State and Class Under Peripheral Capitalism

  • Hamza Alavi
Part of the Sociology of “Developing Societies” book series (SDS)


Given the central role that is accorded to the state and public policy in “modernization” theory, it is rather striking to see how little thought is given to an examination of the nature of the state itself, its location within the matrix of a class-divided society, and its relationship with contending social forces. The state is, rather, thought of as an entity that stands outside and above society, an autonomous agency that is invested (potentially) with an independent source of rationality (enriched by “technical assistance” from metropolitan countries), and the capability to initiate and pursue programs of development for the benefit of the whole of society. There is an implicit disjunction between the state and society, slurring over questions about the social foundations of political power and the making of public policy. The problematic of the state is then narrowed down to that of the efficacy of its public institutions and organs to achieve objectives and programs of “modernization,” focusing especially on the respective roles of “ruling elites,” political parties, the bureaucracy, and the military.


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  1. 1.
    The U.S. Social Science Research Council Committee on Comparative Politics, under the chairmanship of Gabriel Almond, played a most influential role during the 1960s in extending the application of functionalist theory to the analysis of “developing societies.” The central ideas of this approach were spelled out by Almond in his “Introduction: A Functional Approach to Comparative Politics,” in G.A. Almond and J.S. Coleman, eds., The Politics of the Developing Areas (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Nicos Poulantzas remains the most outstanding and influential exponent of the political theory of functionalist Marxism. Cf. N. Poulantzas, Political Power and Social Classes (London: New Left Books, 1973).Google Scholar
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  4. 3.
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  14. Harry Goulbourne, ed., Politics and the State in the Third World (London: 1979), a book that offers a useful collection of articles. It will be clear that Saul’s “Nizers” refers to the same class category as Hein and Steinzel’s “Patriziat,” but they arrive at diametrically opposed conclusions.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hamza Alavi

There are no affiliations available

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