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Bureaucracy and class: The Algerian dialectic

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The general proposition formulated in this paper is that a bureaucracy under socialism plays a catalytic role in class formation, but does not in itself constitute a class. Rather, the bureaucracy may, under the historical conditions described here:

  1. 1.

    Seek to reproduce itself as a social category, thereby insuring the perpetuation of its conditions of existence.

  2. 2.

    Promote the interest of the social forces from which it issued or with which it is affiliated, enabling these to emerge as full-fledged classes.

  3. 3.

    Seek political bargaining power by making it possible for new classes or fractions of classes to emerge. This is faciliteted, in the case of Algeria, by the specific socioeconomic configurations of a post-colonial society that claims to be building socialism. There is room for the manipulation of the state apparatus for purposes orther than that of the public good.

In this treatment of the Algerian bureaucracy, I have confined myself to the role of the bureaucracy as a determinate social category. I have not examined the interaction between the social forces catalyzed by the bureaucracy and the state apparatus. Nor have I examined the dialectical response of the Algerian people to this particular concatenation of power. The question also remains whether the approach presented here is valid in cases analogous to contemporary Algeria. And this leads to the ultimate question, that of the historical continuity of such bureaucratic behavior since the very origins of the state as a socio-economic formation.

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Marnia Lazreg is Assistant Professor of Sociology, New York School for Social Research, New York.

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Lazreg, M. Bureaucracy and class: The Algerian dialectic. Dialect Anthropol 1, 295 (1975). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00244594

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  • State Apparatus
  • Socialist System
  • Agrarian Reform
  • Socialist Society
  • Petty Bourgeoisie