chapter  4
126 Pages

Structural Functionalism Revisited (1): Structuralism

WithAxel van dan Berg

This chapter presents the basic outlines of Louis Althusser's peculiar brand of "scientific" Marxism. It examines Nicos Poulantzas's application of this approach to construct his famous theory of the capitalist state. The chapter reviews some of the criticisms by fellow Marxists of Poulantzas's initial, most rigidly "structuralist" position and considers his later modifications of that position in response to those criticisms. Althusser credits Karl Marx with "the greatest discovery of human history", comparable in importance only to the discovery of mathematics by the ancient Greeks and the foundation of physics by Galileo. Poulantzas has been criticized from a more orthodox point of view for his apparent "politicism", that is, for failing to give his theory of the capitalist state a "scientific footing" in the economic base, the general laws of motion of capital accumulation, the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, economic crises, and the class struggle.