Debating the state - Rival theories of the state - The capitalist state

3 important questions on Debating the state - Rival theories of the state - The capitalist state

What is the Marxist notion of a capitalist state?

State cannot be understood separately from the economic structure of society.
The state is part of a superstructure that is determined or conditioned by the economic 'base', which can be seen as the real foundation of social life.

Two theories:
1. State is dependent on its economically dominant class (in capitalism: the bourgeoisie).--> oppression
2. Autonomy of the state is only relative, in that the state appears to mediate between conflicting classes, and so maintains the class system itself in existence. --> class antagonism enhanced.

What is the capitalist state theory?

- State cannot be understood except in a context of unequal class power.
- State arises out of, and reflects, capitalist society.
But state can be used constructively during the transition from capitalism to communism. In the end state would wither away. Since the state emerges out of the class system, once the class system has been abolished, the state loses its reason for existence.

What is the neo-marxist view on the capitalist state?

Neo-marxists see the state as the terrain on which the struggle amongst interests, groups and classes is conducted. Rather than being an 'instrument' wielded by a dominant group or ruling class, the state is thus a dynamic entity that reflects the balance of power within society at any given time, and the ongoing struggle for hegemony (dominance of one group over another)

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