2005 Summer Readings for

Sociology 924. Theories of the State


This seminar is meant to be an advanced seminar in which students have a fairly solid background in general approaches to the theory of the state in the Marxist and Critical Theory traditions. We do not plan to spend much time at the beginning of the semester reviewing the general approaches, and thus it would be a good idea for students to read extensively from the readings presented below. Where possible we have provided pdf files of the pieces or links to websites on which they can be found.

Readings in Marxist Classics

V.I. Lenin, The State and Revolution

Frederick Engels, The Origins of Private Property, the Family, and the State            

Karl Marx,
        The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/index.htm)
        Class Struggles in France (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/class-struggles-france/index.htm)

Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks (International Publishers, 1971), especially:
      “Problems of Marxism: Economy and Ideology” (pp.407-409)
      “The formation of Intellectuals” (pp.5-14)
      “The Modern Prince” (123-202)
      “State and The Civil Society” (206-275)

General Overviews and exegeses

1. Book-length surveys of state theory

Below are several books which provide broad surveys of theoretical work on the state. The Barrow book is an accessible review of both Marxist and non-Marxist critical approaches. It is a very good starting point for exploring the issues. The Carnoy book is grounded more firmly within the Marxist tradition and includes more discussion of classical works than does the Barrow text. The Alford and Friedland book is the most comprehensive, trying to integrate the full range of sociological discussion so the state and politics within a unifying framework. The Jessop book is the most focused on one strand of Marxist thinking -- a kind of synthesis of systems-theory and structural Marxism. This is the most difficult of these books. There is no need to read all of these, but some of them may be helpful in getting a general sense of the range of thinking on the state.

Clyde Barrow Critical Theories of the State: Marxist, neo-Marxist, Post-Marxist (University of Wisconsin Press 1993)

Martin Carnoy, The State and Political Theory  (Princeton University Press, 1984)

Robert Alford and Roger Friedland, The Powers of Theory (Cambridge University Press, 1985)

Bob Jessop, The Capitalist State: Marxist Theories and Methods (NYU Press: 1982) or State Theory: putting capitalist states in their place (Penn State Press 1990)

2.  Essays and book chapters analyzing varieties of Marxist theories of the state

Jon Elster, Making Sense of Marx, chapter 7. Politics and the state, pp. 398-428

Colin Hay, Marxism and the State, chapter 8 in Marxism and Social Science, edited by Andrew Gamble, David Marsh and Tony Tant (University of Illinois Press 1999) pp.152-174

Tom Mayer, The State, chapter 6 in Analytical Marxism (Sage 1994), pp. 172-202

David Gold, Clarence Lo and Erik Olin Wright, “Recent Developments on Marxist Theories of the State”, Monthly Review, October and November, 1975.


Additional readings elaborating specific approaches to the state


Erik Olin Wright, "Class and Politics," chapter 5 of Interrogating Inequality (Verso 1994) pp. 88-106

Fred Block, The Ruling Class Does Not Rule,” Socialist Review No.33, 1977

Bob Jessop, “Recent Theories of the Capitalist State”, chapter 1 in Jessop, State Theory: putting capitalist states in their place (Penn State Press 1990)

Claus Offe.  “Structural Problems of the Capitalist State: Class rule and the political system. On the selectiveness of political institutions”, in Von Beyme (ed). German Political Studies, vol. I (Sage, 1974).pp. 31-54

Claus Offe, “The Capitalist State and the Problem of Policy Formation”, in Leon Lindberg (ed), Stress and Contradiction in Contemporary Capitalism (D.C. Heath, 1975) pp. 125-144

Claus Offe, “The Crisis of Crisis Management: elements of a political Crisis Theory”, in Claus Offe, Contradictions of the Welfare State (London: Hutchinson, 1984) pp. 35-61

Adam Przeworski, Capitalism and Social Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 1985),

            chapter 4. "The Material Bases of Consent", pp.133-169   

            chapter 5. “Material Interests, Class Compromise and the State”  pp.171-203.

Goran Therborn. What Does the Ruling Class Do When It Rules? (London: NLB, 1978).pp 23-48; 49-67; 68-87; 87-97, 118-119,  129 - 139, 144 - 153

Robert Alford and Roger Friedland, The Powers of Theory: capitalism, the state and democracy (Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp.1-14, 408-426

Nicos Poulantzas, “The Problem of the Capitalist State,” New Left Review #58, 1969

Ralph Miliband, “Poulantzas and the Capitalist State”, New Left Review #82, 1973