(OPE-L) Re: "Marx, Markets and Meatgrinders: An Interview with Bertell Ollman" from Political Affairs

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Fri Mar 05 2004 - 09:29:35 EST

Hi Paolo. I wrote the following before your most recent post but I'll
let it remain "as is".

> Could one say that the theory of the state in Marx is derived from all
> processes that could go wrong in the capitalist market system, processes
> in  relation to which the state has to develop means to deal with on a
> systematic basis?

That would be a one-sided conception.  One shouldn't conceptualize the
state only negatively as a derivative of what "could go wrong".  The state
also has affirmative dimensions where there are struggles over what
"could go right."   The state can be pro-active rather than just defensively
responding to the processes that "could go wrong ....".

This expression "what could go wrong"  is a bit slippery.  E.g. in a sense
one could argue that public housing, public universities, national health
programs, etc. are a response to what "has gone wrong" ... but not
necessarily from the perspective of capitalist class interests.  From the
perspective of real estate companies, the banks, landlords, etc., high
rents for private housing are a manifestation of  "what can go right".
From the perspective of the working-class, public housing is an
indication of  "what can go right".

> What is our basic reading, if any, for this issue?

I'm going to make a suggestion but first I'll preface it with some

a) well, of course, the easiest thing would be to recommend
Marx  (_Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right_; _The Class Struggles
in France_; _The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte_  ,Engels (_Origin
of the Family, Private Property and the State_;  _Anti-Duhring_) and
Lenin (_State and Revolution_).  But,  the object is not to comprehend
the role of the state in all class societies (as Engels attempts in _Origin
of the Family ...._) or to comprehend the role of state policy in an
individual capitalist social formation during a particular historical moment
(as Marx does in _Class Struggles ...), but rather to develop a *theory*
of the state which is *part of*  a  larger understanding of the essential
nature and dynamics of  the bourgeois mode of production.  That is,
we need an *integrated theory*.

b) what is required in terms of reading and research is to:

i) contextualize our understanding of the state-form by considering its
logical place within a systematic dialectical reconstruction of the CMP
in thought.  For instance, we should ponder the *implications* of not
systematically examining the state-form in _Capital_.  We should consider
the role of the major classes (and how e.g. there is class segmentation
yet unity-in-diversity within a class) as a prelude for introducing the
state-form.  Similarly,  part of the contextualization would be to consider
what subjects are presented after an examination of the state-form (e.g.
trade; world market and crises).  In other words, to be able to
systematically reconstruct the CMP in thought, including an adequate grasp
of the state,  we must first have an image of the whole.  Or, putting it
simplistically, we first have to understand how the main pieces fit

ii)  just as Marx's presentation in _Capital_ presumed a critique of
political economy, we would have to grasp the nature of bourgeois
thought on the state since a critique of bourgeois theories of the state
(whether part of the presentation  or not) would be a component part
of our grasp of the state-form.  Furthermore,  we would have to examine
the very rich literature by Marxists on the capitalist state.

Now, having written the above, I'll make a very highly controversial
suggestion for reading.  This suggestion is not because the authors
necessarily "got it right" but rather because it can serve as a good point
of departure.  Its advantages are that the authors:

--  attempt to contextualize an understanding of the state-form
(particularly with reference to an  understanding of the value-form, the
commodity-form, and the capital-form) and thereby attempt to present
an integrated theory of  the CMP which includes the state as a component
part, and;

--  because there is a comprehensive review of the literature on the state
that can  serve as a guide for further research.

With the above qualifications, my recommendation for "basic reading" is --

* Reuten-G. and Williams, M. (1989) VALUE-FORM AND THE STATE: THE
       New York: Routledge

Has anyone else on the list got any better ideas for a single work to begin
one's basic reading?

In solidarity, Jerry

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