Some comments by Ollman on Marxism & Political Science – Part Three

The excerpts below pretty much follow on from the last post on this…

The main subjects treated by Marx’s theory of the state, taken in the above manner, are as follows: (1) the character of the state as a social power, embodying the kind of cooperation required by the existing division of labour, that has become independent of the individual producers; (2) the effect of social-economic relations pertaining to class rule on state forms and activities and the state’s function in helping to reproduce these relations; (3) the effect of state forms and activities on the production and realisation of value; (4) the control, both direct and indirect, over the state exercised by the imperatives of the economic system; (5) the state’s role in the class struggle, especially through legitimating existing institutions and practices and repressing those who dissent from them; (6) the conditions in which the state acquires a degree of autonomy from the dominant economic class; (7) the ways in which politics is ordinarily understood, the social origins of this political ideology, and the role it plays in helping the state perform its distinctive functions, particularly those of repression and legitimation; and (8) the possibility inherent in the foregoing, taken as historical tendencies, for the emergence of a form of state that embodies communal control over social power, which is to say, that seeks to abolish the basis of the state itself.

Dr Ollman is a professor of politics at NYU, with a particular background in Marxist dialectics.

Dr Ollman is a professor of politics at NYU, with a particular background in Marxist dialectics.

In practically every instance, Marx’s theory of the state is concerned with locating relations inside a system and depicting the effect of that system on its relational parts.  Without some grasp of what is happening here, many of his particular claims will appear confused and contradictory.  The apparent contradiction between statements that seem to treat the state as an ‘effect’ of economic ’causes’ and those that present a ‘reciprocal interaction’ between all social factors offers one such difficulty.  Another is the way Marx treats past and possible future developments in the state as somehow part of its present forms.  A third, suggested by the first two, is that the concepts that express such ties have at least partly different meanings from those found in ordinary speech.  Only [a] resort to Marx’s method can clear up these and related problems.

The above is excerpts from Ollman, B. (2003) Dance of the Dialectic – Steps in Marx’s Method.  University of Illinois Press, USA.


How to apply these to Bermuda, to an analysis of the Bermudian state?  To what degree does the Bermudian bureaucracy constitute an autonomous entity, or does our small size lead to reduced autonomy for the state?  And yet we retain a strong public sector union, notably the BPSU, but also the BIU and the BUT, which may, to a degree, serve as a counter to reduced autonomy, in some ways?

Also, with the division of the capitalist class here between the races and, accordingly, the two parties (the ‘Black’ capitalists mostly in the PLP, the ‘White’ capitalists mostly in the UBP, now the OBA), to what degree does which party is in power affect the state in relation to competing capitalist interests, both local capitalists and the international capital domiciled here – along with the comprador capitalists?

#5 very interesting – the legitimation of formal politics and the delegitimation of informal politics, in the sense of demonstrations and civil disobedience, but not in the sense of cabals, lodges and old school networks, an all too endemic feature regardless of which party holds power.  Plus, the restriction of political, ‘the political’, to the constraints of ‘liberal democracy’ in the Westminster parliamentary form and the opposition to a participatory, protagonistic democratic alternative, where ‘the people’ become an active participant rather than a passive spectator and granter or occasional consent? #7 relevant/insightful here too.

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