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Poulantzas, Nicos (1936–1979)

Christos Boukalas


Born in Athens, Greece in 1936, Nicos Poulantzas, sociology professor at Vincennes University, is considered as one of the most original post-war Marxist thinkers, and was an outstanding contributor to the theory of the state and socio-political struggles, theoretical areas crucial for revolutionary practice. His work provides indispensable means for the analysis of sociopolitical dynamics, and the development of revolutionary strategy. While Karl Marx , Vladimir Lenin , and Antonio Gramsci are constant influences in his work, his first book, Political Power and Social Classes (PPSC), is heavily informed by the structuralism of the French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser. In PPSC Poulantzas attempts to establish politics and the state as a distinctive field of study while insisting that the state does not “have” power of its own but is a crucial mediator of class relations/dynamics. Thus, state functions are determined by class struggle and, in the context of the capitalist state, tend to systemically reproduce capitalist hegemony. PPSC offers an elaborate set of notions (e.g., “type of state,” “state form,” “type of regime”) that are henceforth essential for state-theoretical analysis (and historical materialism more generally), while the notion of the power bloc, is crucial for articulating class interests with state power. Nonetheless, because of its structuralist emphasis ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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