Poulantzas’s State, Power, Socialism as a Modern Classic

Bob Jessop

Note: this is the long version of a chapter published in German as ‘Kapitalistischer Staatstyp und autoritärer Etatismus. Poulantzas’s Staatstheorie als moderner Klassik’, in L. Bretthauer et al., eds, Poulantzas Lesen: Zur Aktualität marxistischer Staatstheorie, Hamburg: VSA, 65-81; and retranslated in its short version in 2011 as ‘Poulantzas’s State, Power, Socialism as a modern classic’, in L. Bretthauer et al., eds, Reading Poulantzas, London: Merlin, 42-55.


Poulantzas claimed that State, Power, Socialism, his last major work, completed the theory of the capitalist type of state that Marx and Engels had left unfinished (1978a). While this immodest but provocative claim certainly merits discussion, it cannot be seriously evaluated in a short essay. Instead I will advance four main arguments. First, Poulantzas developed a major original contribution to the theory of the capitalist type of state that goes well beyond most conventional Marxist analyses and contrasts markedly with studies of the state…

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