chapter  5
63 Pages

Structural Functionalism Revisited (2): Accumulation versus Legitimation

WithAxel van dan Berg

Accumulation through commodity exchange, that is, capitalist economic growth, is a profoundly contradictory process as it constantly tends to undermine and destroy the conditions of its own existence and continuity. The capitalist state has been able to gain the required autonomy from the bourgeoisie in latter's own long-term interest only by making use of "formal structures of bourgeois democracy". The idea of a basic contradiction between the accumulation and legitimation functions of capitalist state found wide currency among North American (neo-)Marxists, in The Fiscal Crisis of the State by James O'Connor. Claus Offe defines the capitalist state as a state that "depends on a process of accumulation which is beyond its power to organize", since the capitalist state has, by definition, "no authority to order production or to control it". Offe predicts that capitalist state may suffer crises of "administrative rationality" as its organizational structure becomes technically inadequate to deal with increasingly complex economic functions it is expected to perform.