Marx, the State and Functional Explanation

  • Paul Wetherly


It is generally accepted that there is no single theory of the state to be found in Marx’s writings but a variety of themes and perspectives, some of which appear to be at odds with each other (Miliband, 1965; Jessop, 1977 and 1984; Barrow, 1993; Wetherly, 1998; Hay, 1999). A common distinction is between an ‘instrumentalist’ conception of the state (most famously expressed in The Communist Manifesto1) and an idea of the state as autonomous from the dominant class (found in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte2). For Miliband (1965) these constitute, respectively, Marx’s ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ views on the state. According to Elster the central question in the Marxist theory of the state is whether it is autonomous with respect to class interests, or entirely reducible to them’ (Elster, 1985, p. 402).


Structural Argument Functional Explanation Dominant Class State Autonomy Marxist Theory 
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Copyright information

© Paul Wetherly 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Wetherly
    • 1
  1. 1.Leeds Metropolitan UniversityUK

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