. More recently, a rereading of the early work of Claus Offe has reinforced my conviction that the state must be seen as the site of strategic dilemmas as well as structural contradictions.

In 1984 a chance meeting on board a plane bound for Columbus, Ohio, introduced me to Niklas Luhmann and his ideas. His original and startling view that the state is the self-reference of the political system troubled me then and continues to do so. Further meetings with Luhmann followed in Florence in 1986, where I also had the opportunity to discuss the implications of autopoieticist theory with Gunther Teubner. More recently, two colleagues at the Zentrum für Interdisziplinaere Forschung (Bielefeld), Helmut Willke and Rainer Eichmann, have encouraged me to rethink my ideas in relation to (if not in terms of) autopoietic systems. It will be obvious from my essays that I am by no means a born-again systems theorist and that there are many points of divergence and disagreement with autopoieticist theory in my work. But I have certainly learnt much from these encounters and from my attempts to defend a Marxist approach against the challenge of autopoieticist theory.

Discourse analysis has been another influence on my approach. It has provided some useful conceptual tools for my reflections on societalization as well as a flow of questions from puzzled students in search of clarification. Ernesto Laclau has probably been the most influential discourse analyst in my intellectual development – albeit mainly as a silent interlocutor over many years. I do not share his enthusiasm for post-Marxism and, although it may not always be evident, have strong criticisms of the main thrust of his research. But some of the strongest influences on one’s intellectual development come from those with whom one disagrees.

A fifth influence in recent years has been regulation theory. This may be less evident in the current collection, in which the influences are more subterranean; but much of my recent research on postwar British political economy draws heavily on regulation concepts as well as state theory. Trying to integrate them sent me further down the path towards the ‘strategic-relational’ approach. In pursuing this interest I have learnt much from discussions with Robert Boyer and his colleagues at the CEPREMAP institute in Paris. I would particularly like to thank Robert for his support.

Last, but by no means least, an equally chance meeting in 1986 with Citlali Rovirosa Madrazo, whose husband I subsequently became, has since led to many heated discussions about the nature of the state and much else besides. She it was who finally convinced me that my interest in state theory has been developed at the expense of a more basic enquiry into the nature and existence of the state itself. Much Marxist theorizing has focused on the state’s functions. Much Marxist theorizing has focused on the state’s function for capital; the better sort has examined its form and shown how this problematizes these functions; none has put the very existence of the state in question. I do not fully subscribe to Citiall’s thesis that the state does not exist (a claim inspired by Laclau’s somewhat less startling thesis that society does not exist) but her role as theoretical agente provocateuse has still been important. Her influence is so strong in chapter 10 that it directly includes material from her MA thesis and I am happy to dedicate the whole book to Citlali in her new projects.

More formally, I would like to thank the following journals and publishing houses for permission to reprint my material on the state and politics. The Cambridge Journal of Economics and Academic Press for chapter 1; The International Journal of the Sociology of Law and Academic Press for chapter 2; Sage Publications for Chapter 4; West European Politics and Frank Cass Ltd, for chapter 5; Basil Blackwell for chapter 6; Kapitalistate and the Kapitalistate collective for chapter 7; Ideas and Production and the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology for chapter 8; Economy and Society and Routledge Journals for parts of chapter 11; and Edward Elgar for parts of chapter 12.

Before closing I must also thank David Held and Debbie Seymour of Polity Press in Cambridge: David for the incredible good humour and patience with which he waited for this collection to appear; Debbie for doing her best to make up for the delays by speeding it at all stages through publication. A different kind of material support during the last year has come from the Economic and Social Research Council in the form of a personal research grant; I have also benefited greatly from eight months spent at the Zentrum für Interdisziplinaere Forschung (Bielefeld). I am grateful to both bodies for the time and resources to work on unifying these essays and even to develop some new ideas.

Bob Jessop

St Valentine’s Day 1990

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