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“The state in capitalist society” is a book written by Ralph Miliband. This book is the author’s masterpiece. The intention of the author in this work is to expose the capitalist state, “showing that it is not a neutral set of institutions, reflecting some general interest by way of democratic practices, but that instead it is the state of the dominant interest in a divided society” (Mead, 2008, Para (Para 1).
Miliband wrote this book in a plain manner, enabling the reader to understand the book, describing the complicated social relationships in such a way that social science students and other interested people can understand his work (Barker, 1978). There is an evaluation of the “capitalist state” in a broad perspective in the book: giving out examples from all the “Western type World”.
This gives room for a notion of all-inclusiveness on the author’s side (Anonymous: Reclaim the “state debate, 2010). “The state in the capitalist society” was written in the course of the mid 60’s and was initially published in 1969. According to Mead (2008), after the book being written, it “became a standard text in political science, sociology and the study of social policy for the next decade” (Para 2). The arguments presented in this book today remain to be sharp and perceptive.
According to Anonymous (The state of the capitalist society – 40 years on, 2009), this book has played a major role in the renewal of both “state theory and Marxist political thought” (Para 1). “The state in capitalist society” is a piece of work that has remained to be important and has played a major role in the development of the social as well as the political theory beginning from the mid twentieth century.
“The Sate in Capitalist Society” Review
In the book, “The state in capitalist society”, Ralph Miliband offers a Marxist critical assessment of the liberal theories concerning modern capitalist state, and mostly, the assessment of “pluralism”. In this assessment, the author attains success. This author portrays pluralism as an ideological construct playing a role to make justifiable, a “state system” which upholds an intrinsically separated society, and in this manner bringing forth “relations of domination and subordination” (Mead, 2008).
However, what this author does not carry out is to sufficiently connect with the “nature of the state itself”, instead, he illustrates “what the state is not” (Mead, 2008 Para 4). There is no point at which the author offers a comprehensive evaluation of the state from a “Marxist” point of view.
It is even clear that there is no “Marxist politics” in the entire book. But this weakness or limitation does not make the book lose its importance because the purpose of the book was just to offer a critical analysis of “liberal conceptions”. This book remains to be a very important book, and especially when it is considered that it provides readers with “a clearly posed critique of bourgeois ideology on the state; and it provides a series of historical examples of mid-20th century state activity in capitalist societies” (Mead, 2008, Para 5).
This book presents an unrelenting and solid challenge to the present political compromise by carrying out the presentation of the drastic option of taking on socialism as the main issue encountered by civilization and the critical circumstance of carrying out substantial advancement (Smith and Harvey, 2008).
Giving an illustration that control of capitalism was quite all-inclusive to a level that there was no possibility of attaining half-done reforms, the author of this book makes an effort to give an explanation of the way the society has been able to avoid socialism, and he does this by carrying out an exploration of the way its claims have not achieved success to convince a number of intellectuals and the prospective supporters of a substitute order.
Carrying out an evaluation of “the power of economic leaders and the leading class”, Panitch (2009) points out that this book also “probes the state’s claims to legitimacy, defines the purpose and the role of the governments, and analyses the concepts of reform and repression” (Para 1).
More so, Panitch (2009) observes that “depicting how the state reemerged from behind the mystification of the political system and its behavior to become the central theme of the political studies, this book combines a potential appeal with thorough, detailed scholarship” (Para 1).
The state servants and the notion of “imperfect competition” are as well discussed in the book. Miliband has made a great contribution to “The state in capitalist society” as a writer (Anonymous: New Left Review, 2007.). Before he died, this author was among the prominent “thinkers on the Left not only in Britain but across in the whole world” (Panitch, 2009 Para 2)
According Anonymous (Reclaim the “state debate, 2010), most of the people who had engaged in the “Labor Movement” in the course of the 1960s and had been able to identify the weakness of this party, experienced a feeling to fight against reformism and the author of this book, Miliband, was among these people.
Basing on this book, the author presented arguments that “the limits of social democracy were not contingent but were rooted in capitalist social relations themselves” (Para 20). Of course this author did not accept the notion that “socialism could be brought about by electoral means alone and thought that any political changes needed to be supported by extra-parliamentary working class struggle” (Anonymous:. Reclaim the “state debate, 2010 Para 20).
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This book, as pointed out by Anonymous (Reclaim the “state debate”, 2010) was basically aimed at “bourgeois liberal ideas” which considered the society as consisting of “free individuals defined as such in the sphere of circulation and which saw the state as a democratic arena equally accessible to all individuals and pressure groups” (Anonymous: Reclaim the “state debate”, 2010, Para 21).
Through this book, Ralph Miliband looked for a way to convince people that there was a possibility to talk of classes, and justify the definition of the state by Marx as “a committee managing the bourgeois affairs” (Anonymous: Reclaim the “state debate”, 2010).
According to Kirkpatrick, Katsiaficas and Emery (1987), in this book, Miliband presents an argument in a most convincing way that,
The state is in capitalist society represents the class interests of the monopolized corporate structure and that most of the paraphernalia of politics with which sociologists and political scientists choose to deal in the fifties and sixties such as political parties, elections, and education about government and politics, are simply mechanisms to legitimate capitalist state (Kirkpatrick, Katsiaficas and Emery, 1987, Page 309).
Kirkpatrick, Katsiaficas and Emery (1987) further point out that the state is an institution and tool that exercise power in favor of the corporations, basically for the reason that it is subjugated by these corporations, and there exist immense links among “individual corporate personages and specific officials of government” (Kirkpatrick, Katsiaficas and Emery, 1987 Page 309).
There exists a similarity between the analysis carried out by Ralph Miliband in his book and that of the New Left, basically for the reason that Miliband’s analysis relies on the work of Antonio Gramsci (Italian communist) and “Gramsci’s analysis of the concept of hegemony” (Kirkpatrick, Katsiaficas and Emery, 1987 Page 309). According to Miliband (1969), hegemony is defined as;
An order in which a certain way of life and thought is dominant, in which one concept of reality is diffused throughout society and all its institutional and private manifestation, informing with its spirit all tastes, morality, customs, religious and political principles and all social relations, particularly in their intellectual and moral connotations.
In a general sense, hegemony refers to the spontaneous loyalty that any dominant social groups obtain from the masses by virtue of its supposedly superior function in the world of production. It is the totality of a world view, the enormous complex of prejudices, assumptions, half-thought-out notions and profound ideas (Miliband, 1969: Page 180).
Ralph Miliband’s book, “The state in capitalist society” is a piece of work that has remained to be an important work and has played a major role in the development of the social as well as the political theory beginning from the mid twentieth century. In this book, Miliband presents arguments which, to this day, remain to be “sharp and insightful”.
He has presented his ideas in a plain manner so that any one who reads his work can have to understand his ideas with ease. He offers a Marxist critical evaluation of the liberal theories pertaining to modern capitalist state, and mostly, the evaluation of “pluralism”. In this evaluation, Miliband attains great success.
He depicts pluralism as an ideological construct playing a role to make justifiable, a “state system” which upholds an intrinsically separated society, and in this manner bringing forth “relations of domination and subordination. An insistent and firm challenge to the present political compromise is presented in the book by carrying out the presentation of the strong option of taking on socialism as the main concern encountered by civilization and the critical circumstance of carrying out considerable advancement.
However, the weakness that can be seen in the book is that the author does not offer an all-inclusive examination of the state from a “Marxist” point of view. In the whole book, it can be seen that there is no comprehensive examination of the “Marxist politics”. But on the other hand, such a weakness does not render the book to be of less importance because the purpose of the book was merely to give out a critical analysis of “liberal conceptions”.
This book maintains its great importance, especially when it is put in to consideration that it offers to readers a noticeably created analysis of bourgeois philosophy on the state; and it provides a chain of past cases of “mid-20th century state activity in capitalist societies”
List of References
Anonymous, (2010). Reclaim the “state debate”. Web.
Anonymous, (2009). The state of the capitalist society – 40 years on. Web.
Anonymous, (2007). New left review. California: University of California Press.
Barker, C., (1978). The state as capital. Web.
Kirkpatrick, G. R., Katsiaficas G. N., and Emery, M. L. (1987). Introduction to critical sociology: New York: Ardent Media.
Mead, S. P., (2008). A brilliant critique of liberal theories on the state. Web.
Miliband, R. (1969). The state in capitalist society. London: Widenfeld and Nicolson.
Panitch, L., (2009). The state in capitalist society book description. Web.
Smith, N. and Harvey D. (2008). Uneven employment: nature capital, and production of space. Georgia: University of Georgia Press.