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A Bourgeois Crítique

@ Frank Parkin
"The opening passage of Parkin's Mar.xism and
Class Theor|; A Bourgeots Critique ts savage'
sarcastic and ùãautifuity construõted, and the
quality is maintained throughout the book'"
LiterarY SuPPlentent l:', lt,, l-..',;:.'È; Ï'
,lt .,, ...r...', ''- -.'t' L'.-' '

"This is an unusually well-written essay' Its- wit' lt


sense of irony, and elägance of phras-e-add.stylistic


power tô a trenchani critique of Marxist class

\j, il'l
.):, *'¿1' j
iheories. . . . In sum, Parkin has succeeded not only
in offering us an upjto-date "bourgeois" critique of
Marxism but also in elaborating a genuinely'neo-
VjeUerian' position.." -Contemporary Socíology

Columbia Univ ersity Press/,Ngw
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rki n
Printed in U-S.A.
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Marxism and Class Theory

Mørxism and CIøss Theory:
A Bourgeois Critique

Frank Parkin

Columbia University Press New York


Copyright @ Frank Parkin t979

AII rights reserved
To Rosø
Published in t979 in
the United States of America by
Columbia University press
Library of Congress Cataloging in publication Data
Parkin, Frank.
Marxism and class theorv.
Bibliography: p.
Includes index.
1. Communism and society. 2. Marxian school
sociology. 3. Social classes. I. Title. of
HX542.P28 335.4'1 79_.1.4222
ISBN O-231{)488O-Z (ctoth)
ISBN 0-23L-0 4BB1-S (paper)
Printed in Great Britain

clothbound editions of Columbia university press books are smyth-iewn

and printed on peÍnanent and durable acid'-free paper.
*..ff#f, \


Acknowledgments viü
Preface ix


L Introduction 3
2 The 'boundary problem'
in Marxism and sociology Ll
3 Internal class cleavages
and the ethnic factor 29
4 Social closure as exclusion t 4
5 Social closure as usurpation 74
6 Dual closure 89
7 Social cleavages and
the forms of state A19


8 On the transition to socialism 145
9 The dictatorship of the proletariat
and social democracy 176
Bibliography 2O5
Index 213
t\^1 ----.-1 .
LröII rerlfs Preface
- ^sr\lf\_rvvt\-

The author and publishers are grateful to the following who have Lenin's wry comments on the efflorescence of Marxism in Russia
given permission for material to be reproduced: our own time and
the turn oi tt. century seem quite pertinent to
Figure 7 page 79, frtst appeared in G. D. Newbould and j. R. place:
Sparkes, 'Managers' Pay', New Socíety February 17, 1977, p. 237. ,Marxistbookswerepublishedoneafteranother,Marxistjour.
nals and newsptpe.Jwere founded, nearly everyone became
Tlble 1 page 80, is reproduced with the permission of the Controller
of Her Majesty's Stationery Office, from Royal Commission on the Marxist, Marxiãts were flattered, Marxists were courted and the
Distribu tion of Income and W ealth, Report No. 3, (197 6), Table 25, p - 55. took publishers rejoiced at the extraordinary, ready sale of Marx-
ist literature
Lenin was not too enthusiastic about a species of Marxism that
to be more congenial !" tlt literati than to the class that
"plãã."a he would
.åJUy *utt"red. On these'grounds alone, it is unlikely that
the Marxist products that have been
t u"J f.fa very d.ifferently aibout
manufacturá and marketed in western universities over the past
decade or so. Contemporary western Marxism, unlike its classical
oredecèssor, iswholly the creation of academic social theorists - more
|;;;tfi*lly;ih. .r".tío., of the nêw professoriate that rose uP on the
wa,ue of university expansion in the 1960s. The natural constituency
of this Marxism iÁ noi of course the working class, but the massed
ranks of undergraduates and postgraduate students in the social
sciences; its content and design *utl it out exclusively
for use in the
lecture theatre, the seminai.oo*, and the doctoral dissertation-
science faculties throughout *""itttt Europe and beyond
of diligent
bands of research studãnts and their mentois busily combingthrough
the pages of ,Theoriæ of Surplus Value in search of social reality'
Preface Preface
As if to make secure its riewly-won respectability, professorial since a great deal of that literature is intrinsically forgettable. Even in
Marxism has, in the manner of all exclusive bodies, -curri.d out its being selective I run the risk of being charged with paying undue
discours_e through the medium of an arcane language not readily
respect to certain arguments to which the only appropriate resPonse
accessible to the uninstructed. Certainly r,o-onã cãuld possibly
is incredulous laughter. It is for the reader to judge whether my own
accuse the Marxist professoriate of spreading the kind of ideas rikely
attempts at solemnity have been entirely successful.
to cause a stampede to the bar¡icades or the picket lines. Inceed, th;
I should like to express my gratitude to Steven Lukes for his sharp
uncomplicated theory that has traditionalþ inspired that sort of
and constructive comments on a preliminary rlraft of Part One. My
extra-mural activity is_now rather loftily dismisseá as ,vulgar, Man<-
colleague, R. W. |ohnson, took time off from more important things
ism - literally, the Marxism of the ,common people,. iÉis is not
to read the entire manuscript and to produce in response a kind of
necessarily to suggest that the new breed of Mårxists are less dedi-
monograph of his own which forced me to make extensive revisions
cated than the old to the revolutionary transformation of society; their
to the original draft. My debt to him is especially great.
presence- at the gates of the winter palace is perfectly conceivable,
provided that satisfactory arrangements courd Ëe madé for sabbaticar
leave- F.P
Noaember 1978
Classical Marxism, including the applied or vurgar version
e-spoused by the working-class movement, counterfosed itself
sharply to bourgeois sociar theory, the intellectual construct of its
class, qpponents. Professorial Marxism, on the other hand, is less
fitted to adopt such a stance, rooted as it is in that most bourgeois of all
western institutions. This is ilrustrated by the fact, to be dielt upon
later, that many of the recent contributións to Marxist class anaÇsis
bear the unmistakable imprint of bourgeois sociology in particurar
that version of it associated with tñe writing" ãf - lvf.* Weber.
Nevertheless, there is perhaps something to Èe said, if only on
grounds of courtesy, for respecting the stanãard Marxist classification
of all non-Marxist conceptsãnd üieories as bourgeois. As the subtitre
of this book indicates, I hãve willingly agreed to h"ave ihis labJ
o1 to my own work. Given what now passes for Marxist tï"ory,
almost any_ imaginable bourgeois alternaiive seems preferable.
This preference is made qaiqcutudy clear in part One, ,Rethinking
Class Analysis', in which ihe WeUe¡an concept of social closure
used as the basis for an alternative moder of crass to that recom-
mended by Marxism. No-one will fail to notice that the same moral
and intellectual prejudices are present throughout the discussion
Parts Two and Three.
The division of the book into three parts is meant to signal the fact
that each of the broad issues treated.-courd be read u, ñ-,or" or ress
sePârate essays. The parts are connected more by their relation
to a
commÒn general theme than by an unbroken narrative thread.
who prefer that dramatic format in which all expository stranãs
neatly tied together in the final act will have good äause fá. complåir,t.
The reader is also entitred to advance warnirig that what
folrowå i" .,ot
intended to be an exhaustive review of the \i'arxist riterature
and social theory. This does not call for much in the *"y
"i "poiogy

t \ i/ .i^^
tôl "'¡l^
Rethinking class analysis





ì Orre of the objects of class theory has been to identify the principal
line of social cleavage within a given system - the structuial 'fault'
running through society to which the most serious disturbances on
the political landscape are thought to be ultimately traceable. The
geological metaphor of stratification, with its attendant imagery of
snrtãces and substructures, has been employed freely in the sei¿iie of
both Marxism and sociology as part of the theoretical discourse on
class. Such imagery would seem, however, particularly congenial to
Marxism, given its fondness for the contrast between the óutward
appearances of social reality and the underlying structures that sup-
posedly contain the essence of things. one of Marxism's various
c-laims to- higher understanding is thal it enjoys privileged access to
these subterranean levels of meaning closed off to tlie humdrum
þourgeois mi_nd. Thus, one of the routine indictments of sociological
and, above all, Weberian analyses of class is that they are pitched at
what is solemnly called the wrong level of reality. Thatìs to say, directed to the .manifest forms of sociai.inequality as
revealed in the distúbutive system, instead of upon the concealed
forces of the productive system that are believed to govern the pattern
of distribution and much else besides.t
W-eberian lenses social classes do appear to take
-_S*e,e-n_ lhrough
of-thq agfreg!¡ion of gioups lhat share a c^oinmon set of
.fifg:,chances and circumstances, as mèasurea Uy_iþe colygntlg¡al
i¡rdices of distribution. For Marxism, by contrast, ciasseJ aiã ãääned
in terms.of syÀtemicproperties, independently of the social make-up
of constituent groups. thé inuullt antagonism between capital and

Marxísm ønd class theory
labour imposes its own intractabre class realit¡r,
however much this differ pro-
maf by the complexities of distribution. The ers are organizeä in'social and political formations that
material of class analysis thát Weberiur, .r"ug. human raw from those of their counterparts in England or scandinavia.
designates as ,actors,,
thereby singling out the role of .";;:;;;
agency and votition, is
in. fu.t that each of the former two sets of workers is identified
transformed by Marxist usage i^t" th; ,embodiments, oolitically and morally far more closely with its own bourgeoisie than
repositories of systemic forcãs. ";tus of or ïuitn itt co-wôrkers in the subordinate ethnic grouP suggests that the
In this respect, if no other, the Marxist position collective social attributes of those who embody labour are of decisive
affinity with those bourgeois models of class that has some rough importance in analysing class formation. In many cases it actually
boundaries by reference to the arrangement
demarcate social
of positions in the divi-
,"Ë*r to matter whether incumbents and embodiments are black or
sion of labour. Dahrendorf, vrew white, Catholic or Protestant-
i .t,
Marxist with the realm of increas-
as its mark of theoretical obscures from view
r1 of the some line of other than
,ì" :tt'
ii and To
L'\..1' religious, linguistic, and sexual divi-
,{ r/


The awkwardness of this theoreticar stance becomes evident

whenever groups act in blatant nonconformity with their
.assigned place in the formal scheme of things. M.oir_,i.,
has been greatly
exe¡cised by the need to account for the
tendency for the embodiments of rabour to act politicaty
well_known il
in *uy" ,,ot
'l altogether consistent with the stated opposition
iìi its representatives. Be.hayigyral i.."g.rtlu'riti.s
towarás .upiiát ur,a The strength of the Marxist case in this respect depends very much
put down to ideologícal disturbanîes whose of this kind arå usually upon the-vatidity of the explanatory claims made on behalf of the
il .ff;dr, ìh;"fi ,..f ,mode of production'. It is upon this concePt that so
enough, are not expected to be permanent; as the rnaster concept
b-ecomes subject to increasing strain, the correspondence
social order many of the t-heoretical pretensions of latter-day Marxism are-based,
class alignments and tl," brrt cleavage at the
between demárcating as it allegedly does the place where iclealist thought ends

is thought to become ever closer.
lfrt"* and the sciJnce of hiãtorical rnaterialisrn begins. It must however be
The m-ost damaging weakness in any model reported that its explanatory performance so far cannot truly be said
of class that relegates
sociar co'ectivities to the status of meíe incumbents to have lived up to its star billing. Part of the trouble arises from
embodiments of systemic forces, is that it cannot
of position's, or serious ambiguities in its definition and usage; there is, in particular,
i account properry for some uncertãinty as to whether the mode of production is to be
.those complexities that arise when racial, religious, e*rrricl unã se*uul
divisions run at a tangent to formal class divisions. understood as a conceptually distinct element of the social system, or
i'l by conflict between .Jigio,rs
societies marked as a kind of shorthand expression for the entire institutional struc-
do not exhibit the ture.
same type of class structure "..".¡ui.ã*iunities
as societies racking ' -On
r1l .or,ni¡i-not- the first reading, productive relations are treated as con-
"".¡, and pioirty
withstanding similarities in their occupational sistems
ceptually separable from other social relations and institutions, the
relations. white south African workers ..d úrJt;;;;äåíiä.u-
chãracter of which they are held to shape, influence, or determine,
It 4


Marxism and class theory

' Introduction
according to tas'r . On the second reading, productive
are defined in a far more catholic sense to encompass i' 'R"lutions of production and forces of production cannot be
key institutions of society, so rendering any distinction of the
defined independently of the concept of their combination and
a set of independent and dependent ira¡atles blt*".., rt y attempt to identify the forces of production or the relations of
largely inappro_ '
i production in a given society in the absence of an elaborated
The tendency among contemporary Marxist
writers to concept of mode of production must be doomed to empiricism. 'a
tainly between these- two positions is understandable hover uncer_
right endorsement of the füst position is rett .r,å o.r,- It is not only empiricism that is put to flight by this new formulation
to u" ,,oior,gã.?å.riure, but also the notion of the productive system as a causal agency. Since
given its kinship to the now dìscredited Marxism
of Second
tional vintage. This is the interpretation that draws',r"ry Interna- all major institutions are directly implicated in the mode of produc-
those aspects of Marx's theory that set up a metaphoricar
rr.u*rily or, don, and are indeed part of its very definition, there is no separate,
between base and superstructure, the former naving distinction external realm of social life upon which it could make its impress. It is
u *oru indistinguishable from the social system as a whole. Thus, in pre-
determinate rerationship to the ratter. In this .rrr.o*ili.utuã o. lu""
capitalist social formations, according to Anderson,
,,1:]ï,tlïji1"s of production are located firmly in the base, and ""r,.*u
rnoeeo/ ahost coterminous with it; changes in 'The "superstructures" of kinship, religion, law or the state
this rever urtimatery
give rise to correspoldiig changes in necessarily enter into the constitutive structure of the mode of
institutions. 'The hánd miùgives foltical, legal, and other
|ou a society with the feudal lord, productión . . . In consequence, pre-capitalist modes of produc-
the steam mill a society ,rltn tfrä industrial tion cannot be defined except via their political, legal and ideo-
capitalist., The main
doctrinal support for this case is of co.rrse provided logical superstructures, since these are what determine the type
magisterial statement in the prefac e to theCritique potitiät
by the terse,
of Eiono*y , of extra-economic coercion that specifies them.'5
a formulation in which ,forces, a.,d ,..latiorrr, áf
clearly distinguished from one another and
p*ã.,ãã. uru The spectre of vulgar determinism has been here exorcised by the
marked out on their sirnple theoretical expedient of ensuring that no important areas of
eventual collision course..The mode of production
in this schema is the social remain to be determined. As a consequence, the mode of
lhus quite narrgw-ly. and sharply defiried, and singled-o*'., ,n"
motor force underlying system .îu.g". production can hardly serve as an explanatory variable of any signifi-
The rejection by contemporary Maåists cance, let alone of surpassing importance. Major transformations in
of this apparently embar_
social structure cannot be accounted for by reference back to prior
:3ttilqr¡legacy bequeathedthem by rheorists of the second Interna-
largely on the grounds trrat tne base-superstructure changes in the mode of production when this itself is defined by the
promotes an oversimplified view of the role model ,,v,ery institutions being transformed.
tive relations. Produðtiv-e rerations .u.,.,ot.u" ciraractu, oip*a.."-
The model of the social system favoured by contemPorary western
located withirî .,ur-
rowly conceiveã material base for the reason " Marxism is one in which all elements are intricately related, so that the
that any such rerations
automatically_ impinge upon legar and meaning and significance of any one element derive from its place in
poriticar institution, tnut rîr]
round the rights of property aná their the total configuration - rather in the way that any one dot in a
Legal and politi_ , pointilliste painting only 'makes sense' in relation to all the other dots
cal forms are not separate entities determined
"i-rfo."u^" the relations of that make up the complete picture. The mode of production is no
p:oduction, they already are part and,parcel of the
,Jf.ã"."ãi;;;"._ longer one important element among others; it has become the total
By- the same token, suspicion is gestalt. Thus Poulantzas:
. arso cast upon the classicar distinc-
tion between forces and relations of productìon,
since this is to sug- 'By mode of productíon we shall designate not what is generally
gest that some elements of production
fall outside the orbit of sociar marked out as the economic (i.e. relations of production in the
way r", u" Ln*urranred emphasis on strict sense), but a specific combination of various structures and
tne role ot technology, and more maddening talk
about steåm mills. practices . . . A mode qf production, as Engels stated schemati-
consequently, the modem Marxist tendenc"y
tinction between forces-and rerations of pÀauction
i, t" d;;r"l;;rt. ar"_ cally, is composed of different levels or instances, the economic,
category 'mode of production,.
into the incrusive political, ideological and theoretical . . .'6

In this intricate scheme of things nothing can be known or
Marxism and class theory
ii explained until a' is known, parts cannot
totality is analvsed' Everything ¡eacts to
be analysed until the proletariat in Soviet society is not so remarkably different from that of
and feeds back upon every- workers under welfare capitalism. Access to properfy and the dis-
thing,else, so bringing auoutîne unirìcation
of those two domains tribution of its fruits under the socialist mode of production appears
I known as base and superstructure. In the
process, Marxism,s to bear more than a passing resemblance to the rules of allocaticn
I key explanatory concept turns into nothing more than a synonym for enshrined in the capitalist productive system. If two such contrasting
the social structure itÄell occasi"rruìry--urquerading
I principal parts.
as one of its modes of production can give rise to apparently similar distributive
I outcomes - at least in respect of the class that really counts - the
Marxist case for the displacement of one mode by the other is not
,ii exactly given a boost. It is therefore not wholly surprising to learn that
ritl the economic system of the developed socialist states is best regarded
as a variant of the capitalist mode of production and does 'not consti-
) III tute a fundamentally different societal type' after all.z Since the
rll capitalist mode of production reigns eve4rwhere supreme it naturally
follows that the theory of the classless society remains unscathed by
rl history. Of such stufi is Marxist science made.


All this seems to reinforce the point that distributive arrangements
a4d--soJ¡Al forrnations should not be regarded as side effects of a
p.q:!ç!tlql productive system, such that the latter is granted some sort
of theoretical primacy over the former. And this remains so however
much the proposition is hedged about with qualifications concerning
the labyrinthine movements and delayed-action effects of a mysteri-
"ii,j ous'final instance'. Structured inequalities arising from cornmunal or

sexual divisions do not require any specific type of productive system

ìr¡ in which to flourish. The historical and cornparative record would
suggest that they are able to adapt themselves remarkably well to all
known variations in the division of labour and properfy rights.
In an earlier period it might have been argued that these divisions
and conflicts between communal groups were peripheral to the
overwhelming reality of class antagonism, and could justifiably be
irj relegated to the theoretical sidelines. But now that racial, ethnic, and
retrigious conflicts have moved towards the centre of the political stage
in many industrial societies, any general model of class or stratifica-
tion that does not fully incorporate this fact must forfeit all credibility.
This is a theme that recurs throughout the chapters in Part One, and
which lies behind the proclamation that some rethinking of class
analysis is overdue.

Marxism and class theory

of this posirion see Crompto
I å".il"ffi:îf ïËil?T."", n and,Gubbay.t.eTz
and Moore t945:242.
P:"t: and
? nrnctess
tr Hirst 7975:69.
5 Anderson 7924:4034-
6 Poulantzas -1973:13-
7 Crompton and Gubbay .t977:.j,9. The 'boundary problem'
in Marxism and sociology

The persistent attractions of Marxist class theory have almost cer-

tainly been boosted by the less than inspiring alternative offered by
academic sociology. In so far as there is any sort of tacitly agreed upon
model of class among western social theorists it takes the form of the
familiar distinction between manual and non-manual labour. No
other criterion for identifying the class boundary seems to enjoy such
widespread acceptance among those who cond.úct investigatíons into
family structure, political attitudes, social imagery, life-styles, educa-
tional attainment, and similar enquiries that keep the wheels of
empirical sociology endlessly turning Paradoxicall however
the manuaVnon
research purposes, it is not commonly represented as a
model of cláss cleavagè ánd_ rç'nflica. ThàTG añalr ihe iwò main
îõããf caff;iäs*ãisti.güËËeã=Ëy sociology for plrposes of class
analysis are not invested with antagonistic properties comparable
to those accorded to proletariat and bourgeoisie in Marxist theory.
This would be less cause for comment if proponents of the manual/
non-manual model normally construed the social order as a har-
monious and integrated whole; but to construe it instead in terms
of conflict, dichotomy, and cleavage, as most of these writers now
appear to do, seems to reveal an awkwàrd contrast between the
empirical model of class and the general conception of capitalist
The strongest case that could be made out for identi$ring the line
between manual and non-manual labour as the focal point of class
L0 conflict would be one that treated capitalist society us ihe industrial
r'11 I
;il r-
Mørxism and cløss theory
tiil The 'boundary problem' in Marxism and sociology

rnent than between white-collar employees and management in the
ilrilil private sector. Thus, the validity of the manual/non-manual model
as a representation of class conflict relies more heavily upon a view of
itil the commercial employee as the prototypical case of the white-collar
worker than really is justified, given the enorrnous growth of public-
'i sector employment.
What this suggests is that manual and non-manual groups can use-
fu-llv þe thou$t qf *s entitiqsqcia$/ ç p¡n"çaqh other-ll
rerms of life-chances and opportunities, but not as groups standinq in
and of dominance and
sociological model does not
that [h.e-" rçlat-iqlrs þelgee+
¡laqqes are to be understood as 'asrrects clf the distribution of oower'
Instead of a theoretical framework organized around the central ideas
of mutual antagonism and the incompatibility of interests we find
one organized around the recorded facts of mere social differentia-
Even the case for social differentiation is weaker than it was for-
merly, though it is by no means in complete disarray. The original
argument rested on the claim that the lower white-collar groups
enjoyed a protected economic and social status by virtue of their
proximity to managerial elites. The prerogatives of the latter filtered
down to the lower echelons in the form of incremental salary scales,
security of employment, career prospects, and various other hidden
perquisites, all of which.more than compensated for the aPParent
similarities in the actual earnings of lower white-collar and manual
workers, and so put the status pretensions of the former on a sound
material foundation.2
It would be premature to suggest that this foundation has been
eroded to the point where office and shop-floor conditions are virtu-
ally indistinguishable, as claimed by certain of the headier predictions
of white-collar proletarianization. After all, the proletarianization
thesis has an ancestry almost as long as the social stratum whose
demise it so confidently predicts. The pertinent question is not so
much whether the lower white-collar groups continue to enjoy vari-
ous symbolic and non-pecuniary advantages over manual workers,
sìnce it is a fairly safe bet that they do; rather, it is whether under
conditions of chronic inflation these benefits can be thought to weigh
heavily in the balance against the benefits of immediate income. The
attractions of lower white-collar life associated with security of
tenure, promotion opportunities, pension rights, and the like, are
bound to count for far more under stable economic conditions than
during an era of mounting inflation when the major preoccupation is
Marxísm and cløss theory ti

The'boundary problem' in Mørxism and sociology

with the present size oÍ.the pay packet, as against future, Iong-term i'

benefits. those resultinq from the division of labour. A model of class relations
Tñe attempt to contror inflation by tightening the purse ll to the occu-
strings of ¡' order therefore to be
the state tends of course to make itseffãspeciui-ly
u.rrong public_ I Although it is usually property ownership does
sector employees. rt is not simply that bargaining
over salaries takes l
set up certain class interests, the silent assumption appears to be that
place within a stricter set of iontrols and limits,
but also that the i these interests are broadly in line with the interests of the non-manual
conditions of work c.aleer prospecrs a"t.¡ãråtãlrlãäàtionut,
welfare, medicar, and1nd class, or at least its upper stratum. But the fact that this may indeed be
social under the áxeãrlãrà..*..t
spending cuts- under these".*i.""'fril
conditions, it is hardly the case does not dispense with the need to explain the association
,r."a theoretically. The apparent unison between capital and important
' ,almost all the outbursrs of white-colrar militan.y ""."p.irir,g
th;;u"t ¿...a.
""á elements of labour is an intriguing feature of the system, and one that
.,*.ï:,:tï.g pubric secror. rnflarioí.^¿ir,.ãi;à""".;;
1ll^r" sharpen calls for explanation. It is difficult to see how the issue could even be
)¡1-"J:: jl-ir^,":"*,to rhe distincrion berween prival_ and
posed, let alone resolved, within the confines of a model from which
ip-uÞrlc-sector empìoyment, whereas the manuavnorr-mãnual moder
{ property has been thought away.
I'ass-umes a rough homogeneity of condition among ail rower white- In the light of all this it is unsurprising that the sociological model of
sociological moders are almost bound to take on something class should seem to have few friends and that many social theorists
r1print of the age in which they are put together; and the of the should turn to that alternative tradition that places property at the
model of very centre of its analysis, and which treats class relations as manifes-
class recommended_ in a perioá of gånerar affluence
and economic tations of power. The resurgence of interest in Marxism has no doubt
; growth ìs likely to look a- strange ànd awkward
thid i.;-period
haunted by the anxieties of inflatiãn, recession, and also been encouraged by the various recent efforts to refurbish classi-
tion- But however¡eal and persistent the fine distinctions sLgna- cal doctrines as a response both to changes in the class structure of
between contemporary capitalism, and to the well-rehearsed objections to the
blue-collar and white-collar
þoups might prove to be, following the orthodox thesis. It is therefore of more than passing interest to con-
possible onset of new gordenãge òr.upitutiã*, the
fact remains that a sider how far the neo-Marxist analysis of class succeeds in meeting
model of class based rpor, distiictions wourd st'l be theoreti-
"r.harready set out. perhaps the
cally deficient on the gro-unds the criticisms of bourgeois sociology while retaining faith with the
source of this deficienry lies in the fát that the
urtimate original enterprise.
probilng spoitigt t of
class analysis is directeá armost exclusively
from the division of labour, so that tt u íorc p;;;ã;iåfärty
"f partly aå resutti"
relegated to a theoreticar timbo. This has come aboìt
of sociology's reaction to classical Marxist categories,
ånd ií particurar
, the_rejection of an all-yrcfugive cat egory of ,prlpertyiess hbJui. S,r.f,
, a. blanketterm patentl{ Íailed t" .uþt",t ..råriuty of **¿; n
tions of those who sold their servìces, glossing
' ences between the industriat proletuári and the áirf.r_ One of the difficulties encountered by the Marxist theory of class is
""u. "r,r.iri
salaried middle class. that of translating the conceptual abstractions of capital and labour
Sociology' s resPonse was to focus directly on the into the concrete social categories of bourgeoisie and proletariat.
division of labour These difficulties have arisen in part because the tendency of the
itself, treating this as the maln arena in which
the observable realities bourgeoisie under advanced capitalism to overflow the boundaries
of class played themselves out. The manuaVnon-manual
simply the most formalized expression of this model is set by property has been accompanied by the tendency of the pro-
Thus, originating as an attempt to break downtheoretical stance. letariat to contract to a point where it is considerably less than the sum
the portmanteau of labour. This has resulted in a need to account for the theoretical
concept of labour, the sociological model of
class has succeeded, stâtus of thilse inteimediãÍê groups that cannot be given an un-
unwittingly or otherwise, in defining out of existence
the sister con- equivocal class location on one side or other of the decisive boundary.
ceptofcapital. The and from the owner- Ii'-the classical formulation of the problem, the social spacé between
the two great classes was deemed to become progressively less habi-
flj Marxísm and class theory
The 'boundary problem' in Marxism and sociology
til table as the centrifur
p";;;;;';.';ä'.ïåi';:',ï""i:iï:îî.".iî#:,::ï:#åå': jJ'lj: the peasantry among an earlier generation. It hardly needs to be
added that the range öf solutions proposed for the former problem
liquidation in this hisioricar à¡;;;..;;;ose upon whom capitarism
itself had already passed sentence: concede little in the way of ingenuity and variety to those that were
keepers' and peasants' Their fate
,ñ. ,*.ä.ríJ";;;rl*"i',rnoo_ offered for the latter. In considering these_ it is convenient to classify
marginat to a producrive system
** r..ìua uy the fact that they were i;
them into th¡-ee broad categories, according to the degree of inclu-
,¡,u, *ul *øaiu å".r;;:.r;r;.rpr"

èvery sector of society. siveness by which the proletariat is defined in relation to other
j :': .-, *-,r --- i:iírty of the
TL^ classes. First, what might be called thøaøinimal definition refers to
petty bourgeoisie to the pressures those Marxist theories that apply extremely rigorous and restrictive
capital was sufficien:!,d:ó1ì;*"ä of big
b-;;. passage of events to give criteria in the classification of proletarian status; second, themaximal
support to-rhe pot".i/uäo. thesis.
ward questions were rais_ed by the Flowever, awk_ definition, which refers to those theories at the other extreme that
vacated by the old"ri.oi.iã
disc;ry that the äíritory adopt fairly inclusive, catholic criteria; and, third, those theories that
newcomer in the suise of the 'iew *ã, i;"¿ to u.t.äp-iä
uy u adopt an intermediate position somewhere between these poles.
by this nerv interåediate.trutr* ^iàdr; .il;;;. ir,ã piàuiJriiorua The most systematic exposition of the minimal definition is that
predecessor, it was in no sense
*o;;;"r, the facr that, unlike its offered by Poulantzas as part of a more general enterprise which
tive system but an essential feature
;ãr;;ì to the capitalist produc_ ranks perhaps as the most ambitious and sustained attempt to con-
or ii. si.,." it was not histori- struct a Marxist theory of class applicable to modern capitalism.
it ireeded t" b.ì;;"-;;åie¿ ir,to rhe generat Poulantzas' starting point is the rejection of that line,of thought that
i"uäf""'.ed class
Contemporary equates the category of wage labourwith membership of the working
-arm class - an equation that would seem to bear an uncomfortably close
of rebutting
middle class wifh affinity to the familiar conservative claim that 'today we are all work-
ing class'. Many groups are exploited by capital, but few it seems
ts the qualify for proletarian status..F-gglg$_tzal stralegy l€jgj¡trqÀr¡çg1wq
sector ln shift
class with a çgp_etate çlassificatory de elk,
which have the effect of paring down the large and unwieldy bloc of
and exploited wage labour to reveal the lean shape of the proletariat
follow the proper. The-€r*_9Jjhçg9låJbe_{i-s-tjgçIþ.+"Le*yseå*p-rsdsctiJrej-+d *-
that of an gnproductive labour- a distinction it should be recalled that bears not
qPgl t!,9 aç,1y31- lllgfe- 91'J-lç-yp:b--p"sr!gne"g-þs!*9"-r-r--jþs- ,e.ç,çial
wJrich¡rields suryrlus value. unproduqlive labour is that which do*es

¡ot. Expressed more formally, productive labour is that which is

exchanged against capital to produce surplus, whereas unproductive
labour is merely a charge against revenue. Thus, the barber who trims
Marx's beard is performing unproductive labour if he is working on
his own account, since the service provided is essentially no different
from that given by a household servant. Each entails a direct charge
against revenue and makes ¡1i¡o¡t contribution to ¡- ni+-l acctlrnu-
-hgg5,.Il on the other hand, Marx's barber is a paid employee he is
performing productive labour by creating surplus value for the bar-
bershop owner. On a somewhat more elevated olane- the unoroduc-
tive category comprisgs.ngt onlv thoqe :vho perfo+Ir,ss{vicej;_ directV
asainst revenuq-b*ulglgg.thq9g-gmplgy9d-þyJ.h-e__9.!4!9_ryhorejtç9slq_s_
are met- from tglatio Taxes are siphoned off from the wages of
productive workers or from surplus value, so that in effect the labour
Marxism and cløss theory
The 'boundary problem' in Marxism and sociology
unproductive manual. Only the prod uctive manual counts
as class; it is the form of labour that contributes to
4ppa¡elgå_qfugæryisrq¡_.e"nd*qsrfrsl. Ail the remaining categories
comprise different elements of the new petty bourgeoisie, and are
thus politically suspect.
ri'e of the t:rr-'oreti6¿l gf,fe-+o of rhig schema is to posit a concealed
conflict of interests between productive and unproduchve wãrkers
on the grounds that the latter are in some sense parasitic upon those
who create value. This is similar toa position advånced somå time ago
by Sweezy-, who suggested that those whose wages were met from
surplus value had 'an objective bond. Iinking their fãrtunes with those
of the ruling class'.6 Here too it would Jeem that the opposition
betweer, workers who create value and those who .r. u druirr rpon it
overrides aìl unity arising on the basis of a shared exploitation. If, as
appears to be the case, the ratio of unproductive to pioductive
ers is continually increasing, the implication of thrs analysislor
future of the labour movement is somewhat startling. As one of
--z The supen isorv component Poulantzas' sympathetic critics praintivery declarer, tn" 3tri"t
of mental Iabour is especially promi_ ufpri."-
nent in occupations within rh. tion of his criteria reduces the western working class to pytrriy'pro_
the need for direct surve'lance
t".h;i;;ì-rphere of production, where
iiãîortforce is essentiar to the portions-7It is somewhat ironic that a theory intended, aão"nE
exploitation process' Now those "i ottrer
*r,ä'f,.rro.* supervisory functions things, as a critique of a bourgeois model'of .tu"r iturlã"åãa,"
are nor only wage workers extinguish the proletariat, shourd itserf propose a set of definitions
but producii"" r"uor.år" äïîåiil *
as thel' are iusr as instrume"i;i pointing to a similar conclusion. It wilr be necessary to retum briefly
j, tu, ;;;"ting surplus value
workers rvhose acrivities th.y ",
as the to Poulantzas' schema after considering the two other
the activity of men- main varieties
/ tal labour is' in poulan"""' ";;;;;.--H-o*.rr"r,grounds of Marxist class analysis.
l-T the prote taria t and incru"'.t.À.,i"i"*"aa for áxclusion
sion *rrnr^ ffi'l ::: ::Í: lï_":.1,"iciulnsl;;;;;",êngineers.""iln;;l:,ïiîråträ.t:äî;îä.;
' ïffi
1",,J.r, "-íyi;#F;.h il;;äíä'" ru,
,rh.;;í"å";ffi ä'J:J:*iiï3:îiåä:'};îf;
and ideologicar rerationr- rrùàrã;ä of the
"r urpu.iãïäåi.urr
working crass to
tni" determinat-ion is rhe
Th.e maximal definition of class is one in which the significant bound.-
ary is drawn at a point towards the top of the stratifiãation
that the problem becomes that of-deciding which residual "y"t"*, ""
g'r"";" fuil
to qualify for. inclusion in a proletariat ãonstrued as the ,universal
-cl3ss'. The starting point heie is that strand in Marx,s work that
equates the exploited class with the people, and the triumph
revolution as the victory of the vast ma¡ority over the
of the
privileþd few.
The frontiers of class are here ¿eterminå¿ by exp'ressry"potiticat
criteria, in that the fundamental distinction is úetwãen those
groups whose functions are specific to capitalism and
those whose
services would also be requireã in a socialist alternative.

Marxism and cløss theory The'boundary problef in Marxism and socíology
rentiers, property speculators, stockbrokers, and the like are unmis- 'The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation
takably part of the bourgeoisie by virtue of the fact thgf their activities hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe' It has
wouldnot be transferaÈt. to tné new society,r¡¡SØt giving them a converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man
vested interest in the survival of capitalism. All .hose groups that, by of science, into its paid'arage-lalrotrrers.'rl
contrast, have a future under socialism, including the new middle
class, are by this fact alone part pf .a.heterogeneous political class Under socialism, the implication seems to be, the halo would be
objectively opposed to the bourgeoisie. This is not to say that all the restored to itd rightful owners, if only as the refracted light emanating
various elements having a vested interest in socialism are expected to from all emancþated labour. There is certainly no indication here of
arrive at the same understanding of thefu class position; but the any incompatiUility of interests between the purveyors of unproduc-
long-run expectation is that, as the crisis of bourgeois society inten- tive mental labour, even in its most distilled form, and the human
sifies, the schism between those who have no alternative future and beasts of burden. Marxists who seek a maximal definition of the
those who do will make itself felt at the conscious level. modern working class need not fear any dearth of textual suPPort
In the maximal defi.i - from the most impeccable of sources.
Baran, for example, defines unproductive labour as that'resulting in

the output of goods and services the demand for which is attributable
to the specific conditions and relationships of the capitalist system,
and which would be absent in a rationally ordered societ¡r'.E Even
though it is acknowledged that various sections of the new petty IV
bourgeoisie do 'live off the economic surplus', this is politically
negated by the more important fact that they perform functions The minimalist theory of class could be said to concentrate its efforts
'which in a rationally ordered society, far from disappearing would on the identification of the boundary between proletariat and new
become multiplied and intensified to an unprecedented degree'.e petty bourgeoisie, whereas the rhaxi¡nalist theory emphasizes the
This moral classification of the 'universal class' is one that normally boundary between the latter and the bourgeoisie ProPer. A third. '"

underlies the political programme of western Marxist parties seeking Marxist version locates the
new it- The contrasting forms
power through the ballot box. The transition fuornKlassparteí.tovolks- labour itself
parteí is commonly justified on the grounds of a changing ratio of attributes within the realm of
contain the key to the entire class sYstem. to Becker, for
white-collar to industrial workers, and the affirmation that the former
are no less than the latter subject to the degradations and injustices of example, the really crucial line of class demarcation under monopolY
capitalism is that between 'administrative labour' under-
capitalism. Socialism carries the promise of thei¡ common emancipa-
tion in the formula that workers'by hand and by brain' should enjoy stood as white-collar
the full fruits of their labour. The strategy of the mass Marxist party is rniddle 1S an appearance; its realitY is a cleavage between
thus to emphasize the minority character of bourgeois opposition and administrative labour and the managers-'rz
to present itself as the natural political home of all who sell their 'The split between the managers and administrative labour
labour, whatever the colour of their collar. divirles the ranks of white collar labour and marks an inerad-
The doctrinal argument for the politicai incorporatio¡r of the new icable schism within the middle class of modern society ' ' '
middle class is taken a stage further in the writings of certain east ,It is above all the fact that administrative labour is technically
European Marxists, in which the scientific and cultural achievements
of socialism are held to be directly dependent upon the leadership useful for the work of social co-ordination . . . that distinguishes
and quality of white-collar cadres, rather than upon the creative it from the "labour"' of managers. The latter's function derives
capacities of the proletariat.lo The guiding role and achievements of exclusively from the circulatory needs of capital''l3
the professional groups under socialism are felt to contrast vividly 1 whereas the tasks performed by technical and professional groups
with their diminished standing under capitalism, a message earlier ì
are thought to qualify as socially necessary labour, managers in any
hinted at in the Communíst Manifesto: shape or-form merely'weigh upon the producers Parasitically''ra This
20 21.
Marxism ønd class theory
The 'boundary problem' in Marxism and sociology


f As the foregoing discussion indicates, the variety of interpretations

I on offer make it more than usually difficult to speak of 'the' Marxist
theory of class. In some respects the range of differences within this
camp has tended to blur the simple contrast between Marxist and
I bourgeois theories; and this is particularly so given the tendency for
Marxists to adopt familiar sociological categories under substitute
names. The most striking example of this is the tacit acknowledgment
of the role oÍ authority in the determination of bourgeois status. This
'arises fróm'the need to find some theoretical principle by which the
mânagerial stratum, in particular, can be assigned to the same class as
the owners of capital. Although allusions may occasionally be made
to the fact that managers are sometimes shareholders in the com-
panies that employ them, it is clear that this is a contingent feature of
managerial status and could not be regarded as theoretically decisive-
Managers with and without private comPany shares do not appear to
be different potitical and ideological animals.
The exercise of discipline over the workforce, on the other hand, is
a necessary feature of the managerial role, not a contingent one; and
as such it recommends itself as a major criterion of bourgeois class
membership. Indeed, for some Marxists managerial authority has in
certain respects superseded ProPerty ownershiP as úh¿ defining attri-
The novel point here is that a hard and fast distinction between the bute of a capitalist class. According to Carchedi, 'the manager, rather
two functions than the capitalist rentier, is the central figure, he, rather than the
capitalist rentier, is the non-labourer, the non-producer, the exploi-
tei. He, rather than the capitalist rentier, is capital personified.'re
Interestingly, by proclaiming that the supervision and control of
subordinates is the new hallmark of bourgeois status, Marxist theor-
ists have come surprisingly close to endorsing
estab the dass bo 1 ,.J
strict of this term in vour of some synonym or tl d'¡''' 1 '
circumlocution ('mental labour', 'global function of capital', 'labour of \)* nr,-'"

superintendence') is perhaps a tacit admission of this embarrassinS r'. r F'\'\..rl

- xoJa-
\ ôt \ ''"
af fì nity with Dahrenáorf 's þo sit ion. Althou gh none- of lþggq -:Y-ç!ers . \'l-¡(*'
vuould acceot Dahrendorf's oroposition that authoriW is a general üs r"

phenomenon that it is nevertheless the case .

\3\ .-!*ç"l,i
relations, however . {,c-
o.ì'!" ._
more of their the
To property centrepiece of class bring cÍ*o . r,1n'
with it the duty of explaining precisely why the aPParatus of mana-
gerial authority and control was thought to grow out of the institution
of private ownership. Presumably it has come to the attention of
Marxism and class theory
The'boundary problem' in Marxism and sociology
western Marxists that societies that have done away with property
in symbolicrewards.Thefocusuponincomedifferencesandother
r,il its private forms nevertheless have their own interesting riitre
ways or ir.t"t fu"tors is dìfficult to reconãile with the standardMarxistobjec-
seeing to the 'superintendence of labour'. The view ihat class and the-level of
authg'rity relations under capitalism are a unique product of private , tion to bourgeois sociology that it mistakenly operates on
of ol the level of productive relations. It might
ownership must rest on a belief that these things arã ordered iri a.rery , äirtriUrti"n"instead
different way under the socialist mode of prãduction. The fact that i also be said that it is f'^n'\ÂI^l'1- ' -.+lrql thar'' llarx that the postulated
I t!-I. l=ii;een class position and bureaucratic authority
most clearly
this mode of production figures not at ail in any of the crass anarvses
referred to suggests that Mãrxists are none too îappy ab^u,. crawing I durirres. The fact that these normally alien concepts of authority
the very comparisons that are so essentier i. tieii case. After all, i ,.tutiortr, life-chances, and market rewards have now been comfort-
supposing it was disc¿ve:reci i"ìrat iactory despotism, the coercive uses .ablyabsorbedbycontemPoraryMarxisttheoryisahandsome,-ifun.-.'
;'f -L-naw'iecige, and the privileges of mLntarìabour were present ..á"*,'trib,rt" to the íi.t.r", of bourgeois sociology' t:::9"/
not , every neo-úarXist there seems to be a Weberian struggling to Setout'l
only in societies where the rt was 'capital personifiåd,, b..t.lso
in societies where he was the party personiiied?^Marxists would then
be faced with the unwelcome crtóiie of either having to expand the
definition of capitalism to embrace socialist society, or of disowning
the cherished concepts of private property and surplus extraction
upon which their class theory is groundèd. ihe obvious reluctance to
e-n-gage in the comparative anarysis of class the two
differen-t modes of production is therefore understandabre enough.
As for the credibility of Marxist crass theory, it wourd seem that the These.recent contributions to class theory also raise anew the Peren-
advent of socialist society is about the woist thing that could have nialproblemforMarxismofhowtoaccountfortheawkwarddis-
happened to it. crepåncies between classes defined as embodiments of productive
the face
further difficulty-encountered by this theory is the attempt to relåtions and classes as active political agencies. Although on
' depãnd not at all upon normative
arrive- at some generar principres uy wnicn to demarcate of it these definitions would seãm to
the estab- ãlements, however broadly conceived, the introduction
of political
ushe$ professions from routine whiie-collar employees, a at least' to be indis-
¡ distinction ãr,a ia.oiogical criteria is íelt, by some writers
required by the evident self-identification or irre former with 'What are social classes
the question'
rnterestsof the bourgeoisie. In place of any general principles, f".r".Uf. tJthe exercise- To his own
I g:leËl in Marxist t}teory?' , Poulantzas replies:
i nowever, resort is had to an eclectic assortment of ãescriptive
inãices not
idemonstrating that'higher'white-collar groups are in various ways 'They are groupings of social agents, defined principally but
isimply better off than ,lower, i'e' in the
white-colã, gå,rpr. gru.,r";.., fo, exchísivellUyineit place in tÈe production process'
example, lists advantages such as higher pãy, sècurity of employ_ tt e economic of the social agents has a
ãcor,o*i. spnete. þlace
T.i.t, and the_ privileged market poéition of thu Í., pti".ip.f ,å1. i.t determining "oiitl "ltttts' But fromtothat deter-
similar v.ein, westergaard and Reslãr suggest drawing a line of class iu.,.oi conclude that this ecõnomic place is sufficient
demarcation beneath professional and managerial mine social classes. Marxism statei that the economic doesa
gr:"ld: that 'they are ìot dependent on the rñarketsgroups on the
in #f,i.h tf,"y indeed have the determinant role in a mode of production
sell their labour in anything iit. the way that other'earners are,.2r (the super-
social formation; but the political and the ideological
rTheir incomes 'are determinéd
by rnarket íules and mechanisms over structure) also have a very important role''23
which, in effect, they themselveé have considerable influence in their
own corners of the market,.22 Carchedialsodeclaresthattheidentificationofclassesatthepro-
T]le o4g+_gqp-tç thing about this kind of analysis is thar despite its ductive level must be supplemented by an analysis that takes is
class. This
eygyedly Marxist provenance it is indistinguishable fro- -th. ålcàunt of the symbolic and- behavioural determinants of
the taxo-
because ,,o ,r,uitu, with what scientific rigour and precision
3ppl_oacn of modern bourgeois social theory. lã ¡s, after all, Weber nomic categories of class are set out it seems that prominent social
iatliel*tñan Marx who p.o,rÏd." the intellectuar framework for under- of such categories' It
standing class in terms of market opportunities, life_chances, and groups con-tinue to act in flagrant disregard
;p;;'"t", for example, that 'certain strata õf the working class which'
24 25
Marxism and class theory
The 'boundary problern' in Marxism and sociology
from the point of view of production relations belong
to [the] pro_ Neo-Marxist writing on this whole question indicates in fact a
Il".r"{"t.. ... become parr oi the pe*y bourgeoisie on iãriìi.ur considerable degree of uncertainty and vacillation as to how to restate
iideological grounds.,2l
furgly ,rolr*áirr. and cultural factors must
"r,a the celebrate d an sich-fíir sicl¡ formula. The dilemma is that in rejecting
invited to take t}'t¡' p'"p* place in th;;;;;ilxplana-
I ;H-ffir the uncomplicated view of a one-way determinism, greater allowance
has to be made for the independent influence of non-material factors.
The insistence on this point is a recurring
refrain in contemporary But whereas conceptual categories relating to the role of production
Man<ism and arises from the ¿esrre
or its practitioners to iistance can be framed in terms of general principles applicable to capitalism
themselves as far as possibre from the
tional and from anything smacking o1".or,o*¡" of the second Interna- as a system wherever it is found, no comparable principles are avail-
distinction is thui drarn¡n bet*eei the 'structural determinism. A clear able for ihe analvsis of politics and ideology. The latter, it sêems, are
classes' in the eco¡romic sphere and 'crass
determination of only to be understood as'ri.=;l-.'.':;'s t¡nique historic individuality of a
position, in the sphere of social formation, in other words the concrete situatiorr of the ctrass
polificar action' whereas 'iylgar' tøuoi"*
assumes that the latter is a struggle'.27 There is no 'pure model' of ideological and political rela-
straightforward function of tñe former,
neo-Marxism inserts a series tions to corirplement the pure model of the capitalist mode of produc-
of qualifi cations that t.¿""i"- ír,i" dependency relationship
and accords consideraÈle-g-re3tly
leãway to trr"
tion. Consequettly, the qrea.te{ the pe{rgtre,tio{L gf i4SgþgçgtSj}g
ideology' Indeed, for pourantzá", p"riti.rr effects of poritics and political factors into the analysis, the greater will be the shift away
are accorded virtual pari\ with eåonomic
definition of crass, r,ô*itlt rtrr,ai.,f .ìr
and ideorogical relations
relationshfiìîìn. f,rn
framewo+Sf grÆLry*
lhis .

mary of the economic. so much

prio. r"".r..r,.å, oì ,r," pri- In addition, of course, such a strategy throws into serious doubt the
äi it. r".ir it-"ã.ìr-Juf,, io *".r,
his readers not to commit the reveise "o,".t error explanatory value of the carefully elaborated categories employed in
by reducing the structural determinati,on to that of vulgar Marxism the treatment of the boundary problem. The introduction of political
ideological features.s of class to political and and ideological criteria do not have the effect of rounding out the
The fact that the fwo aspects of class preceding analysis so much as displacing it altogether. Since classes
are now said to operate to a
large degree independentþ of in the full Marxist sense are collectivities forged in the heat of political
impries that discrepancies
between the two ìevels rn!,-"1a";.h-;ã;t
u.-r.g.ìi.a struggle, and since the contours of this struggle never correspond to
The discredited version of Marxism as natural o..,.rå..,.u". the boundaries of the class model, the effort expended in constructing
tween the economic and political
ã"".rrr,.a that disjunctions be- such a model seems to fall squarely within the commonsense mean-
accelerating pace of crisis in *hi.h
t"ul*s wourd b" oru'r.orrr. fy *," ing of unproductive labour.
selves into manifest interests.
;;i interests transrated them-
alrnå"gn -eo-Marxism tends to stry
away from any such bald assertio"",
tive position could recommend itserf
i,ir ¿ifficult to see what alterna_
in the final anarysis,. certainly
Poulanrzas, own remal\: .G;t";
through the barriers of irreel6g r-ãå".¿
inu'.rpu.ity of classes to break
state are very much in line *it-f, themserves in their true Notes
the tradìüonal view:
'. . to say that there is a- working class 1 The hospital setting provides, perhaps, the most important exception.
in economic rerations Industrial conflicts between medical staff and the manual workers' unions
, implies a specific prace fãr this class
in iaeotogi""iäa over issues such as'pay beds'are unusual in having clear-cut ideological,
I political relations, urr.., if i., c'ertain .o,r.,t i"" and rather than bread-and-butter, causes.
certain histori_
I cal periods this crass does not hr;; it";;.'class 2 T}ee locas classicus of this argument is Goldthorpe and Lockwood 1963. lt
oran autonomousporiticar consciousness, also occupied a central place in myClass Inequalíty and Polítical Order \1977).
,I cases,
even if it ".g""i*,ìái- Thi" -.ur,s that in such
is heavily .""'r"*i"..""ä O, 0"";;;;
3 Poulantzas 1975.
its economic existence is st'r .*prå"""o rn
,äËy, 4 Poulantzas L975:270.
certain specific 5 Poulantzas 1975;242.
6 Sweezy 1,946:284.
ili'#SrJ:'rdlt'îil":",1:,9;c'practicl";;h^il;ïil"i;ii" 7 Wright 7976:23. Wright rèfers specifically to the American working class,
though his objection presumably has general applicability. Poulantzas'
Marxísm ønd cløss theory
repry to this obiection is- that the American
working crass must be defined
in an 'imperiJ."i::ti-"tr ;;.kË;;lüitoyed by American capital, in
whatever cour.fy,
?... proxy members of ìhe American proletariat. At one
conceptuar srroke this blasi is thus transfãrrn;äi;;ì'h."å:ìï:iì'*o ,r,"
proletariat in the capitarirt Þ"ulantzas r97z:1.r,9.
^ Baran'1,957:32-
8 "pt..ä.
9 Baran 1957.38-
1! Richta et al. 1962.
1L Marx and Engels 1969:l.L.t.
12 Becker L973:2i6,
13 Becker 1973:437 and442.
Internal class cleavages
14 Becker 1973:4M.
15 Braverman'1974:4O7.
and the ethnic factor
16 Carchedi 1975.
17 Carchedi 19ZS:53.
18 Wright 1976e6.
19 Carchedi 197SAB. For Braverman, too, managers
and executives are ,part
of the class thar oersonifies capitJ . -.'.;'flò)s,+os¡.
20 Braverman 1974: bhapter 1g.
21 Westergaard and Rejler 1975:92.
22 Westergaard and Resler 1975:346.
23 Poulantzas l97S:74.
24 Carchedi 1975:70.
25 Poulantza s'l.9ZS :'l,5-'1,6.
26 P ot:Jantzas 1975l''1,6. Any solution proposed to the boundary problem raises in turn the
27 Poulantzas l97S:14. troublesome iJsue of internal class cleavages, or, more ProPerly, the
relationship between the two. Although in Marxism and sociology
alike the .ãhüot s within classes are normally understood to be a
partial function of the relations between classes, the connection is not
usually made explicit. For the most part, inter-class relations are
viewed as an exPression of certain Seneric features of proPerty rights,
authority relations, or the division of labour. Divisions within classes
on the ôther hand are not usually construed in terms of si¡nilar
systemic principles, and least of all are such_divisions rePresented as
an extensìot of the same principles that goïern inter-class relation-
ships. The internal class distinctions commonly employed aPPear to
takã shåþe under the imprint of purely national conditions and so lack
tlirsê-ür,i".rsal properties fhat characterize the relationship between
tlass and class. Thus, in the sociology of the working class, tþe
tàrminology of affluent and traditional, old and new, rough and
respectable, seç_qlar a4d deferential, and so forth, sets up disfi¡ctions
that appear to derive more from the peculiaqities of British society
than fiôrn the .univergal, systemic features of capitalism'1
This capitalism-in-one-country approach seryes perhaps as a more
acceptable framework for the analysis of internal class relations than
of the relations between classes because of the striking contrast in
what is taken to be sociologically problematic in the two cases. Inter-
class relations are usually conceived of as inherently antagonistic, a
condition only to be comprehended through the idiom of dichotomy
28 and conflict. At the intra-class level, however, the emphasis upon
Marxism and cløss theory and the ethníc føctor
Internøl class cleøaages
competitive struggle gives way to a rather *'inter-class them
the niceties ot social differentiation
more bland concern with divisions. The common preference has been to treat
phenomena requiring seParate
the as related but essentially differenl
levels of analYsis-

to class
One of the reasons for all this has been the
within the of
hor_nogenelly,. Asa result, there has little if to

'For, since Bernstein, the opportunists

have striven constantly to
ah," objecti-ve ."orrorr,i. stratifications
gotng so deep and to lay such in the proletariat as
"tife tioi.,.
emphasis rh"-;i;i;".ifrr, ,n.
si rua
petty-bourgeois :l
th. ;;;;;
strata that in
;;;í"ä.", ""semi_prole rarian and 'These remains of nationalities, mercilessly trampled on
*nrrqu*o the unity and the auton_ torv - as Heqel says - these national left-overs will all become and
omy of the class zoas lost-,3 '"-'
- Thusfnotwithstanding ;iú,.f,];hi,;tit ín"i. final extermination . . . fanaticis partisansof
the counter-revolution, since their entire existence in
a greater readiness to identify general a
protest against the great historical revolution''{
;:f :.iì'l:ìl':."'11ï,T;i:t.Xx;ä¡..-;ñil;ä'"J.ïl",syâ
rv rut trrcrn on üle same theoretical however much
plane as Seen from this perspective, a future socialist order'
-, 30 37
Marxísm and class theory and the ethnic factor
lnternal class cleaaages
scope for human diversity it might foster in other spheres, seemed of advanced
unlikely to offer itself as a promised land for the culti¿ation of ethnic conflict would now aPPear to be as normal a feature
societies u. åtãr, conflict, even though its theoretical treat-
identities. K39t9ky looked forward to the new epoch when the pro_ industrial
letariat would be familiar with one of the ui-riversal languaies, ment is still at a relatively primitive stage
and antagonism
thereby p_aving the way for the ,gradual withdrawal and ultîmaiely The emergence of these'archaic' forms of cleavage
EuroPe is partlY the result of the migration of workers from
the complete disappearance of thè languages of the smaller nations, in western
into the heavil y industrial-
and for the union of all civilized humanity into one language and one the poorer lands of the southern Perimeter the old
well the flow of labour from
nationality . . .'.s ized countries of the north, as as
In addition,
Weber, too, for all his sensitivity to the place of ,ethnic honour, in colonial territories into the former imperial motherlands. of
eruption Political
human affairs, nevertheless regarded it as one mo¡e example of however, the Picture has been comPlicated bY the that have been
'between religious and language grouPs ù
irrationality Communal consciousness andethnic flourished \'+'i' t"
part of a single nation-state for centuries' r ì9:ì' \ ..
the how L - -_./ "
contrasted roblems:
the 'ethnic fictions' of the Greek city state, which were due to have thus been faced with two -"--l --â
account for the as of ú i
the 'low degree of rationalization of Greek political life', with the ^J"
sgçiqtiçg-w t'çrg,s-lt-c-b
absence of such fictions inRome-aplace where rational organi- to
zation was allegedly more widespread. IÁy'herever else it might over a
Iinger on, ethnicity could hardly be expected to survive the great nature of the 1f
class lnec¡u
tidal wave of bureaucratic rationality sweeping over the western across class divi-
world. on the other Because ethnic divisions tYPicallY cut
sideration of what
The fact that Marxism and bourgeois social theory from their very sions, this would seem to call for some recon
beginnings failed to take ethnic divisions seriously was not due to the constitutes the 'boundary Problem
absence of conflict across communal lines, of the Lind with which we
, are increasingly familiar I t was mu ch moæ!o_ de1gúhþejd"Sp_lio_g-ef
certain .As has out, the classical
to the universal neces
and to treat factors as t.E In
defining the chief characteristics of society
emphasized those features such as the schism between labour and the cleanest break
A general app¡oach to the problem-which rnakes who see the
with classical tradido; it uärrot"t"d by those theorists larger class
;;*Ñ;Ç .,ot., u ittto' to be explâined within some
has virtually displaced. class,as the
context, but rather as one that to
;;j;;-;"; of social cleavage and political identity' According preoccupa-
ClÅt"rand Moynihan, until {uite recently in the but now 'it is
tion with ProPerty tãfãii"t"'obscured áthttit ones" that seems to
property thãt begins to seem derivative' and ethnicity
the least of
the pure model, rather than as intesral become a more fundamlntal source of stratification'.dNot nature of
is that the
the reasons uddrrced it' support of this view
.rysJgs has undergone a signifi-
collective action mounted by ethnic grouPs
"fhus, one of the less wercome regacies bequeathed by the_crassical Originãtly dedicated to fighting rear-
cant change in recent timeá'
lyriters to contemporary social theo'ryiã, u""n to render it theoreti- ihev have now adopted more
cally_'nprepared to deal with the renaissance of ethnic ideritíty and ;;;;J;;i;;"s of cultural p'""*uliot"
txpressly desígned to distribu-
combative forms
ço¡flict in the very hea¡tlands of wästern capitalism. societiesríithin "t;;;it simply that ethnic
this orbit that are wholly free of political troúbles between communal tion of rewards in their mé*Uå's' favour' It is not those of a
sroups have assumed political functions comparable-to
groups are rapidly approaching the status of deviant cases. Ethnic become more
3"Uãiãr".r" class; they have in important resPects
32 33
Mørxism and class theory lnternal class cleaoages ønd the ethnic factor
effective than social classes in mobilizing their forces in pursuit of
_collective ends.
The reason for this is suggested by Bell, as an extension of his thesis
on the character of the IO

lgilg-æggel'3eng-reL'-e[q"q: 1{].!h9_lgr,ee_*o-{.e.:ysetsen9"d.eþ_iligy.ts
ggg$!"g:*gr-eç"qvrryf hatso:gbjxþgfhÆ*sl4*11.qlel-atd-ef f eçg:Le
appeals. The new working class of the modern industrial state has
it been severed from the history, ideology, and symbolism of the old
labour movement, leaving it with only the most narrowly defined
economic goals as a motive for action. It is into this moral vacuum that
ethnic grou ps are d¡awn. They can provide the badge of moral identi-
fication and the yearning for collective dignity that fuel the engines of
political action among the
the end of

with insignia quife unrecognizable to any survjv-

i4g-ya¡rio¡.q of the class struggle.
,- The theoretical grounding for this type of analysis is to be found in
Weber' s well-known thesis concerning the periodic oscillations be-
tween class politics and status- group politics. In Weber's,cgp¡Ule
t of the are to be the or
econornrc dislocation or crisis, whereaç g1ggpq fioqri".sh dgf.*g
of relative and social Since ethnic groups are,
s own v case of status organ-
izations, their period of ascendanry would naturally be expected to
coincide more or less with the relative decline in the salience of class.
Thus, as if with weber's schema in mind, Bell adds a cautioi¡s rider to
his analysis, suggesting that class organization and confrict could.
again come to the fore in the event of a worsening in the economic
assqqrptþl.guiçtly 4l work þe-1e*i1üq! the qe4s_e of identiry
qith, .9.*T:mbèiship 9f, a ctass Si",rp t" uãi"r,iiuily ,r,
either/or--áf-fãjr, lhat a moral"üË-niç.
corr,miñenf to or,. preclúdes
involvement i4 lhe It is a conception of political ánd social
identity that yields little to those notions of situãtional choice and
context that, as Marx might have put it, allow a man to think of
himself as an industrial worker in the morning, a brack in the after-
noon, and an American in the evening, without ever thinking of
himself wholly as a worker, a black, or an American. In so far as class
and ethnic identities can be lr.eld simultaneously and activated, as it
were, according to situational exigencies, then the less persuasive are
those models of weberian origin that emphasize instead their
34 35
Marxísm and class theory lnternal class cleaaøges and the ethnic factor
how the division
For all practical intents and purposes the white working class can chapter makes any serious attemPt to consider Flemings and
safely be assumed to be an integral part of the exploiting racial group, between blacks *ttitt", Catttotics and Protestants'
"^a attgt"phones' or between indigenous
politically indistinct from the white bourgeoisie. Indeed, in some Walloons, f rar,copf,o.,á"-ãt'a
versions of the argument the white working class is identified as the ;;ä;;;ant wärkers might beãt upon the boundary problem'
the edstence of such
principal beneficiary of the system, so furnishing the 'loulk of the Westergaard, and Resler ão at least concede
only in.order to stress their secon-
counter-revolutionary force against the Negro revolt'.r4 diri"i;;""itt capitalist society, but to class. They go so far as to
The exploitative nature of the 'white proletariat', or its ethnic coun- darv or derivative impirtanäe in relation
dramatic evidence to the contrary' that racial
terpart under different systems, is a recurring theme in radical ïJJ.i;:*ï;ì,hË 'the force, the sweeping rePer-
interpretations of communal conflict- Hechter, for example, suggests ;;ã inequalities do not have
that the working-class movement in Britain served to strengthen the "i*í"r
grip of the English ruling class upon the Celtic minorities by further- to the'communali*y;;;"àittál t'iriitn
*át" class-position in the
ing the 'negative integration' of the latter into the United Kingdorh. rs economicor¿"r,.'"Clea'ly,theinhabitantsofFlarlemandtheBogside
The clear implication is that by organizing itself along the lines of pure have not been informed of this'
have no possible place
class action the labour movement succeeded in diverting attention Consideratiorì" of .iit i.ity .oUa, of course,
remarkably' however' his
away from those injustices and inequalities that are directly attribut- in Poulantzas' formal class schema; mole
able to the subordination of the Scots, Welsh, and lrish minorities, ;;;,hy ;;iy"i" or it ã nature and origins of German fascism suc-
ideology or the |ews''" An
ceeds in avoiding ".y áit""t"ion of raclal
and from which English workers have indirectly benefited.*Ih.e_qe¡ì: of monopoly
tral moral strand in this entire thesis is tþq! exploi-tation and its account of Nazism íhat identifies the contradiãtions allow much signifi-
capital as the malaise could' hardly
@1îpan)aiñþ äegräaätioné äriåing oä thã basis of ethnic differences "o,-..."1ì-if" of the ethnic problem' other
!g|ye à il¡ril clãim to remediãl action over the large and small injustices cance to Auschwitz and the final solution
features' -
, _o_{ ç
Seen from this angle, any argument to the effect that class il;.t one of those complicating' secoldary kind ãf explanation could be
exploitation is the foundation of all other forms, including ethnic, and It is, in any case, áiiãttit*" '"J*htt draw heavily upon the conceP-
that therefore the political unity of the proletariat is the first item on fro* tt o,u iottulations that suchãs the mode of
the agenda, can easily be made to appear as a subtle defence of the
tual storehouse ot pãfitit"f economy' Notions
precisely on the
racial and cultural status quo: Marxism becomes the Englishman's production *tt. tn.ìt tlãlms to explanatory Power ñttman material
grounds of their inãifference to the naturå
õf tnu
best friend. Thus, if stratification theory in its beginnings is marked
whose activities ...;;;.i;.alþ d'etermined' As earlier pointed out'
by a reluctance to treat ethnicity as little more than a ripple across the composition of the work-
surface of the class structure, there are now indications from several to introduce questions s"ch ts the ethnic
stresi upon the qualities of
quite different quarters of a complete theoretical reversal; it is now force is to clutter up the analysis by þfi1g
social actorr, . .o,t"ãiäå^^är"*Ët Ãíali oppot"à to the notion of'
class that is iust as likely to be treated as a complicating feature of a of åvstemit forces' Presum-
social system moulded largely by the realities of ethnic forces. human agents as träger or embodiments the existence of com-
It might perhaps have been anticipated that some resistance to this ably, for Marxists opäaüng within thisschema
l" more
thought a
tendency would have been registered on the part of those theorists for munal divisions *itf itt a"tltss need be "f--":
hindrance to the the';; tnutt tt" equally
important *1t:
whom the notion of an exploitative proletariat would be a hopeless the growing tensron
contradiction in terms. Yet orthodox western Marxism has been råï, l* f*.s of skililtie expectation being that the importance of purely
noticeably unproductive in this entire sphere. There has in fact been between capital..Jil;;"; i"*"" to reducã
ethnic tluu"tg"" could be
very little advance beyond that line of approaitsl'fiat presents êthnic internal class differences' In this respect' tt which gradually
expected to u^a"rgo th" same healing
p'ot"t" that
.oñ=fli.t eilhér as á ¡oint p.Oa,rõfõf bóü.rgeãis cunning ãnd proletaiián aristocracy and the'labouring
jt_rllibilitt lttr.e impera et dioíde thesis) or as a 'displacement' of social mended the breach between the labour
antagonisms whose origins are to be found in the multiple contradic- poor - the mo." t' ttpitalism enter' 1ottt" again) its final
tions of the capitalist mode of production. On current evidence it phase.
at work in Boserup's
lvould be quite forgivable to conclude that the preferred Marxist Some such background' assumption is clearly In this account'
response to the fact of racial or communal strife is to ignore it. Not one analysis of .o**t""ãit"rrnitt in Northern lréland'
and Catholics are
of the various incursions into class theory examined in the previous the politicaf arrtag;;Ãs between Protestants
Marxísm ønd cløss theory
lnternal class cleøaages ønd the ethnic føctor
found to be rooted in the contradictions set up
between two compet-
relations of exploitation. In either event the economic level
ing forms of capital - an ind.igenous 'clientarist' is
form is
particularismr, u1d .t or,opo-ry capitar enshrining expressing rocal deprived. of any autonomy whatsoever and the result that
global interests. The tensiôn, gurr"ruàa ''t",iop;Iiì"n
by these opposing
and differential economic relaiions of different classes are all but
capital are said to be of an intãnsiry that types of
distorts the norrñar hne of eliminated.Thismayhaveimportantpoliticalrepercussions,
cleavage between- bourgeoisie ani protetariat. sirçe it insists ab iniÉo, that sinèe class relations of production are
munal conflict so heav'y overlays clåss conflict The fact that com- påüti.uffy and ideologically defined, therefore' whatever the
is thus to be under- the
stood as a 'manifestation at the
rçver of the transition from nature of the contradicãoniand conflicts which may occurin
þohtical there is nopossibility of
one variant of a capitalist socialiormation
to another,.ls An end to ã"rrelop^"nt of South African capitalism,
sectarian violence and the calming the whìte working class or any fraction of it ever entering into an
of those historic pur"iorr" associ- the
ated with rhe border question musítherefore
.*rt;J;;l;Lventual alliance with Afrlcan workeis in a struggle to overthrow
displacement of archåic capital by its more capitalist state.'rs
rationar monopoly forms.
that point, class politics wiír supprant tribar
politics. westerñl Ifthenon.Marxistapproachdoesindeedleadtosuchaconclusion,
it appears, number th.*seli'es this would seem to i[ústrate its soundness rather than its deficiency'
who se. rá i th iï ca pi ta ri s m' s ci vilizin g
Finally, and improbable as it _ry"seãm,
* t; :ä; i:*1: :Tiiî.t":l i
also been pressed into service in thá
Marxist class theory has
analy sis of aparü"¡J. i"-"."t ,"
class categories upon,""r, .
seem to be somewhat akin to_ adopting furþrury,á"i.i-";";; ïo,rla
a parsonian integrationist
modet in rhe analvsis of, say, the r¡iodein
fairly unambiguous poriticá a'iance between
Leur"î"]i""a'rìã"ri.. , IV
white south African "r
workers and the whitè capitalist class,
mo¡e intricate and co*þI." state of affairs.
Marxism is at pains to portray a one additional reason why communal conflicts mightbe thought not
appearance, the phantom forces- of rhe
Beneath this surface ù-;¿¡fitnu same degree oi theoretical attention as class conflict is that
are silentþ burrowing away at the
capitalrst rr,oá" oifräiì.,i". the former, howevãr socially disruptive, are believed to lack the
exacerbating class tensions within the
foundåtions of th. ,.cår order by cäpacity for transforming thã social system. Rosa Luxemburg was
exploitarion was usually
tn"^r,îPt threatening the political .;hu;ì;.
domina.r- àä^i"" f."rp, Èiãpãléa," conce de thatäppo sitior, to-.I."" resistance to communal
or white suÞrernacv tf 1."".. intensity and viåËnce than the
,*rrnough scrupulo's care is usually taken
.forv'ard to u"oia,ur,y ståight_ forms of oppression.20 Nevertheless, exploifed classes. alone
pt"ru"rua thå political will and leverage to translate opposition into
assertion that black and white'sectors
of the proretariat must,
of necessity, be drawn together in a class
bourgeoisie, some such longr¡s.- J;";.;ion alliance against the åutright social revolution- Communaf acÉons could not goìreyond
i n th e con cep rua l
is more o. teîs impricit violeice and protest to the creative act of political renewal. Com-
rrame wo rË a dop te d'.
forced march across the wasteran'ds
wi;;;;ää"r"ir,,n munal conflict, in Lockwood's words,
i."r economy if at the end"
of it all the urtimate and decisive r"r. "i f"i ,isnotfirstandforemostdirectedatanalterationinthestructure
tr'.iÃ, forces was denied? such
a denial would merely Ieave the rruv Àp"" for thar.yp" of power and deference but rather at the usurpation of powerand
that treated raciar conirict as an irr"ií.iú" ãï-"Ëà*n deLrence by one section of the community to the disadvantage
politicar phenomenon, and
wtrich conceprualized. racial g.."";;;;-;åcirl oftheother.EthnicandracialconflicthasthisorientationpnTl'-
träger. As Wolpe complains, " uctors rarher rhan as
^ ify ù"*'"u it is in the nature of the experience of the relationships
oi tt majority and minority gtottpJ that the salient "cause"
'The consequence of this acceptance "
disaffection inheres in the given åtta unàlterable properties of
of the ,,actor,s,, definition of properties of social
the situa-tion coupled with the individual actors and not in the contingent
fhe ideologjcal and political ur"".[";."
;"en to race . . . is that systems. Because of this, racial and ethnic conflict is more akin
gi.r"., uopredominance such as in
either to obliterate áiff"r"r,.", ií,U.,ø.,,
of production or to ,ábuilior, in ethnically and racially homogenous so-cieties
give the appearance that the politicai which the social ordei is likewise regarded as ineluctable' Thus
anã ideological define new
revolutionary goals are unlikely to emerge from the antagonisms
lnternal class cleøaages ønd the ethnic factor
Marxism and cløss theory
in the
of groups in plural societies unless ethnic and racial divisions tunities present themselves for radical social reconstruction the
in periphery' In freeing themselves'
happen to.coincide with lines of economic and other power .; .%å" no less than the
The nationalist
relationships.'2r colonial subjects emancipate their impérial masters.
road to
way thus oPens rrp or,"'*o'e route on the well-signposted
To the extent, then, that communal conflicts are seen to have more socialism.
it does at least
in common with rituals of rebellion than with revolutionary politics, it Whatever credence may be allowed to this argument'
conflict often
would seem that Marxists at least could be excused duties in this field, sette to illustrate the point that ethnic or communal of national-
;;. to call for explariation by reference to the'concept
abandoningìit'perhafS to social anthropology or the sociology of of stratification theory-
religion. Such a position implies, of course, not only that classes l"* u. much as by tire conventíonal categories
under advanced capitalism still retain their explosive potential but Ãt ;^y rate, whereve r a stron g territoriãl t"TP?^"o,t]:^O,t::-:ll,it,:wnouy rn
that they are also a greater threat to the survival of the state than the unhkåly that an account of communal conflict couched of
will the special significance
forces unleashed by communal disturbances and gtievances. terms of distributive i,,¡t"tit" capture
to claim
those actions and sentilnents by which a given
grouP seeks
FIowever, it should be said that whereas the modern proletariat of a separate people'
appears to have a purely theoretical capacity to reconstitute the social for^itself the status -
were discussed by
order in its own image, ethnic groups have frequently displayed a The affinities between eti.rr,i" g.o.rpå and nations as a
more than abstract commitment to dissolving the boundaries of the W.U*.t "o*e length- Althougñ he iegarded ethnic communities ot
natiori-state and redrawing them anew. Given the aura of sanctity
species of status gro'''p, t!9vï9re ar.ã9 oi l1'lÏtT-'.lt::1ii1".*
and unlike social
virtue of the fact that, unükL other status gtotlp"'

and omnipotence surrounding the state in current Marxist theory it \

from being part of a state
should surely follow that any threat to its sovereignty from within
l .lurr"r, they could ,l"ã"'go metamorphosis
because of
to becoming fr¡lt nation-iates in their own
right' Partly
would qualify as a supremely political act. The fact that the breakaway as a'ipecific honour of the
state might continue to be a version of capitalism does not make its this, ethnic honour was to be understood available
masses', in so far a, il*.s a source of positive ielf-esteem
activities any less political. Leviathan does not take more kindly to the social stand-
prospect of its own dismemberment simply because the reconstituted ãqr.ffy io all members of the 8'9tP, irrãspective of their to be distin-
*ä bí other criteria-23 Ethnic hónour was which typically rested
part rnay share a natural affinity to the parent body.
There is any case no guarantee of such affinity. Separatist move- guished from other forms of status honour'
ments not uncommonly link national aspiratiòns with proposals for a
radically new social order. Marxism's traditional coolness towards
such movements stems from the belief that they are vehicles for
nothing more politically imaginative than petty-bourgeois ambition.
Flowever high-sounding their proclamations, the likelihood of
separatist movements producing anything more than miniature
reproductions of the capitalist original is rated very low, given their
adulteration of class politics by national sentiments. A reconciliation
between Marxism and nationalism, in the context of the modern
capitalist state, would thus seem to be feasible only if a direct pro-
grammatic link could be established between separatist demands and
the wider class struggle.
Such a link has, in fact, recently been discovered by Nairn. On his
reckoning, nationalist movements in Britain, far from being politically
retrograde, actually represent'a detour on the way to revolution'.22
The separatist revolt, in bringing about the disintegration of the
central state power, leads to the enfeeblement of those ancient institu-
tions and practices that have always been a stumbling block to social-
ist progress. Once the pillars of the old order have crumbled, oPPor-
Marxism and class theory
Internal class cleaztages and the ethnic factor
stratification model:.ind this is-_particularly so in regard
common ethnic situations marked Èy the systematic
to those 4 Cited in Luxemburg 1ed. Davis) 1,976:124-25.
informar discriminatory practices that bespeak the
use of formar and 5 Cited in Luxemburg (ed. Davis) 1976:127.
subordination of 6 Weber (eds Roth and Wittich) 1968:389.
one communal group by another. Moreovð¿ 7 Weber (eds Roth and Wittich) 1968:389.
because divisions atong
communal lines almost always cut across cl"á"
avi"i""ì, ìãìfräre the 8 Lockwood 1970.
of ethnicity is to impoïerish class anarysis. 9 Glazer and Moynihan'1,975:1,6-17 .
ingly less possible to operate with models oi
It becomes increas- LO BellL975.
class U"r.a fruao*irr_ 11 As Bell puts it, 'it is clear that "class" and "ethnicity" have been the two . . .
antly on categories drawn from the division dominant modes of coherent group feeling and action, and we can raise the
of labour, pr;é;;ay
tt?,hip: or the productive system, wtren the "*^_ general question, under what conditions one or the other become most
poriticar character of
t:) collective action is conditionéa uy it. salient for action, or under what conditions might the two be fused' (Bell
,\jîj u.,á culturar
(4 '¡l ,the groups involved..This s.rggeáts ,rot"o"i.t -ut.rrp
orrty tf,ut .tnr,ì"ity-.ìã .o*_
or L975:'L65-66 litalics added) ). This way of posing the question seems to rule
out the possibility of t}:.e equal salience of class and ethnicity, without any
'" /munal conflict should b. t.kuï;; i;å"i u!
\-/ rP'
/ conflict, but that the two-sets of phenomena "".i"rsly
as class and class 'fusion' of the two. It must be said, however, that Bell, unlike many
J It Srut"a at the conceptual level.
should be closely inte_ writers, does emphasize the possibility of choice between political identities
- even if it is, as for Weber, an either/or choice in any given period.
. s-rrl an approach could arso be defended 12 Flect:.ter'L975.
as a preferred alternative 13 Blauner 1,972. See, in particular, Carmichael and Hamilton 1967.
to the bifurcation of class anarysis and eih.ric
subdìsciptines, each with irs ó*^ .r.,iqru;;.r""y
rai", into separate 14 Boggs 1970:74.
"t ;ï.å.i"-oï ."o 15 Hechter 1,975:292. See also, Davies L973.
problems. There is something to be;id 16 Westergaard and Resler 1975:351.-52.
framework of ideas and a comm"o.
i" iá";;. îîi,i"gt" 17 Poulantzas7974.
with which to conduct L8 Boserup 1972:173.
the discourse on srructured inequarity 'o"uu,rìury
ir Jiitå ramiti.r guìs"". Ãìì.ni,
amounts,to a generar declaration thát internal 19 Wolpe 1976:21.5.
class diäsions sho,-,ra 20 Luxemburg (ed. Davis) 1976:96J.
be accorded as much theoretical utaurrU""
u, the ,boundary problem, 21 Lockwood 1,970;&.
itself; or, more correctly, that the i¿."tiii..uon 22 Nairn L977:60.
of crass and communar 23 Weber (eds Roth and Wittich) 19682391..
boundaries should be regarded-"","p..t,
should,be analysed
of a single problem and 24 Glazer and Mpynihan1975:18.
srrðh. In the foUt*i.rg chapter the framework 25 Weber (eds Roth and Wittich) 196:395.
an analysis ^s
is proposed, based ú.u"i,,
:ïjj"i:l "" "or,."pt

1 Giddens has shown for example that the notion
appears to have verv differeni of the ,new workinq class,
French sociology it refers predominan-tly ä#"i;;;ìì;"åiî#ilxï. ,"
whose strateglc position iti tt. ¿i.'iriä.r'oi-l"bo,r. technicar
_quarified workers,
vanguard role in the,workin-g_"lur, marks them out for a
ogists, on the other trana, tË'e teiÃ-i. Among American sociol_
whose exctusion f¡om the ranl;;ilË;äjiäï" describe the ,ethnic poor,
ca'v powerress. rn Brirish hbour renders rhem Johfi_
traditional' seqmenr "t"ài"r
iiî?"'* ä;;;*" ä;ä."ìt'"ä""-
;ã. Giddens .j.973:79247
the i11n9 -. and,
,7:#;ir"rìå5; "r ","Ë";l;H:;ing (ed.j tszl-.---
3 Lukacs 7971.:323.

Socíal closure as exclusion
status as outsiders. It is in any case hardly possible to consider the
effectiveness of exclusion practices without due reference to the
countervailing actions of socially defined ineligibles. As Weber ack-
nowledges: 'Such group action may provoke a corresponding reac-
4 tion on the part of those against whom it is directed.'l In other words,
collective efforts to resist, a pattern of dominance governed by exclu-
sion principles can properly be regarded as the other half of the social
Social closure closure equation. This usage is in fact employed by Weber in his
discussion of 'communit¡r closure'which, as Neuwirth has shown,
as exclusion bears directly upon those forms of collective action mounted by the
excluded - i.e. 'negatively privileged status groups'.a
The distinguishing feature of exclusionary closure is the attempt by
one group to secure for itself a privileged position at the expense of
ðome othe¡ group through a process of subordination. That is to say,
it is a form of collective social action which, intentionally or otherwise,
gives rise to a social category of ineligibles or outsiders. Expresspd
metaphorically. exchrsionaq¡ closure t.O..".t'tt"-Jh"-t t -ofp-O-**t O t
"By social closure Weber means_ the process by which social collec- by the 'negatively ', on the other hand, represents
tivities séek to-mãximiZe iêwaids by restricting access to resources
the use of power in an upward in the sense that collective
i¡A opþôrtunities to a limited cirèle of eligibles. This entails the attempts by the excluded to win a greater share of resources always
singünþ õüt öf ðeitair, soèid or physical attributes as the justificatory
threaten to bite into the privileges of legally defined superiors. It is in.
basis of exclusion. We-ber suggests that virtually any group attribute -
race, language, social origrn, ieligion - may be seizeã upón provided other words a
it can þe used for 'the monopolization of specific, usually economic therefore tWS f^nqin gençric
opportunities'. r'This monopolization is directed against competitors bçing a cgnæ, 3¡d
who share some positive or negative characteristic; its purpose is reg_ponSe þ, the,.f"ormer.5
Strategies of exclusion are the predominant mode of closure in all
always the closure of social and economic opportunitíes tooutsiders.'2
stratified systems. Where the excluded in their turn also succeed in
The nature of these exclusionary practices, and the completeness of
closing off access to remaining rewards and opportunities, so multi-
social closure, determine the general character of the distributive
plying the number of substrata, the stratification order approaches
Weber's elaboration of the closure theme is not linked
the furthest point of contrast to the Marxist model of class polanza-
in any irnmediate way with his other main contributions to stratifica- tion. The traditional caste system and the stratification of ethnic
tion theory, despite the fact that processes of exclusion can properly communities in the United States provide the clearest illustrations of
this closure pattern, tho.ugh sirnilar processes are easily detectable in
b: ----.::-. -¿ -i as drr dspcci ui rne ctistribution of power, which for societies in which class formation i.s paramount. Strategies of usurpa-
Weber is practically synonymous with stratification. As a result, the
usefulness of the concept for the study of class and similar forms of tion vary in scale from those designed to bring about marginal redis-
structured inequality becomes conditional on the acceptance of cer- tribution to those aimed at total expropriation._But-w-hatever their
intended scale.thev nearlv alwaws contain a pote4tigl.çhgl!-e¡gq"t9 !þe
-'tain refinements and enlargements upon the original usage. '
An initial step in this direction is to extend the notion of closure to prevailing system of allocation q4d to the authorized ,rersioi óf dis-
encompass other forms of collective social action designed to maxi- .-_tfiþqFve.jusfice.
mize claims to rewards and opportunities. Closure strategies would
All this indicates the ease with which the language of closure can be
thus include not only those of an exclusionary kind, but also those translated into the language of power. Modes of closure can be
thought of as different means of mobilizing power for the purpose of
adopted by the excluded themselves as a direct response to their
Socíal closure as exclusíon
Mørxism ønd cløss theory
All that this really means, of course, is that Marxists choose to
employ the concept in this narrower sense; such a meaning
does not
inhere in theterm itself. To broaden the meaning of th-e term to
encompass relations of dominance and subjection ãther
than those
between capital and labour does not there6y signal u
scientific or technicar usage to a morar one; e*ploîtation "niri
t árr, .
is a mtrauy
weighted concept zohicheoer way it is used, ánd it as weil to
nowledge this from the outset- This broader apprication
of the con-
cept has particular implications for the ar,atysii of intra-class
tions, shortly to be considered. First, thougn, lt is ,,"."rr"ry
io R."n
J.- out these somewhat sketchy remarks with àmore detailed exposition
l' of the closure thesis.


say, the Process and social

rules must always be justified by

universal criteria that are indifferent to the pretensions
or stigmata of
by Bettelheim:
The reason for this is supplied and the
exPresses a pro iluction rylltion
'flecause the concept af exploitatiorx of this by a In modern capitalist society the t''w-q main exclusionary
and ãxprooriation .
- production of "otpi"" itUot" ' the bourgeoisie constructs and mainrai^"ìi;ãrrlJ
devices by
social class - it necessarily relates to class 'Lbüon' ' ryhiçh .-àåtJJ".r.,
46 47
Social closure as exclusion
Marxism and class theory
account he was willing to predict that inherited wealth would'lose its
tho se. surrounding the
Each repre- importance more and more', and if it survived at all it would only be
*a-\,, 'in a weakened form'.lz Durkheim was not of course opposed to
private proPerty as such, only its transmission through the family-'Jt-
from that are unrelated to merit or services,
_l_ tr wan socr-
ety made safe for property by removing those legal practices that
could not be squared with conceptions of liberal individualism and
which therefore threatened to cause as much moral and social distur-
bance as the 'forced' division of labour-
There was not much likelihood of property itself declining as an
institution because it was part of the order of things invested with a
,u.."¿ character, understood in that special Durkheimian sense of an
u*"ro*u relationship rooted deeply in the conscimce collectiae.
Àttno.rgt the sacred òharacter of property arose originally from its
commuial status, the source of all things holy, the marked evolution-
ary trend towards the individualization of property would not be
accompanied by any decline in its divinity' Pprsglal rights to.ProP-
urry *L." there-fore-seen by Durkheim gs part of that general line of
¿.l.topment by wnicn trre individual emerges as a distinct and
seþarate entiiy from ihe shadow of the group. The individual affirms
hiilself as ,rrin Uy claiming exclusive rights to things over and above
the rights of ths collectivity. There is more than an echo here of
exists for the first time as
þegel3 dictum that'In his proPerty a Person
reason'.la As Plamenatz comments:
tance of wealth after all
talents and efforts that 'lt makes sense to argue, as Hegel does, that it is partly in the
- process of coming to own things, and to be recognised as their
as something
in" extent to which property has come to be regarded fact that it
à*rr"rr, that human beings learn to behave rationally and
of an embarrassing thåotËticui anomaly is hinted at in the responsibly, to lead an ordeied life. It is partly in the-process of
receives only the most cursory acknowledgment -
in Davis and
leaining to distinguish rnine from thine that a child comes to
then in the shape of an
recogniãe itself as a Person, as a bearer of rights and duties,.as a
Moore,s functionalist manifesto, and even
and functionless ownership ' ' ' is open to rnurnb", of a community with a place of its own inside it''rs
assertion that'strictly legal of
ãLi.tops''o To propose that the imposition
as caPitahs;
for an assault upon As Plamenatz goes on to say, however plausible as a defence of .e¡'L
death dutiesãnd estate taxes-constituies evidence this may be, as a defence of capitalist ProPerty í
personal property i o
ielations it is 'lamentably inadequate'-16 , i ,.,'''" t-;'
ãi;å;i";, is evidence of state support for the dissolution of the ThereasonforthisisthatHegel,likeDurkheim,andmanycontem-i |,.
åä"riv. pt"p"ttf i" tnit scheme of thlïgs can only beunderstood from
as a i,'. þ
institutional remnants porary sociologists, never clearly distinguishes between ProPerty as\ ' . , l'-' o .
.ur" áf cultural'lag - one of those quaiÃt inertia' rightstoperso"nalpossessionsandpropertyascapital.Parsonsisonly{.,,-r:..,_-.."o1*..
.n ...ti". epoch irt i.t survives by the grace of social along similar òne of many who reduces all forms of property to the- status ?t u'._..""t ( ,.-) '
Several gãnerations earlier Durúheim had reasoned
inheritance was 'bound up with pôssession;ihisisunderstoodas'arightorabundleofrights.Inother'Ql'- \r ts'\i-^\
firãì'i^-iå.f.iing that ProPerty to behaviour and
word.s it is a set of expectations relative social
;;;il concepts änd pråctiËes tlhat have -no to disappear on day
pa-rt in-our present
this attitudes.'17 If property is simply a specific form of possession, or a
ethics'.rr And althougt nu f"tt it was not bound
Mørxism ønd class theory SociøI closure as exclusion
certain bundle of capital not only by distribu ting it more widely but by placing
some On this there can be no division it in the
care of a managerial stratum that technically shares the
same em-
ployee status aç all other sellers of labour power. The social
ments of capital thus merge indistinguishably inro the
category of
labour, so transcending the old distinctions based
on owner-
ship. *S-ç*¡¡-q*çþ*_s-s_r"þgJ¿¡1 P arp-qn*"*yåç.w,-
we :,çan çl9g{y..¡L¡¡*-þ¡.rger
qPe?.\ 9Í a -!.l.capitalistic',i'" prope*ied class-which
ea ¡iier "t-eudal" landed class'.re
preled as class !aws. As Rose and his colleagues have suggesteäi
'the ideological significance of such a unive¡salistic and disin-
Flowever, it is Dahrendorf rather than parsons who advances
terested legal interpretation of property in modern capitalist the
society is two-fold. First, as the law protects and recognises all most explicit and sustained case for making this divorce. By
private property, and as virtually all members of the societ¡r can that is but
claim title to some such property, it may be claimed that all
members of society have some vested interest in the status quo. the of a clas sless
From such a perspective, therefore, it can be argued that, far from and on
representing an irreconcilable conflict of interests, the distribu- property as authority is to
tion of property in modern capitalist society gives rise to a com- wrench the analysis ofclass from its usual societal setting
and to
mensurability of interests, any differences being variations of it in a much from this a
degree rather than kind. The office developer, the shareholder, subordinate class exists within the
the factory-owner, the householder and even the second-hand
car owner may thus be represented as sharing fundamentally
common interests, if not identities.'r8
!!hat the sociological definition of property as.possessions interest-
ingly fails to ask is why only certain limited forms of possession are
leSALly edtt issible. It is patently not the case, for example, that work-
ers are permitted to claim legal possession of their jobs; nor can
tenants claim rights of possession to their homes, nor welfare claim-
ants enforceable rights to benefits. Possession in all these cases is
pre-empted by the conflicting claims of employers, landlords, and the
state respectively, which are accorded legal priority. Although the
law may treat the rights of ownership in true universalistic fashion it
is silent on the manner by which only some 'expectations' are success- ?
fully converted to the status of property rights and others not. ¿Y'

Even where property is understood in the narrower and politically

more significant sense of ownership of the means of production, its
importance for class analysis is not thereFy affirmed. The reason for
this is that the separation of ownership from the control of productive
capital is felt to lead to its domestication, as it were, in the modern Þes class itasa
corporation. It is only when these two functions of ownership and
control are fused, as in the case of landed property or the early condition of
capitalist enterprise, that property is believed to carry an explosive question never seriously .posed by Dahrendorf
potential. The transition to the corporate firm apparently defuses purpose is is: -for.w-hat
authority exercised and occasionally challenged?
The com_
SocíøI closure as exclusion
Marxism and class theory
rnand structure of a business enterprise is geared
directly to the r The case for restoring the notion of property into the centre of class
who staff the keY are in effect the lanalysis is that it is the most important single form of social closure
pursuit of profit, and those Posts
they are not concerned with the enforcement lcomrnon to industrial societies. That is to
guardians of capital;
obedience as an end in itself. SimilarlY, anY challenge
to managerial 'be understood not as a
of Durkheim expresses it, 'the
authority bY organized labour is usuallY for the specific PurPose individual to exclude other iridividual and collec-
redistributing the share between caPital and labour. It does not arise
In tive entities from the usage of a given thing'.22 Property is defined
from a rol$âr\tic belief in the PsYchic benefits of insubordination.

negatively by 'the exclusion it .the prç¡ogattye; it


other words, the ce!d I !.

to derive its
t" "illfui2jfugl rights of exclusion
not ls that once again he has possessions in mind, and that,
characteristically, he sees no important distinction between objects of
personal ownership, and the control of resources resulting in the
of power.
It is to as

is, to paraphrase Macpherson, that

as capital
,lgþgg-{.'o This exclusionary right can obviously be vested in a variety
of institutional forms, including the capitalist firm, a nationalized
industry, or a Soviet enterprise. All these are examples of property
that confers legal powers upon a limited few to grant or deny general
. access to the means of production and the distribution of its fruits.
I Although?ersorql p_o_s,9es_9gr:¡--s_-4ad_c.sp_it_a!*b^-o.-'S._çnf-ellfiebJC.*o-fex_clU---

to of not
nce propert¡r is conceptualized as a form exclusionary social
closure there is no need to become entangled in semantic debates over
whether or not workers in socialist states are 'really' exploited. [hc

such exclusionary powers are legally guaranteed and

an exploitative relationship prevails as a matter of defini-
tion. 'It is not of overriding importance to know whether these
exclusionary powers are exercised by the formal owners of property
or by their appointed agents, sirice the social consequences of exclu-
sion are not demonstrably different in the two cases. Carchedi and
other neo-Marxists may therefore be quite correct in suggesting that
'the manager is capital personified'; but all that needs to be added is
fust, that,this dictum holds good not only for monopoly capitalism,
but for all, including socialism, systems in which access to property
and its benefices is in the legal gift of a select few; and, second, that it

Marxism and class theory Socíal closure as exclusion
of bourgeois' or
squares far more comfortably with the assumptions that the monoporization of skills and services does enabre
ai least Weberian, sociology than with classical Marxist theory' the profes-
sions to exercise crose contror over the moral and technicrl
of their members, whilst-also endorsing Weber,s
mally this concern for efficient performãnce recedes behind
the inter_
est in limiting the supply of candidates for the benefices;Jh;;;"r"
of a given occupation'.26
It would seem to be the professions, anxiety to control the
ilI sup.ply
tt1u. of labour that accounts, in párt at least, fór'the
.. -... epidemic referred qualificatioqs
is that set \r' to by Dore u" ihu 'diploma diseasel.ö' Thir i";h;
of equal importance to the exclusìonary rights of-property universal tendency among professions io raise ** ãitì'm¡;ä"-
.p,lçþ-":¡._" praqÉc,9' qgonelines lgf"r*ài";,
'credäntialiså; -ìh..;;/ dards of entry as increasing numbers of potential candidares
the-inflated ,rãóÌ eãucáäóñal certi?ä,"t; ;¡iLry "r *""ii"ìi"ã the'formerly scarce qualificuiiotts' The growingreliance.rpor,-"t
entry_ !o key positions in the division of labour.
well befoä;h; ;;Ja à.r,-
òr;ã;s nignir weber had pointed to tne grorJil;;*;i
credentialJas a means of effecting exclusionary closure' Ë'Ï*åîf:ï:å*':t"årutä,î:ät-ïil*#t#;;'';::ilïÏi
need for mãre
þ1i'å."*í;ä;il:;seqrreni stringent tesrs of indi-
,The development of the diploma from universities, and business rai{ual capacity. Yet Berg's careful analysis of these äui*, *u"-uUË to
clamour for the turn up no evidence to show that variatio"r
¡ and ur,gi.,uã.i.rg colleges, and thein universal
all fields make for the for- education were matched by variations in the quality
ilih" i;;i'"iää.1
I creation"or uãåtiorral"certificates Such mance'2" Nor was there anything to suggest
or *ort fãrior-
,, mation of a privileged stratum in bureaus and offices- that professi".,"'lir"t"
certificates support their holders' claims for intermarriages with î:t: i".f"TbeComingmorulo*pI"r, to justifyamorerigorous
notable rarnilåå . . , claims to be admitted into the circles that ",r.ñä,B";g;r ;"J;;i"";ï
intellectual screening of potentiãl entrants.
adhere to ,,codes of honour", claims for a "respectable" w!!h Weber's, is that credentials are accorded*their present
remuneration rather than remuneration for work well done,
tançe largel¡z -because they simplify and legifim;i"-if.
i claims for assured advancement and old-age insurance, and, Pro:::s' It is on th,ese grounds, among oth"ers, that Jencks ,"JSà""
above all, claims to monopolize social and economically advan
'the use of credentials or test ,.or.Jto exclude ,,n;";
for :hat
from desirable jobs can be viewed in the same light
;"t; ,?3"f ,
tageous positions. When we hear from all sides the demand ." ,r,y- othu,.
an introduction of regular curricula and special examinations, the atbitrary form of discrimination'.2e
reason behind it is, óf course, .,ot . ".rdä"nly awakened
"thirst -- - '|'y,*t:l gualifications and certificates would appear to
be a handy
for education" but the desire for restricting the supply of these 'device for ensuring that those who possess tultural
capital, are siven
positions and their monopoliz,ation by the-owners of educational oppo_rtunity to transmit thå benefits
;i ñ;;;il;"t
iertificates. Today the "Jxaminationi' is the universal means of -their own children. Credentials r." ,r"..uÇsupplied on the"ìrÍ"rì" basis of
this monopolizaiion, and therefore examinations irresistibly tests designed to measure certain class-rehíed
rather than those practical skifls-
qualities and attributes
advance.'z5 -ana
aptituães that may not so easily
i1 the ,t"".%î",t:1,',î,:TîÏ,tlåti"ilif.I;n"t:;*nl*l*{i;;:"rr:l
rhe use or credentiars ror crosure purposes..
T:1;î;:*; taining professions. wr,ut is especially
g¡@ary wéber, has accomp4nied the attempt by an ever-rn-creaslng
\ , ¡l+Tù¿.ãf *nit" tollar occupations to attain the status of profes.sions' no*.."tutirr"ly few remarkable about the latter is
' tråli:n9,L,*ït:'* b,asebat
of itr. childìen oír.r."""rf,rl footballers, boxers,
and íennis o. the cerebrities or srage and screen have
or enhance its market rrai"". r"l".n
"i"1". their parents'
succeeded in reproducing
elevatedltatus. one reason
.occupation in order to safeguard "r
of their singularity in creating rigorous ."d*""ä;:i;;;i
actual course of performance, and which are thus-not
competence and ethiãr,tu,,a.,a,. ii i"-p"îr"ttv po"iui" i"ll*pt easily transfer-
Marxism and class theory Sociøl closure as exclusion
start in the
gifted in the performing a¡ts-that could gi,ve them a head dock work and market-portering have also sought to restrict entry to
ii"..ely competitive *o-¡a of professional sport and sllow business. the kinsmen of those already employed, though this does not nor-
couldìre more or less
f r."rrå,.Uty, if th. r.*.rds of professional sport mally guaraniee control over the actual volume of labour supply.-The"á along conventiorial career or bu¡eaucratic lines serious crucral diffe¡ence between these at
irÀp"t.ft *orrlierrentually be put forward to limit entry to those trades those a the is that
candidates able to pass qúalif¡ng examinations in the
theory of to a
;;";i.g t.ience. This wóuld huttã tttt desired effect of giving a servrces licensure the state. Whereas the learned profes-
to endowed with examination abilities over
.å*putîlrr" edge those
thosã merely eicetling in the activity itself'3o
The reasoí why proiessional sports, and the entertainment
sions in general, áre [kely to bã resistant to the 'diploma disease'
offers a further instructive comment upon the nature
of the white-
collar professions. The supreme advantage of occupatioiit
based Lpo.t credentials is that all those in possession
-+uãiifi*ii"1-919 dgemed competent to providã the relevant skills and
reÁt of tt¡eir pr'ofessionál". There is no question
"ãã;;ø;ìhe professional career. The pro-
øteSti¡g ufitities ãt ã l.tu. itage in the
"-f*i¿n-íf U"dies' careful insistãnce that members of the lay public are
.,ot .o*p.tent to sit in judgement on professional standards In the
tirr"ly *e.t s that a fináI cãrtificate is a meal ticket for life'
and entertainment professions, by contrastl-l|: *]ltl
"porâr,g are'kept under continuous open review by
u'Uitlri.åf the performers the ulti-
if,. p"Ufi., thqse who consume ihe services are themselves
his market
matä arbiters of an individual's comPetence and hence
as expressed via their aggregate prrrchasing Pory9t' There can
- "-"it",
be no resort to the umbrella prãIectìott óf u professional licen<e,whe.n
prowess and the ability to entertain are felt to be rn cteclrne ln
sporting -of
the thot. who pass collective judgement'
=À*äi""t this exacting yardstick, then, credentialism stands out
as a
t from
I ¿""f,v áL"tJ"'for protecring rhe tearned professions
|i' ,hïllr"t¿lãr tn" marketpiace' N-oimerely does it serve-the con-
of labour'
ve.,ient PurPose of monitoing and restricting the supply in the
but atsolffectively masks a'' tut the most variations
i.t.f "f ability of þrofessional members' thereby shielding.the The small irony is
competent fá* ùino,ls economic punishment'
that credentialist strategies aimed àt neutralizing the competitive
that is most
effects of the market .or,iu, most benefit upon that class
and the sins of
t;.; to tmmPet tn" ,ritru"s of a free markèt economy case couldperhaps be made for likening the position of professions
j-ir," to
has not
use of systematic restrictions upon occupational entry that of craft unions, in so far as both u" said to eåploy crosure
confined to thã white-collar professio-ns- Cer- "o,rl¿
for purposes.of bargaining with a more powerful .g".,.y. Éut how_
of course been wholly
ever acrimonious relations may become bètween prõf"rriorr.l
tainskilled'manualtradeshaveadoptedsimilartechniquesdesigned bodies
to regulate supply, as in the case of the apprenticeship system as and the state, it is worth noting that the state rarelli if ever threatens
Some unskilled occupations such take sanctions against profesJions in the way thãt would most
certaín forms ofìhe closed shop. seri-
s6 57
Social closure as exclusíon
Marxism ønd class theory
ously damage their interests - namely' by rescinding their legal by reference to the single criterion of property ownership, provided
that the concept was stretched to encompass both productive capital
monopolY. _ ,^ i^-t:^r:-ñ .
and cultural capital. Writers like Bourdieu and Berg do in fact suggest
On all these grounds it is necessary to regard 1e{entialis
importance for
, .,.r,rt:t "' exclusionary social closure to*patuÈI" in its that the two forms of properfy are similar in their capacity for crystal-
¡,1o\".. ) folgr*of qnt-9l:n.t
of lizing class advantages over time:
ñÊ'i*" class formation to the institution ÞropertY,'-Lgth ltt "f
,\ì I þrivilegt: 9t't tL" f"*
ä"aio,""t),lrrrl.s tt uï ¿"^f"t benefits' andthát 'Educational credentials have become the new property in
*"'v' ryI9t are enshrined in law
;fkdl;;ít.f ".."tt to th" follows from this America. That nation, which has attempted to make the trans-
and upheld by the ."...J" authoriiy of the state*It mission of real and personal property difficult, has contrived to
lhatthedominant"t.rr,"'att'oderncapitalismcanbethoughtofas replace it with an inheritable set of values concerning degrees
caPital and those
ôr control productive
ffiä;*dæ.*Áá¡"re.Ss and diplomas which will most certainly reinforce the formidable
liffi'";ås a legal monopoly of professional services' These grouPs class barriers that remain, even without the right within families
ràfi.'"á^a the coå body oi thá dominantor exploiting class byrirtue to pass benefices from parents to their children.'3l
have the effect of
of their exclusionary- io*"" which tt"t"'"uiily subordinates' From this standpoint, then, it would seem perfectly acceptable
;;.;,i"g a reciprocaí citss of social inferiors the principal beneficia¡ies of to retain the classical Marxist distinction between propertied and
One of the attractions of a"fi"ittg
of isingle dominant class is that the propertyless classes as the basic line of cleavage under modern capita-
exclusion as .or,"atrr",,i "lements level"That is lism. If it is theoretically permissible to expand the original definition
.o.."p,t.f parallels åt" "it"fy matched a1 the empirical and credentials of properfy to include control over, as well as ownership of, produc-
to say, those who ^ã.,opoUá" B1"dYtqyu ProPerty and. ideological
tive means, the way seems clear for a further extension of this flexible
share for the most ;;;" ;t"åly similar
to concept to include a purely cultural component. It is unlikely, how-
Throughout åll weste¡n to.i"ti"r parties of the rightappear is no
"t"r,... grouPs; there ever, that Marxists would welcome this additional tampering, given
¡u ,t. naturalþohri"uit usitut of both thése major between propertied and the exegetical difficulties already encountered in reconciling the
demonstrabt .t"urr.g" of interest or loyalty
partiãs' for example' rely upon the notion of managerial control with the classical formula of pure owner-
professional status- ðonset"uti"e sup-
the bourgåoisie not merely for electoral ship. Propert¡r even in the revised or neo-Marxist sense still refers to
irofessional straturrrof the very high- an institution rooted directly in the sphere of production, and thus
i"tiï"if"t political lãadership aÏ -aI levels' including
est. Again, the social circles within which the elites
of industry' remains amenable to analysis by reference to the conceptual store-
freely are not notable for barriers set uP
.or.,*äau, and politics move wealth' Profes-

between those of prof.,,io"ul caÍling and those of I

sional elites may often invest surplús income

in property- shares' .as Indeed, l

they have the suspicious appearance of concepts relating to the dis-

whilefamiliesoflandedo,.o**",^.ialwealthoftenensurethattheir for professional tributive system, with all that this implies in the *.y of Weberian l
children are expensively schooled in prepaluii?tt
this ls not to say that the higher professions are contamination.
careers. Flowever,
may own shares',They Flowever this may be, a more valid objection to conflating the two
pàr, of the modern tourgeoisie because.they all their
if dispersed senses of property is that attention would once again be diverted
irrorrf¿ still qualify u, *"åbut' of this class they
in which income is spent is away from the fact that property defined even in this more inclusive
.. l' ', income in riotous fi"ing' The manner
ir it misleading sense still represents but one specific form of exclusionary closure
- '':'' '^ (:\ h;;ãif" useful ¿efittitioi of class membership' Thus' is
to- define the dominant clàss to place- exclusive
'Ë::' among others. Alternative forms of closure to cultural or productive rt
' f,ì when
.i' \.:./ -se-eking tÈe ilghfs of þropérty, 3s in one version of the Marxist capital may be just as effective in bringing about class formation and rt
'''i i'''
,t /.
à¡pir;"it-poî professional political domination. Two obvious examples here would be the il
tradition, or uPon t-frä p"*Ët "! trtã ne* teèhttica! and tn'
'po"t-.uþitutiri' era, s-ueÚestea exclusionary powers exercised by the communist party apparatus in
;-,.p";i;; or tn" as
|y "11t"-t P."lt'
fusion of
is a socialist states, and the legally supported exclusion oi bhcks by
alominant o. .*.lrr"ior,åry class of modeiñ capitalism
whitesrrnder theapørtheid system. It would be stretching the concept
-both these elements.
ln some resPects perhaps it would be conceptually more.economr- beyond all recognition to suggest that communist part¡r membership
cal to define these two key groups as Part of
the same exploiting class or a white skin should also be treated as forms of prôpeity by rrirtue oÌ

58 59
Marxism and class theory Social closure as exclusion

their 'owners'. such ter- of parvenus. New families are continually appearing in the p.opá.-
-li.ur,..L they endow upon
the special privileges
sincethe vocabulary of
minoiogical in.ny case unnecessry, ded ranks, flung up by the capitalist wheel of fortune, while estab-
closure-captures the essential similarity of these otherwise different lished names sink without trace. One reason for this is that wealth
I iphenomena quite adequately. It is therefore preferable to retain the and property under capitalism asbume a multiplicity of forms, all
lËo.r.r.r,tional,- narrower meaning of property as a form of exclu- liable to fluctuation and decline. Landed, industrial, commercial, and
/ bi"nury closure over productive iesources, and to treat credentials, finance property each tend to have a different social foundation, so
\ þf".,g iitn pu.ty merñbership, racial characteristics, lineage, etc', as making it difficult for any group based upon one type of property to
\ ;?1uite separate and distinct bases of closure. prevent the rise of new groups based upon a different type. This is a
condition markedly different from agrarian societ¡r in which land is
virtually the only form of productive wealth, thereby enabling the
same families to monopolize power over long periods of time.
Inbourgeois societyit would seem that the ideologicalcommitment
to the rights of property is upheld not primarily with the aim of class
IV reproduction but despit¿ the class dilution that property can bring
about. Thus, evidence presented by Marceau on the pattern of class
closure strategies vary in important ways in the degreeto which they formation in F¡ance indicates that only 28 per cent of the sons of the
serve as . meãt s of class reproduction over time' That is to say' propertied stratum ('owners of industr5r and commerce') had suc-
exclusionary practices that secure the position of a given class do not ceeded in reproducing their fathers' status. Twenty per cent had
ut*.y" g.riåt t." the safe transmislion of advantage to- family
the well-
become middle-ranking white-collar employees, while 35 per cent
descendants' Althqggh-lt-is wholly realisticto suPPose that were industrial workers.32 It is difficult to understand how any prop-
placed. in any social sy..s,tem will seek to ensure a similar fate for their ertied class with a real sense of its collective destiny could permit such
åfäi-¿rar,, it ieelñot iollow that the apparatus of closure is designéd a haemorrhage in the space of only two generations.
priqtarily to it it end' Under sorne systems it would seem that Similar doubts arise about the translation of credentials into a form
if,.-;r.r,i"., "u*.
generation attaches greater priority to th-e rules that of cultural capital designed to crystallize the advantages of class. The
'continuous raising of academic hurdles
guarantee its- own well-being thãn to thbse designed to transfer and certification barriers as a
- means of controlling entry to the professions carries with it a strong
itirrit.g.intact to its descendairts. This at any rate would appear to be
the message conveyed by the class arrangements of modern capitalist element of risk that large numbers of children from professional
societies uãd, .rr.., moré dearly, by socialist states. Social systems in fàmilies will notmake the grade. The reliance upon writtãn examina-
which a dominant class is greatly exercised by the wish to ensure its tions does, as earlier argued, work in favour bf those expensively
own continuity through thã genérations are characterized by forms of schooled or otherwise socially advantaged, thereby reducing the
closure based predoirinanity o., criteria of descent and lineage' hazards of competition quite considerably. Nevertheless, that
Where all avenues to property and power are closed to those lacking troublesome factor known as intelligence can never quite be ruled out
the appropriate pedig:ree, tttére is bound-to be relatively little in the of the reckoning, especially that unknown quantum of it contributed
*uy åi.U"" dilu^tion úy the penetration of outsiders or by the demise by the throw of the genetic dice. Dense children of the professional
of appointed heirs. middle class, despite heavy investments of cultural capital, will con-
Oåurgeois forms of closure, by contrast, are not obviously perfected tinue to stumble on the intellectual assault course set up largely for
to brin{about this result,pøce those analyses that find in the processes their parettts' own protection. Conversely, large numbers of bright
of sociãt reproduction the central rationale of capitalist relations. In children of the culturally dispossessed will sail through to claim the
fact, neithei pfoperty nor credentials are altogether reliable as institu- pÅze of. professional entry. Thr¡s, although credentialism may have
some advantages over property as a device for defending class fron-
tions for pr.iu.rrì.g f"mily privileges intact over several generations,
especially by comþarison with the stratagems employed in pre- .'tieis, its efficiency in this direction is not all that it is cracked up to be
bo.rrg.oí" sácieties. Property in an expanding and commercially by advocates of the ¡eproduction thesis. The most recent figures for
society is too volatile to serve as a reliable safeguard against social mobility in Britain show that less than half Èhe sons of the
ur,.t[.ti. highest professional groups had managed to reproduce their fathers'
eithei class demotion of bourgeois offspring or the steady infiltration
Marxism and class theory Social closure as exclusion
status, even though the bulk of the remainder did attain some sort of
white-collar position.33 The French study already cited shows a very natural conæquence of the closure rules themselves. In systems
similar pattern of less than fully efficient self-recruitment. Moreover, based on aristocratic, caste, or racial exclusion, families of the domin-
penetration into the professional middle class from below also ant group can expect to pass on their privileged status to their own
appears to be quite commonplace. In Britain, only about a quarter of descendants as a direct result of the closure rules in operation, how-
- the men in top professional and managerial posts have fathers drawn
ever socially lethargic those families might be. The bourgeois family,
from the same catego ry , f.ewer in fact than men of proletarian paren- by contrast, cannot rest comfortably on the assumption of automatic
tage.e Miller's conclusion, based on an earlier comparative study; class succession; it must make definite social exertions of its own or
face the very real prospect of generational decline. In other words,
that the transmission of elite statuses is only about 50 per cent suc-
cessful, suggesting that the well-born 'have no firm perch in the although the typical bourgeois family will certainly be better equip-
ped than most to cope with the closure system on its children's behalf,
upper tiers of society', is thus complemented by Goldthorpe and
it must still approach the task more in the manner of a challenge with
Llewellyn's observation that access to these tiers from below is a good
serious risks attached than as a foregone conclusion. Even when it is
deal less restricted than the class reproduction thesis allows.s
successful it must face the prospect of sharing bourgeois status with
' The fact that about a half of all sons of professional and managerial uncomfortably large numbers of parvenus. What kind of system is
groups (more if these categories are generously defined) are eventu-
this to provoke such anxieties in the breasts of those supposedly in
ally able to attain similar status themselves, is one that can be inter-
preted in different ways. Judged against the optimistic claims for
equality and social fluidity in the open society these findings can be /--fne answer must be that it is a system designed to promote a class
presented as a shocking reminder of the persistent influence of class
;J formation biased more in the direction of sponsorship and careful
selection of successors than of hereditary transmission. Although
inheritance. Examined, however, in the lightof those claims concern-
ing the self-reproductive aims and capacities of the bourgeoisie the i both aims might be held desirable, the first takes ideological prece-
evidence takes on a rather different meaning. In particular, it raises I dence over the second, so that succession along kinship lines must be
the crucial question of how dedicated the modern bourgeoisie acfu-
, accomplished in conformity with the application of criteria that are
ostensibly indifferent to the claims of blood. There is nothing es-
ally is to its self-perpetuation through the blood line. A class commit-
pecially bizarre about an arrangement whereby a dominant class
ted to this end could naturally countenance an inward trickle of new
blood and some loss of old blood without undue concern; but for it to
. relinquishes its children's patrimony in order to ensure that the
calibre of its replacements is of the highest possible order. It would
have allowed the trickle to become a flow in both directions looks like
only appear strange to those unable to conceive that the attachment to
sheer carelessness. Either we must accept that the bourgeois con- i doctrine could ever take precedence over the claims of kinship. As
scimce collectioe is guilty of grievous errors and miscalculations in its
Orwell noted in his discussion of communist par$r oligarchies:
reproductive designs, or we should acknowledge that self-
reproduction has not been the overriding aim. 'The essence of oligarchical rule is not father-to-son inheritance,
It has already been suggested that there is a definite tension be- but the persistence of a certain world-view and a certain way of
tween the commitment to closure by way of property and credentials life, imposed by the dead upon the living. A ruling group is a
on the part of one generation and the desire to pass on benefits to ruling group so long as it can nominate its successors. the Þarty
subsequent generations of kith and kin. It is not in the least necessary is not concerned with perpetuating its blood but with pe{petuat-
to deny that most members of the exclusionary class will put ing itself.'36
their own advantages to the service of their children, while asserting There are also powerful forces in capitalist society that are more
l at the same time that bourgeois forms of closure are not exactly dedicated to the
tailor-made for self-recmiting purposes. In fact exclusionary institu-
þþe4. commitment to the rightlof pioperty and the value
tions formed under capitalism do not seem to be designed first and of credentials may be just as fierce as any faith in Leninist party
foremost to solve the problem of class reproduction through the principles. Each represents a set of ideals that can be held quite
ll family line. The kinship link can only be preserved as a result of irrespective of the consequences upon the famity fortunes of their
adaptatíon by the bourgeois family to the demands of institutions
advocates. The party militant's belief in a system of political selection
designed to serve a different purpose; it does not come about as a and exclusion that could tell against his own ideologically wayward

Marxism and class theory Social closure as exclusion
children has its counterpart in the liberal's belief in the vatidity of while individualism might prove to be a serviceable doctrine in the
meritocratic criteria that would find against his not too clever off- struggle against an entrenched nobility it seems to run into difficulties
spring. It was perhaps examples of this kind that Weber had in mind once bourgeois ascendancy has been accomplished. It is all too appar-
when referring to patterns of closure distinguished by a 'rational ent that liberal ideology, notwithstanding its historic oppositiòñ to
commitment to values'. The same idea is also more than hinted at in lineage forms of closure, can yield social arrangements conãucive to a
Marx's well-known assertion that the bourgeoisie always puts the pattern of class reproduction not wholly dissimilar to those resting
interests of the whole class above the interests of any of its individual openly and explicitly on the blood tie. The restriction upon political
members. These priorities are not, presumably, reversed whenever rights in force throughout most of the nineteenth century is one
the individual members in question happen to be someone's chil- instructive example of the perverse uses of bourgeois ideology.
dren. Admission to the franchise was governed by the ostensibly indi
To suggest that predominant forms of closure under modern capi- vidualist criteria of residential and property qualifications and not by
tglir* are in some tension with the common desire to transmit the open presumption of class membership. Industrial workers able
privileges to one's own is to point up politically significant differences to meet the minimum registration requirements were admitted to the
.:of interpretation of bourgeois ideology. The classical liberal doctrine suffrage whilst men of bourgeois origin who could not were
' of individualism containJ a powerfuliãjection
of those principles and excluded. Political exclusion therefore appeared to be well in line with
practices that evaluate men on the basis of group or collectivist the liberal distaste for judging individuals by reference to collectivist
criteria. The political driving force of individualist doctrines arose in criteria. Yet the justice of such an arrangement was clearly dependent
part from the opposition of the emergent middle classes to aristocratic on the tacit disregard for the inequalities of condition that ensured
p-letensions and exclusiveness centred around the notion of descent. that only a predictable few would be in a position to meet the stan-
The emphasis upon lineage was an obvious hindrance to those who dards of political entry. The outcome would not have been dramati-
had raised themselves into the ranks of property by way of industry cally different if workershad been excluded purely by virtue of their
and commerce, but who lacked the pedigree necessary to enter the p¡oletarian status. Individualist criteria could thus be employed to
charmed circles inhabited by those of political power and social hon- produce a form of closure similar to that brought about by the use of
our. Although non-landed wealth could occasionally be cleansed collectivist criteria.
through marriage into the nobility, the new rising class sought to "
This is similar in many ways to the uses of liberal ideology in the ^.
make propert¡r respectable in its own right by divorcing it from its field of education, where individual merit and performance in exami-
associations with particular status groups. Property in all its forms ' nations are held to be the only relevant criteria for selective entry. The
was to become the hallmark of moral worth without reference back, as
,' maintenance of academic standards and the cultivation of excellence
it were, to the quality of proprietorial blood. In the individualist require that all factors other than the individual's measured ability be
credo, property thus assumed the same characteristic as money in the ' ', wholly discounted. Even though it might be shown that succejsful
marketplace, where the ability to pay overrides all questions as to the , candidates under these arrangements cãme disproportionately from
actual source of the buyer's cash. middle-class families, this would not damagè the moral case for
The 'individuation' of property and the consequent assault upon selection since it could plausibly be assumed that differences in intel-
the purely landed rnonopoly was accompanied by the bourgeoisie's lectual capacity were in fact class-related. On this interpretation,
attack upon the practices of patronage, nepotism, and purchase that working-class or black children would be excluded not because they
governed aristocratic recruitment to the higher civil service, the uni- were working class or black, but because of their genuinely lesser
versities/ the officer corps, and the ancient professions. The gradual abilities as individuals. This is not simply analagous to the case of
displacement of these practices by a greater reliance on formal quali- political exclusion but an extension of the same principle - namely,
fications shifted the balance of advantages away from the men of the use of ostensibly individualist criteria to produce a pattern of
breeding to those who flourished in the peculiar atmosphere of the social closure that quietly discriminates via the collectivist criterion of
iili examination room. The doctrine that only individual attainment and class or racial membership.
personal merit could be the proper grounds for allocating honours is not, then, difficult to show that bourgeois ideology despite its
and benefices was thus a handy moral argument for a class hemmed formal opposition to ascriptive nonns is supportive of aclass Jystem
in by aristocratic tribalism. having a greater degree of self-recruitment than seems coniistent

Mørxism and class theory

Social closure øs exclusíon
with the liberal doctrine of the open society. Flowever, bourgeois
ideology like any other is capable of harbouring more than one pãtiti-
cal interpretation. There is, in fact, another ve.ãior, which is peifectly v
hospitable to the idea that all forms of socially inherited adrruit g"
unjust precisely because they pervert the true individualist ethic. This
view is reflected in, among o_ther things, the liberal view of property
rights' whereas the ownership and ácquisition of wealth iu".rtti.rg
f¡om a person's own exertions are deimed fully defensible, thã
inheritance of wealth is not because it rewards those who have
demonstrated no ability other than in their judicious choice of par-
ents. Inheritance, moreover, sets up unfair obstacles and competition
jojt-rose-striving to make theirown way into the ranks of ownlrship.
-"- The objection to educational selection is made on similar gror.r.,ds.
selection tests are felt to be morally acceptable only on thã proviso
that all children enter the competition for places on more or leJs equal
terms. since it is not possible to legislate away cultural ad.vantages
inherited through the bourgeois family, the pråcdcal alternative is to
raise the aspirations and cultural level of theiocially handicapped by
the aid of interventionist programmes. only by removing orãrrr"[-
ting class-related handicaps can the race be run according to the rules
of fairness.
The essence of this version of liberal ideology is that social closure positions are carefully vetted for their ideological purity and part¡r
conform-s to the standards of justice only in record quite independently of their technical .o*p.ier,.jforoffiìe. It
fu, u, it discriminates is a selection procedure that is designed to evaluaìe a person,s politi-
"õ capacities and per-
between individuals on the basis of thelr innate
formances, and that these are not contaminated by ihe social inheri- cal capacities and performances which by their very.t.ì,rr" are liardly
tance of material or cultural goods. The full implementation of this at all the product of inherited social advantage. In this respect, if nô
¡ other, it is an arrangement that squares well with the ideai of liberal
doctrine wguld tend to produce a class system with a low degree of
f selÊreprodu_ction individualism.
{ through time, so corresponding to Durkheim,s vis-
ion of the ideal society in which 'social ineq,ralities exactly express Credentialist forms of closure in soviet society, on the other hand,
\\ natural r- certain departure from this idear. Entry to the academies of
inequalities'.32 It is the paradigm..ruãf u societ¡r in ini.t tr,. -rlg*
higher learning and to the top professions is sull biased in favour of
dominant class in any period wourd bã more dedicated ío the defence
of a particular conception of distributive justice than to its own im- the children from the intelligentsia, indicating that workers, and
mortality. The duty of the state would úe to set up conditions to peasants' children are still at some disadvantage in selective tests,
ensure that class succession went to the gifted and déserving, on the whatever compensatory efforts may have been ñrade by the state on
grounds that only this their behalf. FIere too, thên, we find the covert use of collectivist
of ineq-uality has any proipect of
capturing the affection of-system
alr the people, incluáing the réasi rewarded.
criteria creeping in unde,r the guíse of a system supposedly designed
This moral programme opposes itseù not only to ãr collectivist criteria to test the calibre of individuals irrespective of ttreir social orilins.
of closure but also to the socialist alternative of the classless society This-combination of party nomination throughnommklaturø anã the
with its_implicit promise of doing away with closure in all its many familiar resort to credentialism suggests thatlourgeois societ¡r is not
guises. Liberalism finds nothing r.p."Àer,sible in exclusionary clos- alone in setting up conditions makiñg forboth chsãreproductíon and
vre per se, provided that it is grounded in a genuine and uncom_ class renewal.
promising individualism and not in the spurioris version that masks reason collectivist and
the ignoble purpose of class reproduction. e ll !q sggges_!
fs{m-ç..e { -e¡.çls e¡a n- ¡å
thatsuþprd-iluaf e._clq s ¡e s9r strata are likely to differ in their political
qbqlq-ç^t_qr açço ¡d!¡ g .to wh!çh of the rwo sets of crite¡ia !9 predomi-
Marxísm and class theory
Social closure as exclusíon
nant. Looked at in ideal-typical terms, purely collectivist types of tion is experienced through a myriad of direct personal degradations
exclusion, such as those based on race, religion, ethnicity, and so on,
and affronts to human dignity, encouraged by the submersion of the
would produce a subordinate group of a communal character- that is,
individual into the stereotype of his 'membership/ group. It is largely
one defined in terms of a total all-encompassing negative status.
as a result of this that the politics of communal exclusion so frequently
Blacks under øparth¿ld or minority groups herded into religious and
stresses the need for subordinate groups to create an alternative
racial ghettoes are the familiar modern examples. The polar moral identity to that fashioned for them by their oppressors.
archetypal case would be that of exclusion based solely on individual-
Although the condition of the earl y proletariat was never completely
ist criteria, giving rise to a subordinate group marked by intense social
of a communal kind, it was not so different f¡om that of a despised
fragmentation and inchoateness. The example here is furnished by
ethnic group, if only because the visible signs and trappings of status
the model of a pure meritocrary in which class is virtually replaced by
were as unmistakably clear as racial features. Certainly the mixture of
a condition of discrete segmental statuses never quite reaching the
horror, fear, and revulsion felt by the upper classes for the great
point of coalescence. In non-fictional societies, of course, individual- unwashed was not a far remove from the sentiments usually held by
ist and collectivist.ti[õiåã1" ¡sually aþplied in some combination or
^o.!!e!,.so piirdticing stratified systemslocated at various points be- dominant racial or ethnic grouPs towards those whom they sirnul-
exploit and despise
tween these two extremes. This can be depicted in simplified form as To speak of a gradual shift in the nature of exclusionary rules, from
fôllows: collectivism to individualism, is thus to point to those tendencies
Collectivist Individualist making for the progressive erosion of the communal components of
exclusion exclusion proletarian status, otherwise referred to as working-class incorpora-
tion into civil society. Although under advanced capitalism labour
remains an exploited commodity, the status of the worker does not
derive to anything like the same extent from his immersion in a total

groups classes status groups

Thus, of the three major types of subordination, classes are pre-
sented as a combination of both types of exclusionary criteria. an all-pervasive deference system almost impossible to sustain out-
Schematically, a subordinate class could be located towards either of '.*side the immediate work situation. It would now take an unusually
the opposite poles according to the relative weighting of the two sets sharp eye to detect the social class of Saturday morning shoppers in
of criteria. The proletariat of early and mid-nineteenth century the High Street, whereas to any earlier generation it would have been
Europe, for example, would approximate to the communal pole by the most elementary task. More to the point, even assuming that a
virtue of its wholesale exclusion from civil society arising from the lynx-eyed bourgeois could accurately spot a worker in mufti, what
treatment of its members as a de facto collectivity. The badge of real hope could he now entertain of having any claim to deference
proletarian status carried with it the kinds of stigmata commonly actually ofdeference can effectivel
associated with subordinate racial and ethnic groups. It was a total when the status
condition which permitted little leeway for the cultivation of those
sinall part-time identities that bring temporary release from the
humilities of servile status. Correspondingly, of course, the pro-
letarian condition under communal exclusion offered fertile ground
vidrplp-tç-xclgsio¡, even though his sqbordinqllory !o -capit_al remains
for movements and ideologies which raised large questions about the
fe.ct-pj life
E. çentr.el.
nature of the political order a¡rd its legitimacy, and not merely a-bout As class subordination becomes increasingly less.communal in
the fact of unequal shares. character, the political ideals and programmesihat flourish among its
It is the very hallmark of the communal condition that subordina- members tend to become less inspired by visions of a new moral oider
Marxism ønd class theory Social closure øs exclusion
children has its counterpart in the liberal's belief in the validity of While individualism might prove to be a serviceable doctrine in the
meritocratic criteria that would find against his not too clever off- struggle against an entrenched nobility it seems to run into difficulties
spring. It was perhaps examples of this kind that Weber had in mind once bourgeois ascendanry has been accomplished. It is all too appar-
when referring to patterns of closure distinguished by a 'rational ent that liberal ideology, notwithstanding its historic opposition to
commitment to values'. The same idea is also more than hinted at in lineage forms of closure, can yield social arrangements conducive to a
Marx's well-known assertion that the bourgeoisie always puts the pattern of class reproduction not wholly dissimilar to those resting
interests of the whole class above the interests of any of its individual openly and explicitly on the blood tie. The restriction upon political
members. These priorities are not, presumably, reversed whenever rights in force throughout most of the nineteenth century is one
the individual members in question happen to be someone's chil- instructive example of the perverse uses of bourgeois ideology.
dren. Admission to the franchise was governed by the ostensibly indi-
To suggest that predominant forms of closure under modern capi- vidualist criteria of residential and property qualifications and not by
talism are in some tension with the common desire to transmit the open presumption of class membership. Industrial workers able
privileges to one's own is to point up politically significant differences to meet the minimum registration requirements were admitted to the
of interpretation of bourgeois ideology. The classical liberal doctrine suffrage whilst men of bourgeois origin who could not were
of individualism contains a powerful rejection of those principles and excluded. Political exclusion therefore appeared to be well in line with
practices that evaluate men on the basis of group or collectivist the liberal distaste for judging individuals by reference to collectivist
criteria. The political driving force of individualist doctrines arose in criteria. Yet the justice of such an arrangement was clearly dependent
part from the opposition of the emergent middle classes to aristocratic on the tacit disregard for the inequalities of condition that ensured
pretensions and exclusiveness centred around the notion of descent. that only a predictable few would be in a position to meet the stan-
The emphasis upon lineage was an obvious hindrance to those who dards of political entry. The outcome would not have been dramati-
had raised themselves into the ranks of property by way of industry cally different if workershad been excluded purely by virtue of their
and commerce, but who lacked the pedigree necessary to enter the proletarian status. Individualist criteria could thus be employed to
charmed circles inhabited by those of political power and social hon- produce a form of closure similar to that brought about by the use of
our. Although non-landed wealth could occasionally be cleansed collectivist criteria.
through rnarriage into the nobility, the new rising class sought to This is similar in many ways to the uses of liberal ideology in the
make property respectable in its own right by divorcing it from its field of education, where individual merit and performance in exami-
associations with particular status groups. Property in all its forms nations are held to be the only relevant criteria for selective entry. The
was to become the hallmark of moral worth without reference back, as maintenance of academic standards and the cultivation of excellence
it were, to the quality of proprietorial blood. In the individualist require that all factors other than the individual's measured ability be
credo, property thus assumed the same characteristic as money in the wholly discounted. Even though it might be shown that successful
marketplace, where the ability to pay overrides all questions as to the candidates under these arrangements came disproportionately from
actual source of the buyer's cash. middle-class families, this would not damage the moral case for
The 'individuation' of property and the consequent assault upon selection since it could plausibly be assumed that differences in intel-
the purely landed monopoly was accompanied by the bourgeoisie's lectual capacity were in fact class-related. On this interpretation,
attack upon the practices of patronage, nepotism, and purchase that working-class or black children would be excluded not because they
governed aristocratic recruitment to the higher civil service, the uni- were working class or black, but because of their genuinely lesser
versities, the officer corps, and the ancient professions. The gradual abilities as individuals. This is not simply analagous to the case of
displacernent of these practices by a greater reliance on formal quali- political exclusion but an extension of the same principle - namely,
fications shifted the balance of advantages away from the men of the use of ostensibly individualist criteria to produce a pattern of
breeding to those who flourished in the peculiar atmosphere of the social closure that quietly discriminates via the collectivist criterion of
examination room. The doctrine that only individual attainment and class or racial membership.
personal merit could be the proper grounds for allocating honours It is not, then, difficult to show that bourgeois ideology despite its
and benefices was thus a handy moral argument for a class hemmed formal opposition to ascriptive norrns is supportive of a class system
in by aristocratic tribalism. having a greater degree of self-recruitment than seems consistent
64 65

Marxísm and cløss theory Social closure as exclusion

with the liberal doctrine of the open society. Flowever, bourgeois
ideology like any other is capable of harbouring more than one politi-
cal interpretation. There is, in fact, another version which is peifectly
hospitable to the idea that all forms of socially inherited advantage are
Strong elements of both these conflicting interpretations of bourgeois
unjust precisely because they pervert the true individualist ethic. This in modern capitalist society. _C:npgqrlg¡-tly
ideology co-exist u..p?t-
view is reflected in, among other things, the liberal view of property ts^qnç
rights. Whereas the ownership and acquisition of wealth iesutting _o.l ç"ãç_lr+-çi9"Iafy_ -q9çie"Lçl_o'._s-gr9.dp_"n_o_t*c-pnfarur-Lo_.g_4y*p.Cre typ,e
bg!_arç.a-ç_ç"nþ_gr_Cti-o-t*o-f*i+divid!¡qli9-t'9¡{,çS!_e-c-{v.I9!_çjtt-eria- That is
from a person's own exertions are deemed fully defensible, the to say, although property and credentials are the chief means by
inheritance of wealth is not because it rewards those who have which class privilege and domination are legally secured, and on the
demonstrated no ability other than in their judicious choice of par- justice of which both strands of the ideology are in general agree-
ents. Inheritance, moreover, sets up unfair obstacles and competition
ment, the political implementation of exclusionary principles gives
tothose,striving to make their own way into the ranks of ownership. i
rise to the two variants just discussed. The fact that capitalist societies
The objection to educational selection is made on similar grounds. I

are capable of yielding evidence both for their openness and for their!
.,1 Selection tests are felt to be morally acceptable only on the proviso l tendencies towards class reproduction is partly traceable to this ten- [
that all children enter the competition for places on more or less equal
sion at the i'ery heart of bourgeois ideology. i
terms. Since it is not possible to legislate a*uy cultural ad.vantages t:
¡ It can in fact be suggested that e_Içlg-si9¡1êfy_fgll3 of çloqurq i$ any
inherited through the bourgeois family, the practical alternative is to
s"-od4l--sJs"le-rn. diç.p]ay*e-c-etfal+ 1nxi."er_ç9lle-_qti-v-tgl-a¡¡ç!,iqdry4ltaliqt
raise the aspirations and cultural level of the socially handicapped by
the aid of interventionist programmes. Only by removing or offset- çfifem. In Soviet society, for example, the institution of nomenklatura
is an exclusionary device that falls decidedly towards the individualist
ting class-related handicaps can the race be run according to the rules pole. Nomenklatura is the practice by which all candidates for elite
of fairness. positions are carefully vetted for their ideological purity and party
The essence of this version of liberal ideology is that social closure record quite independently of their technical competence for office. It
cönforms to the standards of justice only in so far as it discriminates is a selection procedure that is designed to evaluate a person's politi-
between individuals on the basis of their innate capacities and per- cal capacities and performances which by their very nature are hardly
formances, and that these are not contaminated by the social inheri- at all the product of inherited social advantage. In this respect, if no
tance of material or cultural goods. The full implementation of this other, it is an arrangement that squares well with the ideal of liberal

doctrine would tend to produce a class system with a low degree of individualism.
self-reproduction through time, so corresponding to Durkheim's vis- Credentialist forms of closure in Soviet society, on the other hand,
ion of the ideal society in which 'social inequalities exactly express show a certain departure from this ideal. Entry to the academies of
natural inequalities'.3? It is the paradigm case of a society in which the higher learning and to the top professions is still biased in favour of
.r]i dominant class in any period would be more dedicated to the defence the children from the intelligentsia, indicating that workers' and
'l of a particular conception of distributive justice than to its own im- peasants' children are still at some disadvantage in selective tests,
mortality. The duty of the state would be to set up conditions to whatever compensatory efforts may have been made by the state on
ensure that class succession went to the gifted and deserving, on the their behalf. FIere too, thên, we find the covert use of collectivist
grounds that only this system of inequality has any prospect of criteria creeping in under the guíse of a system supposedly designed
capturing the affection of all the people, including the least rewarded. to test the calibre of individuals irrespective of their social origins.
This moral programme opposes itself not only to all collectivist criteria This combination of party nomination throughnomenklatura and the
of closure but also to the socialist alternative of the dassless society familiar resort to credentialism suggests that bourgeois society is not
with its implicit promise of doing away with closure in all its many alone in setting up conditions making for both class reproduction and
guises. Liberalism finds nothing reprehensible in exclusionary clos- class renewal.
rrre per se, provided that it is grounded in a genuine and uncom-
9r,e_rçegg¡;[9"{_pj-e!_C!tC".tb9--*p"!g}çg_e_"t*þ-e^t}y..99fr-*c*o-,usc$yigg 4n-d
promising individualism and not in the spurious version that masks indi:¿¡"d.ualis! c¡te-r-iaunderly¡n€ ax- fp{pßs*pf.^qxçh¡Fjan*¡s- _t9 "sgggeq!"
the ignoble purpose of class reproduction. that-il¡þSrdinA!9.*ç"!4sq€F o! strata are likely to differ in their political
c*b.æ-qþ5-eçco¡dlr_rg !o wh!çþ of ttre twq setg of,c¡i!-eq,ia is predomi-
Mørxism and class theory Socíal closure as exclusion
nant. Looked at in ideal-typical terms, purely collectivist fypes of tion is experienced through a myriad of direct personal degrad.ations
exclusion, such as those based on race, religion, ethnicity, and so on, and affronts to human dignity, encouraged by the submersion of the
would produce a subordinate group of a communal character - that is, individual into the stereotype of his 'membership' group. It is largely
one defined in terms of a total all-encompassing negative status. as a result of this that the politics of communal exclusion so frequently
Blacks under aparthe¡d or minority groups herded into religious and stresses the need for subordinate groups to create an alternative
racial ghettoes are the familiar modern examples. The polar moral identity to that fashioned for them by their oppressors.
archetypal case would be that of exdusion based solely on individual- Although the condition of the early proletariat was never completely
ist criteria, giving rise to a subordinate group marked by intense social of a communal kind, it was not so different from that of a despised
fragmentation and inchoateness. The example here is furnished by ethnic group, if only because the visible signs and trappings of status
the model of a pure meritocracy in which dass is virtually replaced by were as unmistakably clear as racial features. Certainly the mixture of
a condition of discrete segmental statuses never quite reaching the horror, fear, and revulsion felt by the upper classes for the great
point of coalescence. In non-fictional societies, of course, individual- unwashed was not a far remove from the sentiments usually held by
ist and collectivist criteria are usually applied in some combination or dominant racial or ethnic groups towards those whom they simul-
other, so producing stratified systems located at various points be- I taneously exploit and despise.
tween these two extremes. This can be depicted in simplified form as i To speak of a gradual shift in the nature of exclusionary rules, from
follows: collectivism to individualism, is thus to point to those tendencies
Collectivist Individualist making for the progressive erosion of the communal components of
exclusion exclusion i proletarian status, otherwise referred to as working-class lncorpora-
i tion into civil socieÇ. Although under advanced capitalism labour
remains an exploited commodit¡r, the status of the worker does not
derive to anything like the same extent from his irnmersion in a total
collective identity and its accompanying rituals of personal degrada-
tion. Mills' portrayal of the pattern of 'status cycles' by which the
modernurban worker is able to findescape in dassanonymity during

classes status groups leisure periods and vacations may be somewhat overdrawn;38 but
SrouPs i
i there is a real sense in which the absence of clearly visible and
Thus, of the three major types of subordination, classes are pre- unambiguous marks of inferior status has made the enforcement of
sented as a combination of both types of exclusionary criteria. I an all-pervasive deference system almost impossible to sustain out-
Schematically, a subordinate class could be located towards either of I
side the immediate work situation. It would now take an unusually
the opposite poles according to the relative weighting of the two sets t sharp eye to detect the social class of Saturday morning shoppers in
of criteria. The proletariat of early and mid-nineteenth century I
t the High Street, whereas to any earlier generation it would have been
Europe, for example, would approxirnate to the communal pole by I
the most elementary task. More to the point, even assuming that a
virtue of its wholesale exclusion from civil society arising from the lt ly'nx-eyed bourgeois could accurately spot a worker in mufti, what
treatment of its members as a de facto collectivity. The badge of l
b real hope could he now entertain of having any claim to deference
proletarian status carried with it the kinds of stigmata commonly I
t actually ofdeference can effecti vely
associated with subordinate racial and ethnic groups. It was a total Ì when the status
condition which permitted little leeway for the cultivation of those ¡
rñation for this is
small part-time identities that bring temporary release from the I
q-f the
humilities of servile status. Correspondingly, of course, the pro- wgrtgr h¡.s þe-e:r*enhanced-by'the.evolution towardsjndj-
letarian condition under communal exclusion offered fertile ground
Vldgglfçf S:çtqsio4, even lhough his subordineti-o-_r]jp-,capit_al remêjts
fo¡ movements and ideologies which raised large questions about the ç9.nHet f.act- of .life.
nature of the political order and its legitimacy, and not merely about As class subordination becomes increasingly less communal in
the fact of unequal shares. character, the political ideals and programmes that flourish among its
It is the very hallmark of the communal condition that subordina- members tend to become less inspiredby visions of a new moral order
Marxism and class theory
Social closure as exclusíon
a¡d tþe promise of emancipation, and rather more preoccupied with collectivity, not whether the group in question is a natural or
the issues of distributive justice. Those ùho deplore theìpparent a sociar
flickering of those energies and passions that produced ninétåenth- \ The companion term 'achievement' is even ress satisfactory
century socialism might care to reflect on the possibility that this has in so far
as it implies a mode of social selection based on ,non-discriminatory,
less to do with the iniquities of working-class lËadership than with the criteria. For many sociorogists

system of modern exploitation, in which the engines of political it would seem that the shift frorn
resentment are not so lavishly fuelled by the personal degradations

arising from wholesale collectivist exclusion.

It may be helpful to round off this part of the discussion with a few
remarks to explain why the terms 'individualist, and ,collectivist,
have been used to describe exclusionary criteria in preference to the É\
more familiar terminology of 'achievement, and àscription,. One
mild objection to the Parsonian usage is that ascriptionìs normally
used to denote status assessments made on the basis of certain social
or physical attributes, such as age, race, or sex, that are deemed to be
given, in so far as the individuals labelled by these criteria have not
voluntarily opted for the status in question. The fact that exclusion on
the basis of such ascriptive criteria is often felt to be morally wrong
stems from precisely this notion that the individuals discriminateã
against are consigned to a negatively privileged status group ,through
no fault of their own', as Parsons puts it.Be
Flowever, similar actions are frequently taken against individuars
by virtue of their putative membership of status gionps that are not
simply the by-product of nature. Exclusionary rules directed at Trots-
kyists, homosexuals, kulaks, Jehovah,s Witnesses,,bourgeois
remnants', hippies, and other assorted enemies of the people, all
attest to the use of a negative group stereotype that owãs ùttle to
the idea of involuntary membership. Moreover, it could be argued
that even physical or 'natural' characteristics do not in fact imlose Notes
specific statuses on their bearers because of the certain u*otrit of
leeway usually available for the management and presentation of 1 Weber (eds Roth and Witrich) '1.968:342.
I lri
such traits. In this respect, any hard and fast distinction between 2 Weber (eds Roth and Witrich) 1,968:342.
statuses that have been achieved from those that are ascribed 3 Weber (eds Roth and Witrich) 1968.j42.
iiiiir seems t9 Rut a misplaced contrast upon the voluntaristic quality 4 Neuwirth 1969.
S arguments were first tentatively sketched out in my ,Stratesies of
of the former and the naturally givén quality of the lattei. Thô ]he¡g
social closure in Class Formation' (pârkin 1,974). rn tn"i
important question, surely, is whether ãn individual is defined l fr"uriãù8i'tn.
two types of closure were referred to asexclusion and.solidaiism. This iatter
iirli' for exclusionary purposes as a member of some status group or i
term does not, however, satisfactorily describe a mode of colrective action
rtr; 70
I 71

i t
Marxism and class theory Social closure as exclusion
standing in direct opposition to exclusion, since solidaristic behaviour can invalidates the 'closure thesis'. It is clear from their text that they are using
itself be used for blatantly exclusionary ends. That is to say, solidarism this term to mean'class reproduction'.
does not properly refer to ihe prr.por"r?o, which power is erí-rployed. The 36 Orwell 1,949:215.
teÍn. usuryation more adequately captures the notion of collective action 37 Durkheim 1964a:377.
designed to improve the lot of a subordinate group at the expense of a 38 Mills 1956:257-58.
dominant g1oup. Solidarism is simply one meãns ãmong oth-ers to this 39 Parsons 1.969:26O.
end. These distinctions are elaboratèd upon in Chapter Sìx.
6 Wolpe'1975:240.
7 Cited in Wolpe 1975:240.
8 Weber (ed. Parsons) '1,964:-147.
9 Weber (eds Gerth and Mills) 1948:782.
10 Davis and Moore 1945:247.
11 Durkheim L957:174.
12 Durkheim'l,.957:.175 and 217.
13 Durkheim 7957:273.
14 Plamenatz7975:120-
15 Plamenatz7975:727-
16 Plamenat z'1.975:121 -
17 Parsons1951:l.l.9.Theentryintheindexunder?roperty'invitesthereader
to 'see Possessions'-
18 Rose et a|.1.976:7O3.
19 Parsons 197O:24.
20 Parsons 1,970:24.
21 DahrendorfT9S9-
22 Durkheim 1957:1.42.
23 Durkheim L957:142.
24 Macpherson 7973.
25 Weber (eds Gerth and Mills) 1,948:24142.
26 Weber (eds Roth and Wittich) 7968:344.
27 Dore 1,976.
28 Berg7973.
29 Jencks1.972:192.
30 It transpires that the idea is not so far-fetched after all. The Council for
National Academic Awards has recently approved the syllabus for a BA
Qegree in Sports Studies. Undergraduates-will be instruãted in 'the vari-
ables influencing-performance in sport; a science and its sports application;
scientific methods, statistics and tomputingt and widepractièál experi-
ence in a number of sports.' DaíIy Telegraph, Monday, 28 August i978,
p. 3.
31 Berg L973:783.
32 Marceau 1,974:222, Table 8 -
33 Goldthorpe and Llewellyn1,977:267, Table 2. Many of those downwardly
mobile from the top professional stratum do of course succeed in re-
entering it at a later stage. Nevertheless, as the authors point out, where
this-type of 'counter-mobility depends, as it often must, on acquiring a
professional qualification or on securing successive promotions withiñ a
bureaucratic hierarchy, it is obviously of a far more contingent nature' than
status transmission via property inheritance \p.273). For any one family
line, moreover, attrition is likely to be cumulative if in each generatioñ
downward mobility takes its usually steady toll.
34 Goldthorpe and Llewellyn'1.977:262, Table 1-.
35 Miller 1960:50; Goldthorpe and Llewellyn 1977:263. These authors suggest
that the extent of penetration f¡om below into the professional middleãass

72 73

Social closure as usurpøtion


the chequered history of the right to strike and to 'peaceful picketing'

well illustrates. Part of the reason for this is that the type of collective
behaviour usually associated with usurpationary closure is difficult to
sustain over long periods without the use or threat of sanctions
5 against recalcitränts, which may often infringe upon the state's clairn
to the legal monopoly of physical coercion.
In addition, the more effective usurpation Proves to be, the more
Social closure serious becomes the challenge to the formal system of distributive
justice expressed in the legal endorsement of exclusionary rules and
as usurpation institutions. If the fruits that should rightfully fall to the owners of
property and credentials are plucked too freely by those who have
neither, but who have some alternative meâns of access, as it were,
rli then clearly the whole purpose of closure through proprietorship and
certification is thrown into question. Flence there can never really be
the same degree of legal and institutional backing for usurpationary
activities as for exclusionary ones. The effect of such an arrangement
would be to confer equal legitimacy uPon two contradictory systems
of distributive justice. Collective industrial action on the part of organ-
ized labour, for example, is frequently anathematized as a form of
Usurpation is that type of social closure mounted by a group in
blackmail, a moral judgement designed to reaffirm the propriety of
response to its outsider status and the collective experiences of exclu-
exclusionary closure over the claims and methods of usurpationary
sion. What usurpationary actions have in common is the aim of biting
into the resources and benefits accnring to dominant groups in soci-
This immediately raises the question of the limits that are likely to
ety - a range of possibilities extending from marginal redistribution to
be imposed on usurpationary efforts that fall short of the demand for
complete expropriation. But whatever the intended scale of usurpa-
a total transformation of the social order. Seen specifically in the
tion it is a form of action that generally draws upon alternative
context of the struggle between capital and labour, the issue is one
standards of distributive justice to those solemnized by the rules of
concerning the extent to which closure on the part of workers can
exclusion. Eypical examples would thus include the routine stmggles
effectively counteract the exclusionary powers of property. One tradi-
between organized labour and capital, as well as those more ambi-
tional position, endorsed by various liberal economists and Marxists
tious political programmes dedicated to the complete dissolution of alike, is that there are definite fixed if unspecifiable limits to the share
this very distinction; it embraces the collective efforts of subordinate accruing to labour in relation to capital, and that this proportion
ethnic and racial groups to attain civic and social rights, and to similar remains more or less constant over time.r The implication would
attempts by women's organizations to achieve full equality with men.
seem to be that organized labour should accePt the iron logic of
What is entailed in all such cases is the mobilization of power by one
'market forces and recognize that strike activity to increase real wages
group or collectivity against another that stands in a relationship of is nothing other than a sort of industrial rain dance; or, alternatively,
dominance to it. Metaphorically speaking, usurpation is thus the use
that labour should endorse the analysis and take the next obvious
of power in an upward direction. step of exchanging the commiknent to trade union bargaining for the
One of the important differences between usurpationary closure higher political goal of capitalist expropriation.
and exclusionary closure is that the former tends to rely heavily upon
The conventional view regarding labour's constant share has been
the public mobilization of members and supporters, as in the use of
challenged recently by Marxist economists seeking to demonstrate,
strikes, demonstrations, sit-ins, marches, picketing, symbolic vigils, for Britain at least, that militant union action could result in a 'profits
and the like. As a result, usurpationary activities normally stand in an
squeeze' and a corresponding enlargement of labour's share.2 This
uncomfortable relationship to the legal order. The borderline be- analysis would appear to square quite well with the anxieties and
tween lawful and unlawful usurpationary acts is often rather finely
criticisms of trade union powervoiced from a different political quar-
drawn, and tends moreover continuously to be redrawn over time, as

Mørxism and class theory Social closure as usurpøtion
ii ter throughout the past decade. In this interpretation, organized It is not of course suggested that such a theory is consciously
labour and its leaders have become the fifth estate of the realm, an articulated by powerful industrial grouPs. But it could perhaps be
ascendant power in society equivalent to, or greater than, elected thought of as a subterraneafi theory of distributive justice which
government and its agencies. The issue is most sensitively felt in provides tacit moral justification for organized labou/s attemPts at
matters pertaining to income distribution, and in particular the use of usurpation, and a coherent alternative to the principles supporting
industrial leverage in support of 'excessive' wage claims. IJsurpa- exclusionary closure. Flowever this may be, it seems probable that
tionary demands of this kind are felt to raise in an especially acute official displeasure at what Professor Hutt calls the 'strike threat
form the Durkheimian problem of how to impose moral constraints system'of allocation becomes especially pronounced when its effec-
upon appetite when no other constraints are available. As Finer puts tin"n"ss threatens to disturb the balance of Power between classes,
ih T-et us stop wondering why this or that group of industrial workers such that the subordinate SrouPs aPPear to be making gains at the
has pitched its demands so high, and ask ourselves instead why it has expense of the dominant.o Presumably incomes policies, whether
set any limits on them at all.'r3 The question of voluntary limitation statutory or otherwise, only become a major political preoccupation
upon the use of power arises only because of the peculiar nature of the of governments when the usurpationary Powers of organized labour
power at workers' disposal: have increased beyond the point that is fully consistent with
'The power of organised labour does not rest in its possession of working-class subordination; that is to say, at the point at which the
the means of coercion . . Nor does it consist in numerical 'fifth estate of the realm' suddenly aPPears to be claiming its pat-
superiority . . . Nor, for that matter, does it inhere in organised rimony.
labour as a whole, but in certain small specialised groups within A logically prior question to this is: what accounts for the apparent
it. The power resides not in acts of commission but in acts of increase in labouls usurpationary Power in the recent Post-war
omission: in the ability of these special groups to withhold certain period? Since the sanction of strike action is almost as old as the
services which are, today, critical to the survival of societ¡r.'a iabour movement itself, other factors must explain its seemingly
greater effectiveness. In some respects, the problem could be framed
From the point of view of those who enjoy rewards on the basis of in normative terms by suggesting that what has occurred is the
property and credentials, usurpation based upon the threat of sanc- erosion of conventional standards of distributive justice that have, in
tions is clearly illegitimate because it does not conform to any the past, served to inhibit the full use of power by industrial workers-
accepted principle of distributive justice. Market rules of allocation The present wages 'free-for-all' would then be understood as a mani-
are held to be self-regulating in so far as the laws of supply and festation of the collapse of deferential values and the cramped expec-
demand limit the levels of reward accruing to any group; coercive tations engendered by them- No longer trapped in their own narrow
power by contrast is held in check by nothing other than the size of horizons, workers would be morally released to activate that dormant
the victim's purse.s power that has øltaays been at their disposal.T
Seen, however, from the angle of those who raise these usurpa- The persuasiveness of this argument depends not only on an
tionary claims, a certain theory of distributive justice may well be almost Parsonian faith in the binding force of normative constraints,
implied along the lines of functional importance. This is not of course but also on the prior assumption that no significant change has
the functional importance claimed on behalf of those who carry the actually occurred in the instrumental power of organized workers. If,
awesome burdens of managerial and professional responsibility. A however, we make the opposite assumption, that the industrial
different measure of this elusive quality would be the extent of leverage available to labour is indeed greater now than at any pre-
economic and social dislocation caused by any group following the vious period, then the very recognition of this fact by workers would
withdrawal of its labour. Those occupations that caused great disor- quite adequately account for their change in conduct. On this reckon-
ganization by suspending their activities could, by this token, be said ing, workers' apparent deference to the official version of distributive
to be of especial functional importance to the communit¡r and should
iustice in earlier ti¡nes would be explained not as a product of noûna-
be rewarded accordingly; while those whose absence would scarcely tive housetraining, but as a resPonse to a condition of comParative
caus€ a ripple on the surface of social life would be deemed to be of powerlessness. Whether or not any significant increase in labour's
least functional importance and should have a correspondingly weak usurpationary power has in fact occurred is a question that cannot be
claim on the common purse. answered with anything approaching comPlete assura.nce, because of
/b 77
Marxísm and class theory Socíal closure as usurpation
the obvious dearth of that kind of evidence that puts sociological
minds to rest. There are, however, certain circumståntial arguments class has felt itself to be under quite considerable and unaccustomed
and observations that would lend support to the view that s6ain in recent times. Certain trends in income distribution, for
bargaining position has improvea over the long tu*. èni"iã*o.g
workers, example, would suggest that organized labour has been rather more
successful in combatting the effects of inflation on real wages than

lj, these is the argument to the effect that the greater the
capital- have many managerial and professional groups.
of production, the more damagirig th. .o.,r"qì"r,"".
il :i"_l::: l-ltur.e
or rndustnal action, and hence the greater readineis by Figure I
to settle on labour's terms, even wiithout the latter,s resort
to strike
action. The long-term trend towards capitar-intensive production Chonges in reol income
processes thus enhances labour,s bargaining capacity. percentogc
SLcond, the
more the economy is geared to inter;adonãr markets and foreign chonge net of tûx 1965-75
competition, the more-p-unishing are the effects of labour un¡versity profesor

senror monoger rn:

on any firm with tight delivery deãdlines. Finalry, to the "topprg", chem¡cols
extentìÅut u^
advanced capitalist system pioduces an ever more comprex
locking division of labour, the greater the disrupïve poientiat
and inter-
endowed upon various key groups ãt the very heart odthe pråã,rctive
notionolised industry
senior civil servont
system. senror
ll on all these different counts, then, the deveropment of capitarism
would seem to have enhance{ the bargaining p-r.. of large sectors chcnge net of tox 1969-76
of the organized labou-r movement in tÉe post-war period a shift in monoging director
the balance of power thathaspreceded the disturbances to traditional generol monoger
expectations and the conventions of status. These disturbances
are mcnufocturing mqnogeÍ
most probably initiated by the action of those groups whose disrup_
tive potential is of a high order; the success ðf tf,åi, usurpationary vorks monog€î
claims then serves ro provide inspirational exampre t" Þrcduct¡on mqnoger
whgsg owrr leverage is considerãUty weaker. It is as "tr,å. tì""p,
thougfi-once super¡ntendent
capital is shown to be vurnerable at certain tender points, hbäur as
a g€nerql foremon
whole becomes more confident of its usurpationiry potential. I

Thus, what used to be thought of as a free bargaiíing relationship foremon

between capital and labour, rihen labou,,rr" ,ãl"tirrély *".k, hu, for inflotion
now been redefined by one academic authority as the ,.á¿. exercise ffi ff:mu: 8ä si l3å3 :i[i lål:lx:lji"t* for inflation
of power bargaining based upon the capricious ability to inflict dam_
age on industry and the communit¡r,.8
Source: G. D. Newbould and |. R. Sparkes, 'Managers' Puy', New Socíety
'Under conditions of advanced technology involving high 17 February 7977, p.337.
capital-labour ratios, low levels of intermediãie stocks, ,ñd
more closely integrated production and distributive processes, "rr'", As Figure 1 indicates, between 1965 and 7975 t}":.e real income of
the balance of bargaining- p9ryer has tipped in favour'of gro..p" various professional employees declined quite substantially (between
who are prepared to explõit this criticåf strategic situatio-n.,e ^ 8 per cent and 19 per cent) compared with an increase of 13 per cent in
,Can thè real wages of ihe average manual worker- The same general trend
the.need to pose the rhetorical question:
.-ï:..: socieþz stand
the strain of the extension of uninhibited collective bargainin!?,ro is revealed in the figures presented by the Royal Commission on the
re-phrase the question somewhat, it is not so much a matter
To Distribution of Income and Wealth, in which the pre-tax earnings of
of manual workers are compared with those of middle and higher man-
whether that convenient abstraction calred 'societ¡z' .rr, th.
strain, but of whether the exclusionary class can. úndoubtedly agement over the period 197O to 7975.
"tur,ã this This would certainly seem to suggest that the changing usurpation-
78 79
Marxism and class theory i
Social closure as usurpation
Table 1 Treads ín pre-tax incomes (males) L970-75 at constant 1970 prices (7970 lr

100) = t,
,no,-rta be determined by its rating on both these counts. It is equally
i important to maintain this distinction because of the difference in the
degree of legitimacy that each can claim. Demands raised by virtue of
Median-earnings Medianearníngs Middle Hígher
skill are fully compatible with market principles of reward and are
Manual men Non-manual tien Management Management therefore unlikely to meet with as much moral obloquy from the
dominant or exclusionary class as demands based upon disruptive
7970 potential. The existence of t$¡o quite different sources of power is, by
100 100 100 100
1973 113 107 101 89 ir
this same token, liable to exacerbate those ever-present tensions
1974 112 106 95 82
) within the organized labourmovement over the vexed question of the
1975 117 111 96
l maintenance of traditional differentials.rr
i, This is one way of highlighting the fact that closure attempts on the
From Royal Commission on the Dístríbution of Income and Weatth, part of labour are always hampered by competitive struggles over
(1976), Table 2s, p. 55 Report No.3
distribution within the ranks of the working class. Attempts at usur-
u?- pation of a purely class nature are especially difficult to sustain on the
llpugity of organized labour is nor wholly a figmenr of the
middle-class imagination. Indeed, it is difficuri to ,""" what industrial front because of the tendency towards fragmentation along
more occupational lines. Industrial forms of closure, moreover, are
useful index of shifts in the balance of class power there could
be than designed to combat tl:.e effects of exclusion and are rarely aimed at
a measure of changes in the outcome of diitributive
struggle. Need- dismantling the institutional apparatus of exclusion itself. On this
les-s to say, small shifts in the balance of power
are not necessarily an score the activities of organized labour have remained faithful to
indication of a progressive trend culmìnaûng in the dominion
labour- It is altogether possible that the present tendency
of Lenin's account of them as incorrigibly economistic. Flowever, to the
could be extent that the ancient Marxist belief in the potential power of labour
reversed and labour's,gains gradually wìped out. In
a säciety stilr now perhap s for the fifst time lnas a ring of plausibili V, any renuncia-
largely dominated by tñe exclusionary inåtitutions pr"p."y
credentials it would be paradoxical in tÉe extreme if the "i relative shares
""a tion of the use of this power for expressly political and not merely
accruing to this quarter were permitted to decline t""lr,u.fry economic ends does raise anew the entire question of workers' 'loy-
result of successful closure from below-
u, u alty to the system'. Marxism has tended to muddy this issue by
In addition, of course, any shifts that have occurred in assuming that the proletariat was endowed with massive usurpa-
the overail tionary powers more or less from its inception, so that the'problem'
balance of class forces woulá not affect alr sectors
of organized labour always to be accounted for was why workers failed to actualize it for
to tfre same degree. T.he lopg-term developments
in the productive their own political ends. This paved the way for a succession of
already mentioned ãonfer greater' uargainin!-
some groups than others, so possibþ giving Marxist theorists, from Lukacs and Gramsci to the Althusserian and
ris=e to ,,"u* of "" Frankfurt schools, offering a diagnosis implying in the most oblique
inequalit¡r within the working cJmparable to those "o.i"",
that have and scholarly manner that the proletariat was suffering from a kind of
"tars anä
traditionally existed betweerl skilred unskilled workers. It is collective brain damage.
rather surprising that the co-existence of two
quite separate sources of But if the usurpationary capacity of the working class is judged in
inequality among, wage labourers has not been
fully acknowledged, terms of its decisive position in the productive process (and not on its
class analyses rooted in the weberian tradition.
well be because the concept of 'market situation, is Thrs courd ability to supply cannon fodder in an insurrectionary romance) then a
fert to be suffi- gqod case can be made for saying that its actual potential for bringing
to include all possible conditions a"ã-Ç,
oargarnrng capacity associated with the division or the system to a permanent halt was never all that great before the era
of labour. vet, iionly of highly advanced capitalism. It is only now that the question of
on grounds of conceptual clarity, a distinction
should be måde be- voluntary restraints upon the use of power for political ends becomes
twe:n the ability to command resources on the basis of skill and
market scarcit¡r, and the abili$r to command of genuine interest and importance. That is to say, it is only within
resources on the basis of the context of contemporary capitalism that labour/s willingness or
'disruptive potential'. since íhe two sources
vary independently, any given group,s totalof industrial leverage otherwise to give moral endorsement to the social system is in the
bargai.,ing least problematic, because political acquiescence is less easily

Socíal closure as usurpation

Marxism and class theory

I accounted for as a response by labour to its collective weakness in the tion to be defused. That is to say, the always contentious matter of the

face of organized capital. When labour can seriously challenge capital size of. relative shares accruing to different classes becomes muted
without reliance upon the superhuman personal qualities of workers, when the absolute size of. that slice of the national cake going to the
then the latter's sufferance of capitalism is explicable only by refer- subordinate class is always slowly increasing, even though the
ence to a set of beliefs about this system and its possible alternatives.
12 increase may be disproportionately less than that going to the domin-
And in this respect the role of labour's leadership is likely to be of ant class. Modern capitalism has banked heavily upon its capacity to
some significance. If Finer is only even partly right in suggesting that sustain economic growth as the most effective way of forestalling
'the critical limit upon union power lies insmtíments', the part played usurpationary claims. Through continuous growth, the struggle over
by those charged with the responsibility for articulating such senti- distribution can usually be confined to the marginal, incremental
ments is bound to be an increasingly fateful one.r3 increase in the national product, rather than directly affecting the
In the light of all this, it is not altogether surprising that the leaders total system of allocation. Capitalism's conviction of its ability to
in question have been subject to that special kind of flattery at which maintain this performance indefinitely would seem to be well illus-
the state excels when seeking allies among its potential adversaries- trated by the leading role accorded to commercial activities like adver-
11il The fact that so many contemPorary commentators have managed to tising and promotion, expressly designed to realize the Durkheimian
detect signs of a 'corporatist' solution to social unrest is attributable nightmare of appetite creation. To impose moral constraints upon
above all to government's reliance upon trade union officialdom in material expectations, far from being necessary to the stability of the
spreading the doctrine of self-denial among those whose active system, would threaten to stall one of its most powerful engines.
goodwill capitalism for the first time requires in abundance. The awkward moment arrives when increased appetites must be
satisfied from a cake that, for whatever reason, has failed to get
bigger. At this point, expectations can only be met by the net transfer
of resources from one grouP to another. Usurpationary claims by the
working class are inevitably contested by the prospective losers, so
that the entire apparatus of distribution then becomes the centre of
n political attention. It is at this belated stage that moral appeals take on
a sudden urgency as organized labour is called uPon to elevate the
The integrative burdens shouldered by trade union and labour organ- interests of society above those of class. It now becomes necessary to
izations become especially onerous when the ability of the system to try to convince workers to adopt a comparatízse class perspective by
honour its tacit comrrritments is thrown into open question. Capital- recognizing that the decline in their own position is matched by that
ism more than any other social order derives its legitimacy from its of the dominant class. Fairness entails that sacrifices should be borne
capacity to fulfil the promise of abundance for all- The prospect of by all, which means abandoning the commitment to the maintenance
uninterrupted improvements in the material quality of life makes for of absolute standards. Thus, whereas expansive capitalism has
the conditional acceptance of those political and economic arrange- nothing to gain by encouraging the oPen comParison between class
ments that seek to give inequality a good name. Provided the least and class, stagnant capitalism has everything to lose by failing to
advantaged class is conscious of its own gradual betterment, and encourage it. If workers insist on preserving or increasing their abso-
remains optimistic about the ProsPects for further modest advance- lute share even when the cake is shrinking, the fate of the privileged
ment, there is no great need for elaborate exercises in moral Persua- minority begins to look precarious. Because workers are not usually
sion. The Durkheimian assumption that contractual relations alone moved politically to contest the relative advantages of the
cannot guarantee social order, but require supplementation by some bourgeoisie, so long as their own position is felt to be improving, it
shouid come as no surprise that a sudden worsening in the bourgeois
form of iecular faith, is one that finds little support in the example of
successful capitalism. The stability of this system should not really be
condition would not usually be regarded by these same workers as
read as a success story in the art of moral persuasion, whether the grounds for accepting a corresPonding diminution in their own
storyteller is Parsons or Gramsci. Stability has been more a function of share. In other words, the absence of a comparative class PersPec-
continuous economic growth that has enabled minimum exPecta- tive, which has been the despair of radicals and a stabilizing force
,, tions to be satisfied and the potentially explosive issue of redistribu- in a period of growth, actively fuels usurpationary demand and
ttt 82


Marxism and class theory

Social closure as usurpation
,n"* a sharper polirical edge in a period of economic
å::î stagna_ state, are genèrically similar to the countervailing actions of a subor-
dinate class. Although the nature of these claims may differ in impor-
tant respects, the attempt to mobilize power against a legally defined.
and. state-supported dominant group is the crucial pointãf s-imilarity.
Differences in political aims-are always secondary to the overriding
fact of. the directional use of power.
one of the important contrasts between usurpationary closure on
the p,art of an exploited class, and similar action by other exploited
social groups, is that a class has at its disposal a àet of poténtially
injurious sanctions with which to back up its claims. Ethnic minorities
or women/ on the other hand, do not typically occupy strategic
positions in the division of labour that would enáow thèm with the
abihty to bring things to a halt. Their members are usually dispersed
throughout the labour market, so that any concerted withãrawal
would not be especially disruptive. Typically, in any case, they tend
to occupy the low-paid jobs spurned by workers in the dominant
ethnic or sex group which, almost in the nature of the case, are
positions weak in industrial leverage. Moreover, of course, when
rinemployment rates are high they are to be found disproportionately
among the members of the dole queue, that least commånding of ai
bargaining positions.
li, In the absence of any industrially based sanctions these exploited
groups'are forced to rely farmore heavily upon collective mobiûzadon
;l of a purely social and expressive kind in order to press their claims.
That is to say, when a group has little o. no cupa-cit¡r to disturb the
operation of the system at its vulnerable points, it is thrown back on a
strltegy that depends for its effectiveness upon the activation of
political.energres a¡d moral sentiments. One common, if slightly
paradoxical, form this takes is the attempt to manipulate the Ëehóf
l system of the dominant group by pointing up the inconsistencies
between its advertised doctrines and its actuafconduct. civil rights
: movements and feminist groups have tended to lay consideràble
store on the vulnerability of key sections of the exclusiônary group to
rnoral appeals that articulate the high ideals of the formal idéJlogy in
particular those centred around the flexible notion of equality. ln tr,i,
manner even those who have no resort to instrumentaisanciions are
sometimes able to mobilize proxy power, as it were, by gaining the
III support of influential sectors of the dominant
aimed at removing certain types of exclusion -rg"ir,"t bíacks or
Usurpationary forms of social closure occur, of women, for example, appears to have resulted more Áom the exercise
course, in
other than those of a purely class kind- The collective contexts of moral persuasion over powerful members of the white and male
women or racial and ethnic groups to seek either efforts of populations, respectively, than from the ability to back usurpationary
fuII inclusion into demands with punitive sanctions. Naturaliy the succesis of this
civil society, or some degreã of iecession ttre
ãxi;;;;L"" strategy depends upon there being a stratum within the exploiting

Marxism and class theory Social closure as usurpation

group that is sufficiently committed to the high ideals of equality and labour is now 'most effectively defined as extortion' on the part of organ-
allied values to react politically against their blatant infringement. In ized labour. 'The term "extortion" refers to such an act of obtaining pay-
ments in return for not imposing harmful effects on other citizens.' Rowley
bourgeois society, at least, it would seem that the phenomenon of 1978:91.
'white liberalism' has its analogue in all situations of collectivist exclu- 6 F{utt'1973.
sion, whatever their bases, so that usurpationary claims grounded in 7 John Goldthorpe, for example, has suggested that the greater readiness of
moral appeals are not wholly without effect.ra Bourgeois society is British trade unions to 'punch their weight' arises in large part from the
perhaps more vulnerable than most to this type of moral pressure 'weakening of the inhibitions formerly imposed by the status order'. That
having released, as it
is to say, 'one may see the decay of the status order as
from below because of the radical, or at least reformative, potential of were, distributional dissent and conflict at a new level of intensity . . .'
liberal ideology. As Marx recognized, this ideology is a versatile Goldthorpe 1"978:2O0 and 201. Goldthorpe connects the decay of the old
weapon that can be directed with good effect against its manu- status order to social and demographic changes, in particular those com-
facturers. rs bining to produce an exceptionally 'mature' working class unfettered by
pre-industrial status conceptions. Increasing class maturity is thus thought
It should nevertheless be recognized that inconsistencies between to mitigate against normative incorporation - a reversal of the standard
conduct and proclaimed values, be they ever so glaring, do not of thesis that'immature'workers, first-generation recruits from agrarian life,
themselves generate remedial political action by the high-minded. It are the most politically volatile elements among the proletariat and the
is still necessary for the subordinate and exploited groups themselves most susceptible to radical ideas.
to achieve their own social closure by forging a common political 8 Roberts 1972:269.
9 Roberts]"W2:266.
identity and some measure of collective consciousnessbefore they are L0 Roberts 7972:269. The same question appears to have exercised the minds
in a position to exert moral leverage. In the absence of any such initial of the Conservative Part¡r leadership. A committee under the chairman-
concerted action it seems unlikely that even modest usurPationary ship of Lord Carrington produced a 'secret report' warning that 'a future
gains would be forthcoming. Indeed, even when some degree of Conservative Administration would be unable to defeat trade unions with
the power to throttle the physical and economic life of the country, such as
closure has been accomplished, and the moral claims duly launched the miners and the power workers, should they confront the govern-
and accepted, the promised transfer of resources is not usually of ment. . Strong unions and the advanced technology operated by their
avalanche proportions. This is not simply due to the fact that usurPa- members, particularly in fuel and power industries, mean that no govern-
ilti tion resting solely upon the manipulation of moral sentiments is less ment these days can "win" in the way Mr Baldwin's Cabinet triumphed
effective than claims backed up by the threat of sanctions, but also during the General Strike of 1.926, by maintaini4g essential supplies and
services.'Reported i¡The Times, Tuesday, April 18 1,978, p.1,.
because any major redistribution is likely to be opposed by those L1 It would be further necessary to distinguish between the ability to disrupt
groups that will be more adversely affected by it than the liberal t}:.e productiae system in a way likely to damage profits and to result in
bourgeoisie. Workers, in particular, may take a less benign view of lay-offs in associated industries; and the ability merely to ínflict public
redistributive measures that assuage the liberal conscience but which inconamimce. Strikes by firemen, postmen, hospital staff, dustmen, and
other service workers result in the discomfort of large numbers of indi-
irll reduce the workers'own share of resources. This theme is developed viduals who are thus required to 'absorb' the effects personally; the pro-
in the following chapter as part of a more general discussion of ductive system is more or less unscathed by such activities, rendering them
exclusionary practices arising within that social class that is itself the less effective for bargaining purposes.
historical product of exclusionary closure. 1.2 This question of politìcal alternatives is discussed in the final chapter, The
Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Social Democracy.
13 Finer 1975:329.
14 Van den Berghe has claimed that the political and legal gains made by
ti li
American blacks in the 1960s were 'the result of mass militancy and of the
adoption of unconventional methods of protest such as passive resistance
and civil disobedience by the oppressed minorities, rather than of mag-
nanimit¡r and benevolence from the Federal govemment or the dominant
Notes group at large'.Berghe1967:93. Undoubtedly, collective political action by
the blacks was apreconditioz¡ for such reforrns as were eventually forthcom-
1 Blackbum 1,965:14245. ing; but could it seriously be suggested that such action would have been
2 GIyn and Sutcliffe 1972. sufficient to bring about change if the dominant racial group and the state
3 Finer 1975:329. had been deterrnined to prevent it? Closure by blacks has produced politi-
4 Finer 1975:329. cal results precisely because whites have not been uniformly opposed to
litl,j 5 According to ProfessorC. K. Rowley, the relationship between capital and the dismantling of exclusionary institutions.

lllr¡,i 86 87

rr tii


Marxism and class theory I


15 'The bourgeoisie recognised that all the weapons which it had forged I
against feudalism could have their points turnéd against itself; that allihe
means of education which it had created were iebels against its own
civilisation. . . It had become aware that all the so-called citil überties and
instruments of progress were menaces to its own class dominion, which
was threatened alike at the social base and at the political apex - that is to
say, they had become "socialistic".' MarxL926.73 6
Dual closure

In the light of the foregoing remarks it should be clear that the

conceptual categories of exclusion and usurpation are not altogether
synonymous with the more familiar distinction between capitãl and
labour. Although there is a considerable overlap in their usãge (and
given the nature of the substantive issues being raised it wõuld be
peculiar if this were not so) the weberian schema directs attention to
certain issues that are not easily brought into the Marxist embrace. of
particular relevance here is the fact that exclusionary social closure is
an aspect of conflict and cleavage within social classes as well as
between them. That is to say, exclusion strategies aimed at what
Weber calls the 'monopolization of opporfunitiest are frequently em-
ployed by one segment of the subordinate class against anãther, most
usually on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity, or some other collectivist
attribute- This is also a way of saying that exploitation occurs within
the subordinate class as well as against it, since the forms of collective
action involved entail the use of power in such a way as to create a
¡tr3tum of socially excluded inferiors. Clearly the notion that, say,
industrial workers may adopt formal practices of exploitation against
others is one that can hardly be made consistent with ortñodox
Marxist categories, given the narrower definition of exploitation as
the appropriation of surplus value by the owners of cåpital. But if
property is regard.ed as but one foi-m of exclusionary relatiõnship, and
hence but one form of exploitation, the possibility must be recojnized
that other monopolistic rules and practices, unrelated. to ownãrship,
also fall under the same moral chìsification.
Examples of such exploitative practices within the workingclass are
Marxism and cløss theory DuaI closure
common enough; they would include the organized resistance of men as potential competitors for jobs and. resources. The Australian labour
against equal employment opportunities and legal rights for women; movement, for example, played a leading role in shaping the White
the efforts of Protestant workers in Ulster to exclude Catholics from ,Australia policy aimed at excluding Asian labour frorn the domestic
skilled jobs and from political office; the action by white workers in market.2 Similarly, in the late nineteenth century, workers on the
the United States to deny blacks equal access to schools and housing; west coast of Canada and the United States formed the Working
or the attempt by one language grouP, as in Belgium or Canada, to Men's Protective Association, a movement that 'made Chinese exclu-
monopolize key posts and resources, and so forth. These are all sion a major plank in its political platform'.3 The closure activities of
examples of exploitation in the neo-Weberian sense in so far as they the earlylabourmovements in South Africa were especially vigorous:
entail the use of power in a downward direction, so creating a stratum
of subordinates, rather than the use of Power against those who 'By means of trade union combination, political pressure, strikes
occupy a more privileged place in the distributive system. It is not, and physical violence, they secured for white miners and artisans
then, the social location of those wþto initiate collective action that sheltered employment which cut them off from their fellow Afri-
determines whether the action is exploitative or not but the location of can worker and filled them with overweening racial pride and
those against whom it is directed arrogance. The Labour party pandered to this sentiment, agi-
Now although social closure within a class arises for the most part tated for an all-white franchise, and fought elections on a plat-
from the direct activities of the intended beneficiaries, it is not invari- form of white supremacy. It was the party's proud boast that it
ably the case that the latter themselves are the prime movers- The had been the first to propose total racial segregation. And
relationship between the indigenous West European working class indeed, by entering into a coalition with Afrikaner nationalism in
and the migrant workers who make uP an important segment of the 1924,Labour enabled the Nationalist party to take office and lay
unskilled labour force is a case in point. It is clear that the migrant the foundations of apartheid.'a
workers are placed in an extremely weak bargaining position as a Exclusionary activities of this kind by the white working class were
result of the punitive legal restrictions placed upon their activities by not of course triggered off simply by xenophobia or uncomplicated
the various European govemments. In terms of pay and social condi- racial prejudice. Rather, they can be understood as a rational
tions they form a virtual sub-proletariat beneath the indigenous response to their own exploited condition, which the importation of
workforce. But it can hardly be argued that the French, Swiss, Ger- cheap labour onto the market threatened to make worse. Frequently,
man, and British workers are themselves immediately responsible for the attempts at exclusion by organized labour were in direct conflict
the depressed condition of immigrant labour. This is due largely to with the aims of employers who naturally favoured an expansion in
the action of state and business interests in seeking to maintain a the labour supply. In this respect, then, closure by the indigenous
supply of relatively cheap and pliable labour that is easily disposed of working class against potential competitors, especially those thought
during recessions, and which is a minimum drain on welfare willing to accept lower wages, has represented an oblique form of
resources. The point is, however, that although the indigenous work- class conflict. It is collective action designed to prevent the creation
force has not itself directly created a category of socially excluded of an 'industrial reserve army' that would weaken labouls usur-
iil labour it has, equally, displayed little readiness to flex its political pationary potential against capital. The political lethargy displayed by
muscles in order to improve the conditions of migrant workers by the present-day European working class towards the plight of
incorporating them into the organized labour movement.r In fact, of migrantlabouris thus partof a long traditionof well-founded suspicion
course, indigenous workers gain certain tangible benefits from the of capitalists' motives in encouraging the 'dilution of labour'.
exclusion of immigrants from full citizenship; and to this extent they This usefully illustrates the important general point that organized
could be said to be engaged in'exploitation by Pfoxy' by reaping the workers frequently resort to dual forms of closure: usurpationary
rewards of exclusionary closure initiated in a different quarter. activities against employers and the state, combined with exclusion-
More commonly, though, closure by one grouP of workers against
ary activities against other less organized groups of workers, includ-
ì another is prompted directly by the beneficiaries themselves, with or ing ethnic minorities and women. The adoption of exclusion devices
without the backing of other agencies. The history of early labour is naturally made easier if the target group can be defined as alien, and
movements in industrial societies is replete with examples of militant as therefore not included within the moral compass of the labour
ill working-class action designed to exclude the entry of foreign workers movement. But even within a context of racial homogeneity social
rlii 90 91
Mørxism and class theory Dual closure
closure by one sector of the workforce against another has been a political footing it would hardly be possible to speak of a class system
common feature, most notably in the case of the labour aristocracy. at all. The picture presented would bear a close resemblance to the
The apprenticeship system of the skilled craftsmen served similar caste system - that is, a hierarchy of strata arranged in descending
ends to the use of c¡edentials by the professions in ensuring that tight order of inferiority in which the share of resources, rnaterial and
control was exercised over the supply of labour and market scarcit¡r symbolic, became parcelled out in ever-dwindling proportions. To
preserved intact. Mackenzie notes that craftsmen in the United States retain the perspective of class it is therefore necessary to suggest some
employed a variety of strategems for restricting access, including stiff line of demarcation and conflict that is more fundamentãI, socially
examinations, citizenship requirements, and prohibitive initiation and politically, than other sources of division and antagonism. Unless
fees.s Bauman has suggested that the overriding aim of the labour such a basic line of cleavage is assumed it would obviously make little
aristocracy inVictorian England was 'to ensure that the skilled worker sense to speak of internal class conflict as a phenomenon in its own
achieved a legally protected occupational status similar to that pos- right. For definitional pu{poses, then, the dominant class in a society
sessed by the members of the liberal professions'.G can be said to consist of those social groups whose share of resources
'The idea of restricting the labour market gradually became an is attainedprimarily by exclusionary means; whereas the subordinate
obsession with the "new model" unions. It was the prism class consists of social groups whose primøry strategy is one of usurpa-
through which union leaders viewed all problems concerned tion, notwithstanding the occasional resort to exclusion as a sup-
with the workers, and it provided them with guidelines for plementary strategy.
settling every sort of problem and argument. Unskilled and It is within the terms of this general forirrulation that the issue of
unorganised workers existed for them only in so far as they internal class divisions is best understood, and in particular the ten-
constituted an element that could interfere with the market dencies toward exploitation within the subordinaté class just alluded
privileges of their particular trade-'7 to. Attempts at exclusionary social closure by one seótion of the
subordinate class against another are, for the most part, secondary or
Exclusionary practices by the labour aristocrary may also be seen as supplementary strategies. They are actions taken in addition to the
a quite rational response on the part of a group that was itself primary aim of biting into the share of resources held by the dominant
excludedby capital. By monopolizing the market in skills it was better c]ass. The usurpationary struggle against an exclusionary class is the
placed to conduct the usurpationary struggle against employers, defining feature of workers' class position since it is the fluctuating
even though the bargaining capacity of other workers might be outcome of this permanent struggle that overwhelmingly decrees
diminished as a result. Closure along these lines was not of course fheir material and social fate. The rewards that arso r."r.tã ás a result
directed against any specific, identifiable subgroup within the labour- of exclusion against ethnic minorities or women are, in the typical
ing poor, any more than white-collar credentialism has a particular case, marginal additions to the primary source, and not equivãlent
exclusionary target. Undoubtedly, though, exclusiónary attempts values.
within the working class are most frequently directed against socially If this were not the case, and industrial workers in effect gained as
visible target groups. One obvious reason why specific groups should much or more as a result of exclusionary practices than frãm usur-
be singled out for closure purposes is that workers are not usually in a qa|onlry struggle against the dominant class, then on the present
position to employ impersonal criteria of property ownership or definition such workers could not be said to constitute pãrt of a
credentials as a means of exduding others from opportunities and subordinate class at all; exclusion would be their primary shãtegy not
rewards. Consequently, they commonly resort to collectivist criteria a m9r9 secondary or supplementary one, and on this account they
that, from the perspective of liberal ideolog:y, are regarded as illegiti- w-ould ¡ank as part of a dominant class. The paradigm case here is that
mate-i.e. 'discriminatory'. And, as alreadymentioned, itis themoral of the white south African workers whose prlvitegea place in society
objection to such collectivist rules of exclusion by a stratum of the owes more to their systematic closure against the blacks than to
dominant class that can often be tapped by the excluded minorities in usuqpationary claims upon the white bourgeoisie. As Davies has
mounting their own countervailing actions. argued, 'it is clear that a section of the labour-force will tend to
It should not be assumed that all exclusionary acts are of equal become most fully tied to the bourgeoisie when it benefits from the
significance in the formation of class and allied forms of inequality. extr_action of surplus value, in other words when it participates in the
Indeed, if all forms of exclusion were put on the same social and exploitation of the majority of the working class'.d In south Africa
Marxism and class theory DuaI closure
'Black workers are . . the victims of a super-exploitation, which accrue to Protestant workers if they were to join forces with Catholic
has tended to increase rather than to diminish . . . Since the workers in making usurpationary demands on the bourgeoisie. One
average white wage is a significant amount above the ,,surplus familiar interpretation of the Ulster situation is that the religious
free wage", and since it is not based on higher productiviÇ, the cleavage is equally damaging to the class interests of both communal
inescapable conclusion is that the white mine workers beneîit groups and that a unification df forces would improve labour's share
from the surplus value created by blacks; in other words they in general, including that of Protestant workers- The latter's heavy
indirectly share in the exploitation of blacks, via their political commitment to closure against the Catholics is thus seen as evidence
support for the State and the economic privileges they receive of that peculiar kind of working-class irrationality known as false
from it in return.'s consciousness.
Flowever, this assessment of the common benefits likely to result
This nicely illustrates the point that the status of industrial worker from united class action might be more persuasive to the Protestant
is not synonymouswith membership of a subordinate class, although workers if the evidence from societies with a homogeneous pro-
typically of course this is the case. It is not a group's position in the letariat was an unambiguous story of success. Paradoxically, it is the
division of labour or the productive process that determines its class chief exponents of the false consciousness doctrine who are usually
location but the character of its primary mode of social closure. White loudest in their proclamations of the failure of organized labour in all
industrial workers in South Africa must be regarded as part of the capitalist societies, whatever their social make-up, to mount a serious
dominant class by virtue of the fact that exclusion is their chief mode offensive against the bourgeoisie. Workers who opt for closure
of operation and the source of their privileges. Closure on racial against a minority group can hardly be declared Cuilqy of irrationality
grounds thus plays a directly equivalent role to closure on the basis of in choosing to retain the proven benefits of exclusion in preference to
property and credentials. Black workers, by contrast, conduct their the uncertain or doubtful pay-off resulting from combined usurpa-
struggle almost wholly upon usulpationary lines, bringing them into tion. Only if united class action elsewhere had fulfilled political expec-
conflict not only with the representatives of capital but with exclu- tations would it be necessary to feel pluzzled by the Protestant work-
sionary white labour also. ers' failure to embark upon the same course. It probably always
Whether or not the exclusion of one group of workers by another requires corisiderably less expenditure of political energy to effect
becomes the primary rather than secondary or supplementary politi- exclusionary social closure against a visible and vulnerable minority
cal goal is no doubt partly a question of the relative size of the two group than to mount collective usurpationary action against a power-
sub-populations. Where, as in the South African case, blacks are the ful dominant class.
largest proportion of the total workforce, they contribute sufficiently One important reason why this should be the case is that collectivist
to the national wealth to support an exploitative white workforce as exclusion on the part of one group of workers against another is
well as a white bourgeoisie. Under these conditions it may be seen as usually facilitated by the past or present policies of the state. Ethnic
perfectly rational for white workers to align themselves with their minorities, for example, that have at some time or other been
own bourgeoisie rather than make common cause with the black deprived of political and civil rights by the state are the natural target
proletariat in order to share the spoils of usurpation. Where, on the for exclusionary moves by the lower strata of the dominant cultural or
other hand, the dominant ethnic group makes up a large majority of racial group. Weber's account of the closure process is extremely
the population, as is normally the case, the subordinate group would misleading on this cmcial point. In discussing the criteria by which
clearly be unable to generate sufficient surplus to make exclusion by certain groups come to be defined as 'outsiders' he argues that'it does
the former a realistic primary strategy. not matter which characteristic is chosen in the individual case; what-
The situation is naturally more complex in societies where the ever suggests itself is most easily seized upon'. ro But obviously this is
subordinate ethnic group is a large minority, as in the case of Cathol- not so. ltis neoer tl:re case that exclusionary criteria are simply plucked
ics in Northern Ireland. Exclusionary closure on the part of Protestant out of the air in a purely arbitrary manner. In all known instances
workers yields certain tangible advantages in the shape of an estab- where racial, religious, linguistic, or sex characteristics have been
lished monopoly of skilled and better-paid jobs as well as other seized upon for closure purposes the group in question has already at
material and symbolic perquisites that flow from the control of politi- some time been defined as legally inferior by the state. Ethnic subor-
cal office. Against this has to be offset the possible gains that might dination, to take the commonest case, has normally occurred as a
94 95
Marxism and class theory
DuaI closure
result of territorial conquest or the forced migration of populations
creating a subcategory of second-class citizens within the nation- ably be more correct to identify the source of this concern in the ranks
state. The groups singled out for exclusion by the labourmovement of of the liberal bourgeoisie. It is this stratum of the exclusionary class
the culturally dominant group are therefore those that already suffer above all that is most likely to mobilize political sentiment against
the disabilities of marginal political status, and whose own org anizing purely collectivist forms of exclusion. The willingness of government
and defensive capacities are seriously diminished. Although with the to respond favourably to this line of moral argument is naturally
passage of time political and legal handicaps may formally be helped by the recognition that in dismantling these particular forms
removed from the subject group, their place in the economic and of closure no disturbance is caused to the even tenor of bourgeois life
status order tends to remain low and their inherited disadvantages and institutions. The exclusionary rights of properfy and credentials
continue to mark them out as victims in the distributive struggle. are not in the least impaired by the removal of restrictive social
Precisely the same point could be made in relation to the exclusion of practices founded on 'irrelevant' criteria. An important strand in
women: their vulnerability to closure practices on the part of men is in liberal theory is that sexual, racial, and similar forms of discrimination
act as a fetter upon the creative and productive capacity of society by
good measure attributable to the state's own systematic treatment of
women as political and legal inferiors. inhibiting the fullest use of individual talents. On this interpretation,
Proletarian exclusion against definable social groups thus only capitalism has nothing to fear, and a great deal to gain, from the
appears to occur in the wake of release of energies bottled-up by outmoded tribal practices. Far from
a similar policy conducted via the state
by the dominant class itself. Indeed, it is only through the action of the bourgeoisie reaping any political benefit from a communally
the state that cultural groups become hierarchically ranked in a man- divided working class, as Marxists would claim, the liberal diagnosis
ner that enables one to effect closure against another. If it were merely dwells upon the dysfunctions of this arrangement and the technical
a matter of one group 'seizing upon' some attribute or other, as and moral superiority of a more rationally ordered class system based
suggested by Weber, it would not be possible to explain why Cathol- purely upon individualist
ics in Northern Ireland failed to bring about closure against Protestant It is this line of reasoning, and the introduction of anti-
workers, instead of the reverse; or why blacks in the Deep South did discriminatory legislation following from it, that sets the scene for
not seize upon white skin colour as a criterion of exclusion, or why those sporadic clashes between the state and organized labour
female workers did not monopolize employment opportunities at the already alluded to. The strong class overtones of the conflict make
expense of men. None of these possibilities could be realized because themselves heard in the accusation by workers and the 'respectable
the dominant class and the state had not already paved the way by poor' that they are expected to bear the entire social costs of
creating the appropriate legally and politically vulnerable category. minority-group incorporation, because the middle-class advocates of
There is thus nothing in the least arbitrary in the selection of exclusion- reform are carefully shielded from the social impact of their own
ary criteria. recommendations- Any gains made by blacks or other formerly
If exclusion by workers or other lower social groups only follows excluded groups are felt to encroach on the already modest quantum
upon the state's own negative treatment of the target group, political of jobs, housing, and education held by lower-class whites, leaving
problems seem bound to arise where the state, for whatever reason, the preserves of the suburban middle class comfortably intact. Liberal
seeks to end this type of discrimination by incorporating the pre- support for minority-group usurpation is thus seen to be a case of that
viously excluded group into civil society. It is at this point that work- h.ppy form of moral rectitude'which calls for no personal sacrifice on
ers in the dominant cultural group tend to enter into direct conflict the part of its sponsors. The general point of interest here is that once
with the state, since formerly accepted closure practices are now the state withdraws its open or tacit support for a particular set of
looked upon as illegitimate. The resort to physical resistance against exclusionary practices it becomes more difficult for lower-class
the new integrationist measures (bussing, power sharing, etc.) is a groups to sustain these practices by their own organizational efforts.
measure of the sense of betrayal felt by lower strata at the state's They are then obliged to rely on the same kinds of cumbersome
withdrawal of its erstwhile connivance in their exclusionary preroga- solidaristic tactic that normally accompany usurpationary claims,
tives. instead of relying on the distant, magisterial, and respectable forces of
Although it is conventional to speak of the state corningbelatedly to law and state.
the aid of subordinate ethnic and other social groups, it would prob-
Marxism and class theory Duøl closure
The pattern of exclusion in the northern cities illustrates this point.
u There the use of violence to prevent black encroachment on lówer-
class white schools and neighbourhoods is usually sporadic and
The fact that exlusionary aims may also be pursued by the methods of highly focussed; it does not take the form of a permanent political
mass mobilization and direct action suggests the need to draw a organization and the salutory use of random terror, not least of all
clearer distinction than has so far been made between the general because there are no local white enclaves in which the writ of the
mode or type of social closure on the one hand, and the actual Federal state does not run. Even the 'white vigilante' groups that
strategies or tactics employed in their pursuance on the other. As will patrol the borders of working-class suburbs and the black ghettoes
be clear from what has gone before, the two main practical gtrategies find it necessary to make much of their law-abiding ways. Neverthe-
are, first, those that seek to win the backing of the state and the less, the riots against bussing or the arrival of black neighbours are
support of law; and, second, those that rely more heavily upon the reminders that any threat to long-standing exclusionary practices can
public display of solidarism and the political drama of direct action. call forth a collective wrath that cannot always be contained within
Exclusionary closure normally goes hand in hand with a legalistic the orderly routines of law and party politics.
strategy, as for example in the professions' pursuit of a lawful mon- Perhaps one of the most successful aþplicationsof solidaristic tac-
opoly, and propert¡r's reliance upon the policeman. Usurpationary tics for exclusionary ends has been that conducted by Protestant
closure, by contrast, typically makes use of. solidaristic tactics, which, workers in Ulster against the British goverrrment's insistence on the
though not necessarily illegal, are not always genteel and frequently full political inclusion of Catholics. The general strike called and
result in brushes with the law. Flowever, this symmetry is by no conducted by the Protestant workers' organizations paralysed the
meâns invariable since attempts at usurpation via legislation, on the province and scuttled the power-sharing a¿ireement worked out by
one hand, and exclusion via solidarism, on the other, are not uncom- the Westminster and Stormont governments. The fact that it also led
mon. to the collapse of the Northern Ireland parliament has not apparently
The latter combination has been discussed briefly in reference to provoked the theoretical interest that might have been anticipated,
the resistance displayed by white working-class communities to the given that it is one of the very few cases on record of workers in an
attempted social integration of blacks. American society in fact pro- advanced capitalist society bringing down a government by direct
vides a number of variations on this theme. The most familiar case of action. Presumably this has something to do with the fact that this
solidarism being harnessed to exclusionary ends is the successful long-awaited event was performed for exclusionary ends rather than
attempt by low-status whites to maintain the social degradation of for the expected usurpation of capital by labour.l2
Southern blacks by the systematic use of violence. Direct collective
action and the resort to illegality through organizations such as the Ku
Klux Klan were locally sanctioned means for deterring blacks from
attempting any encroachment upon the precarious economic and
social status of the poor whites. Solidarism on the part of the latter
was the only means of preserving the exclusive rights over blacks that III
had been guaranteed by the state prior to the Civil War and abolition,
and which successive legal enactments and Supreme Court rulings Usurpation does not always draw upon the social resources of solidar-
had slowly whittled away. The social mobilization of whites and the ism any more than exclusion invariably assumes a legalistic form.
use of physical repression were made considerably easier than would Organized labour often attempts to enhance its bargaining Power
normally be the case by the fact that the South was virtually a state over capital through the enactment of laws that strengthen the foun-
within the state, permitting the more violent forms of solidarism to dations of collective action. The dose relationship between the trade
take place under the protective canopy of the forces of law and order. union movement and the Labour Party found in most western coun-
,It is difficult to conceive of solidaristic activities on such a scale tries make legalistic strategies especially attractive and feasible when
persisting in the absence of some degree of connivance from the social democratic governments are in office. The introduction of laws
agency that is usually so jealous of any infringement upon its mon- in support of the closed shop, or extending the scope of picketing, are
opoly of physical coercion. recent examples of the use of the parliamentary statute book to give a
98 99
Marxism and class theory DuøI closure
modest tilt to the balance of class power in labour's direction.l3 ers' leaders to promote the idea of self-sacrifice in the interests of a
Increasingly, in fact, governments of all shades, though social demo- supposedly greater good. This in turn suggests that the effectiveness
cratic ones in particular, appear willing to enter into an exchange of a legalistic strategy depends very much on the prior effectiveness of
relationship with organized labour or its representatives, by which time-honoured practices of a soiidaristic kind. It is probably not until
trade-union-inspired legislation is enacted in return for a limited labour has the latent threat of disruptive potential at its disposal that it
period of industrial peace and wage restraint. In times when inflation is called upon in the first place to play the role of partner to capital and
is seen as the most pressing of all domestic problems this trading the state. In the absence of any such threat moral appeals for restraint
relationship is likely to be of particular mutual benefit. On the gov- would be unnecessary, and so therefore would be the requirement to
ernment side, control of the wages element in inflation will be make recompense via the statute book. Whenever organized labour
regarded as an essential step in bringing down or containing prices, has in the past been granted certain statutory rights and protection,
so that pro-labour legislation appears a reasonable Payment to make these have usually come about as a result of moral appeals to certain
to secure the temporary breathing space necessary for electoral survi- principles of justice rather than from the ability to back up demands
val. On the trade union side, the political embarrassments and dif- by the threat of negative sanctions. But since the system of laws in any
ficulties of selling wage restraint to the workers are offset by the society will tend to be fairly responsive to gradual shifts in the balance
knowledge that the holding operation is for a limited period only, of power between classes, it follows that labour's impact on the
whereas the gains made by way of the statute book represent Perrna- statute book could be expected to grow in line with improvements in
nent improvements in the condition of organized labour. its real bargaining-position. Thus, usurpation by legal means is ini-
It is the awareness of these long-term statutory advantages accru- tially dependent upon the proven effectiveness of usurpation via
ing to labour in exchange for purely temporary concessions that solidarism, though the consequence of legislative gains is to give a
provokes the complaint by capital's spokesmen that the unions have sharper cutting edge to solidarism itself.
exceeded their proper function by trespassing upon political territory. One important difference between the two tactics of usurpation is
Nothing less than the sovereignty of parliament and democracy itself that solidarism arbitrarily favours those sections of the labour move-
are felt to be threatened by this new tendency for powerful unions to ment with most industrial muscle, and therefore to some extent
dictate to governments the conditions of their co-operation. This is reinforces ever-present tendencies towards fragrnentation and divi-
the understandably plaintive cry of those for whom the hallowed siveness. Legalism, on the other hand, always acts as a unifying force
special relationship between capital and the legislative arm is part of in so far as statutory changes affect the entire movement equally,
the natural order of things, and for whom labour's rough intrusion including the weakest groups. If reforms favourable to the trade
into the affairs of state is tantamount to a breach of constitutional unions now usually occurmore in response to the dictates ofrealpolitik
etiquette. No doubt it is anxiety about the possible consequences of than to the tenderheartedness of govemment, then the power that
legally supported usurpation that causes grave public doubts to be the latter is responding to is not that of organized labour as a whole
expressed in Britain about the quality of political institutions that have but, in the last resort, to those sectors that have the capacity to make
hitherto been felt to serve the custodians of privilege faithfully and or break govemment policy. In other words, it is the latent power of
well. Suddenly it seems there is an urgent need for a new, written the strongest groups that is ultimately responsible for extending the
constitution to safeguard the people against abuse by arbitrary pow- protective legal canopy beneath whichøll branches of the movement
ers; suddenly the electoral system requires a thorough overhaul to can shelter. In this respect, at least, trade union particularism is
forestall the possibility of minority governments introducing radical transcended by the common interests of class.
reforms for which they have'no mandate'. There could be no more
telling illustration of how seriously certain sections of the exclusio-
nary class look upon organized labour's increasing reliance upon a
legalistic strategy of usurpation than the fact that they should now
contemplate changing the rr.les of the constitutional game.u
Access to the statute book, and the long-term advantages it brings, I\/
has not of côurse been conferred on labour as an act of political grace.
As already pointed out, it arises from the state's reliance upon work- The phenomenon of dual closure is not confined to the ranks of
700 107
Marxism and class theory Dual closure
industrial workçrs but is a common feature also among those white- in an occupation is felt to jeopardize the attainment of 'autonomy',
collar groups ordinarily referred to as the lower or semi-professions. which is regarded as one of the defining hallmarks of a profession.
These are the occupations that make claims to rewards on the basis of The Simpsons spell out the logic of this argument as follows:
formal qualifications, but which have been unable to secure full
professional closure by establishing a legal monopoly or control over 'The predominantly female composition of the semi-professions
the number and qualit¡r of entrants. Partly as a result of this incom- stréngthens all . . . forces for bureaucratic control in the organ-
plete professional closure these white-collar groups are also liable to izations in which they work. The public is less willing to grant
resort to the tactics of industrial solidarism as a means of advancing autonomy to women than to men. A woman's primary attach-
their claims. The theoretical interest of the semi-professions thus ment is to the family role; women are therefore less intrinsically
resides in the fact that they seek to combine the exclusionary devices committed to work than men and less likely to maintain a high
of credentialism, by an emphasis upon their expert and 'professional' level of specialized knowledge. . For these reasons, and
attributes, with the familiar usurpationary methods of organized because they often share the general cultural norm that women
labour by acting in a't¡ade-union' capacity. In recent times this latter should defer to men, women are more willing than men to accept
type of activity appears to have become especially pronounced as the bureaucratic controls imposed upon them in semi-
traditionally quiescent vocational groups have assumed a more com- professional organizations, and less likely to seek a genuinely
bative bargaining stance. Consequently, interest has centred on the professional status.'18
related questions of (a) why the semi-professions have been unsuc- The alleged link between female submissiveness and inability to
cessful in accomplishing full social closure comparable to law, achieve full professional closure assnmes particular importance
medicine, and similar professional monopolies; and (b) the reasons because of the fact that the semi-professions are usually subject to
for the recent upsurge in militancy and the prospect this opens up for quite close external controls by state and local authorities. That is,
semi-professional incorporation into the ranks of organized labour. they are typical examples of what Weber refers to as 'heteronomous'
One notable attempt to answer the first of these questions starts organizations, in contrast to fully'autonomous' organizations such as
from the position that schoolteaching, social work, nursing, and the established The Simpsons suggest that one of the main
like, are to be regarded as 'failed professions'- that is, occupations reasonswhy the semi-professionsremain bound by external controls,
that have inappropriately set themselves the task of attaining full and hence fail to win full closure and autonomy, is precisely because
professional status, a goal that is actually beyond their reach. One of of the prevalence of that sex for whom obedience is part of the natural
the chief obstacles to complete social closure is felt, in some quarters, order of things. In the light of these ineradicable defects, Etzioni
to be their lack of a sufficiently developed 'knowledge base'. Goode, recommends that the semi-professions should renounce their'inau-
for example, argues that complete professional status is only possible thentic aspirations' to achieve full professional standing and simply
for occupations that have a complex body of esoteric or technical 'be themselves'.20
knowledge at their Occupational groups that have only a Two observations need to be made about this analysis. First, the
slender knowledge base cannot compensate for this deficiency by case for a complex and codified'knowledge base'as an indispensable
concerted efforts of an organizational kind. .As Etzioni puts it, there prerequisite for professional closure is taken as self-evident rather
are 'powerful societal limitations on the extent to which these occuPa- than as a case to be argued- That is, the proposition is never formu-
tions can be fully proféssionalized' , suggesting that there are certain lated in such a way as to encourage dispassionate judgementof those
inherent features of the division of labour itself that Promote or elevated claims made by the professions themselves concerning their
hinder the possibilit¡r of closure.16 command of specialized knowledge. In particular, no distinction is
These restrictions upon closure are thought to be compounded, made between forms of knowledge that might be thought to consti-
moreover, by the fact that the lower professions tend to be dispro- tute the operational core of professional work, and those various
portionately staffed by women. That is, the marginal status of these accretions that have scant practical application but are more in the
groups is regarded partly as a function of the low status attaching to way of ritual embellishments that prolong the period of training,
women generally. So much so that, in Etzioni's judgement, the'cul- thereby protecting market scarcity.2r It is part of credentialist strategy
tural values of professions, organizations, and female employment to insist thatall the knowledge tested by examinations is indispens-
are not compatible'.r? More specifically, a preponderance of women able to the eventual performance of tasks. Ffowever, the observer's
702 703
Marxism and class theory
DuaI closure
willingness to suspend disbelief in this judgement should not be
carried to the point where the professionals' own claims take on the that they are closely interlocked with local and national government
status of sociological truths. one possibility that deserves to be toyed bureaucracies, then the obstacles to full professional autonomy can be
with is that once a professional monopôly has been established, the seen as quite independent of the sexual composition of employees.
way then becomes clear for the elaboration of those purely ceremonial Indeed, this could be one of the reasons why aspiring men would be
conventions by which access to specialized knowledge is carefully inclined to see these occupations as unattractive and not seek to
monitored and restricted. Moreover, to the extent that any given monopolize them, much in the way that ind.igenous manual workers
knowledge base is recognized as being to some degree socially abandon the least attractive jobs to immigrant labourers. Although
defined, and not altogether an intrinsic feature of thJ division of the factors making for the success or failure of professional closure are
Iabour, the more scepticism is called for regarding those assertions varied and complex, and by no means fully understood, the emphasis
that professional closure is linked in a straightfo.,r'ard way with some upon sex composition seems the least promising point of departure.
unspecified quantum of expertise.¿¿ An altogether different approach to the problem is one that
scepticism also seems to be the proper response to that strand in includes the semi-professions in the general drift towards ,white-
the argument that identifies the sex composition of the lower profes- collar proletarianization'. This thesis implicitly endorses the view that
sions as a key factor in forestalling closure. It is one thing to säy that the semi-professions lack the necessary attributes for full member-
women are handicapped in their career activities by virtue of the ship in the professional middle class, suggesting that collective action
additional domestic burdens they are usually expected to shoulder. on the industrial model is the compelling alternative. The main
But it is quite another to state that women who oicupy similar places impetus behind this development is seen to be the steady erosion of
to men_in the occupational order exhibit distinctively ,femalá, pat_ autonomy at the workplace as bureaucracy tightens its grip, so
terns of behaviour when it comes to matters of a professional and gradually removing one of the most rewarding aspects of semi-
organizational kind. In white-collar employment gônerally, there is professional life and moving it one step nearer to the condition of
no evidence to show that women are more resistant to the appeals of industrial labour.
trade union or professional association membership than are men 'In such occupations, the proletarian form begins to assert itself
employed in similar work conditions.23 Nor has it been demonstrated and to impress itself upon the consciousness of these employees.
that female employees are less militant or strike prone than their male Feeling the insecurities of their role as sellers of labour power and
colleagues. If 'submissiveness' really had s.,ch u debilitating effect the frustrations of a controlled and mechanically organized
upon women's organizing capacities as has been suggested iiwould workplace, they begin, despite their remaining privileges, to
surely make itself felt in a. greater reluctance to actlã opposition to know those symptoms of dissociation which are popularly called
managerial authority. The implication is, of course, tnail? the semi- "alienation" and which the working class has lived with for so
professions were staffed largely by men they would be far more likely long that they have become part of its second nature.,za
to attain full professional autonomy and closure - what might bã
called tt:.e machismo theory of professionalization. It might .o*ð ." .., Braverman's statement finds an echo in Oppenheimer,s view that
interesting piece of news to workers in the mining, dõcks, and con- 'the income position, employment picture and job condition of the
struction industries that their routine submissi,on to managerial increasingly bureaucratically-located professional is helping to create
command is a characteristically feminine trait. But perhaps it is-only "proletarian" conditions'.2s The new-found willingness to resort to
the white-collar version of manhood that is so staunchlyìesistant to previously despised forms of collective action arises from the fact
the importunities of authority and all encroachments upon personal that, 'In the process of having autonomy taken away by adminis-
autonomy? trators, the professional becomes proletarianized; in defending what
A-more plausible explanation for the sex composition of the lower remains of autonomy, further proletarianization results,. 26 Mãrcus,s
professions is that these, for whatever .eason, have not been es- study of militancy among schoolteachers in the united states draws
pecially prÞed by men and that exclusionary devices against women upon broadly similar arguments, concluding that teachers 'will be the
hav3 j-hgrefore not operared with the prototype of the new and emerging professional because the changes
ä"gr." of rfour as in the
established professions, except at"u*" the hfuhest re"vels. If the they have undergone and the problems they have confronted in the
heteronomous nature of the lower professions arises from the fact past two decades are just now beginning to be experienced by other

Marxísm ønd class theory I Dual closure

The proletarianization thesis is thus presented as an explanation for deterioration in conditions of work and life-chances following hard
the recent trend among the lower professions towards collective on a period of comparative munificence.
action of a markedly different kind from that associated with creden- Direct action of a solidaristic kind therefore recommends itself as an
tialism and legal monopoly. But the question raised by this account is r
appropriate strategy for defending jobs and improving pay and work-
how far the change in conduct is due to the loss of autonomy set in ing conditions- Professional closure is a long-term goal that promises
train by the drift towards bureaucracy. It is worth remembering that i to yield dividends at some unspecified and distant time. But under
Weber's anguish at the bureaucratization of everything was ex- lI inflationary conditions the concern with distant prospects is likely to
pressed more than half a century ago. Although there are no doubt take second place to the immediate preoccupation with current
some small corners of modern society still awaiting its touch, a little Ii income. This is especially the case when bargaining takes place within
more exactitude is surely now required in speaking of an increase in l, the restricted time limits imposed by the annual wages round, since
bureaucratic controf especially in the case of occupations that have those groups that fail to exert sufficient pressure at the appropriate
never exactly revelled in autonomy. The proletarianization thesis üme may find it difficult to make up for lost ground in the subsequent
assumes the existence of a golden age of semi-professional indepen- 1 round. Inflation thus creates a moral climate in which the struggle
dence now abruptly shattered by newly imposed external controls. In I over pay tends to occupy the collective mind to an extent that leaves
fact, of course, many of the lower professions were virtually the J
r little room for the cultivation of professional decorum. When the
creation of bureaucracy, having been set up as goverrrment agencies
i immediate protection of living standards becomes the order of the
for the administration of the welfare state. It seems unlikely, to say lt'
day, the old reluctance to engage in the less genteel form of collective
the least, that the shift towards an 'industrial strategy' has been action may begin to seem like a costly self-indulgence.
sparked off as a reaction to the unexpected encounter with official- I
I The thesis of white-collar proletarianization assumes a continuous
dom. Who, it may be wondered, enters any of the lower professions ¿. and irreversible process of decline in the condition of intermediate
believing them to be anything other than tightly constrained by the i, groups, since it is hardly on the cards that bureaucracy could be rolled
policies, budgets, and dictates of local and state authorities? i back sufficiently to permit the lower professions to regain the auton-
I omy they have allegedly lost. However, if it is not the loss of profes-
i sional autonomy that is at the heart of the matter, but the impact of
l inflation and public spending cuts, there need be nothing irreversible
about the trade-union orientation of these groups, unless perhaps

i inflation itself were to become a perrnanent condition of capitalist
v I economies- Under a less stringent economic regime they could quite
plausibly revert to a pattern of activity in which the goal of profes-
A more obvious reason for the novel behaviour of these groups in iI sional closure assumed greater importance. It is a characteristic of
these intermediate groups that they strive to maximize their advan-

recent times is to do with their equally novel experience of inflation.

As was pointed out in an earlier chapter, these occupations tend to be 1
tages by adjusting the balance betweenboúl¡ t¡res of closure activitSr,
in the front line of government campaigns to reduee public expendi- according to changing circumstances. This fact has often been ob-
ture. It is the welfare professions above all that have suffered from the scured by the tendency to Present the two types of activþ as a
sudden contraction of those prospects and conditions normally contrast between'status' versus'class' orientations. The striving for
thought to give them an edge over even the best paid manual work- professional qualifications and standards is viewed as an attempt to
ers. The fact that the semi-professions are heavily concentrated in the enhance the membership's occupational dignity and similar intang-
public sector producing non-marketable goods renders them es- ibles of status; whereas direct bargaining over incomes and the atten-
pecially vulnerable to those solutions to the 'fiscal crisis of the state' dant threat of conflict is defined as class action.æ Flowever, it seems
that seek to divert resources into the manufacturing and productive more realistic to conceive of both strategies as attempts to improve
sectors. Thus, it is probably not so much the loss of autonomy and the material conditions, broadly conceived, in so far as the credentialist
alienation effect that accounts for the new militancy, so much as the approach also has irnportant market consequences, although of a
confrontation with budget-conscious state authorities. Subordina- longer-term kind than direct industrial action. The difference be-
tion to such authority is nothing new; what is new is the unexpected tween professional and trade union action is not a difference between

706 707
Mørxism and clnss theory DuøI closure
status and class concerns, but between long-term and immediate law and its guardians is not likely to recommend itself as an attractive
alternative to a strategy that carries the full blessing of the law. As
The class versus status distinction stems partly from the view that Roberts and his colleagues have shown in their account of the evolu-
trade unionism is the expression of collectivist attitudes and senti- tion of draughtsmens' and technicians' unions, the transition from
ments that come naturally to the working class, but which contrast exclusionary to usurpationary closure was undertaken only with the
strongly with the individualist outlook of the middle class. Flowever, greatest reluctance:
as the earlier discussion of professional closure made clear, bourgeois
strategies yield little to those of the proletariat in their reliance upon 'Draughtsmen had discovered an ocorpational identity at the
co-operative and concerted action. Exclusionary groups would end of the last century; they had quickly acquired prestige and
hardly be able to assert themselves in defence of privilege if they were commanded a scarcity rent in the labour market . . . But hopes
less capable of acting collectively than usurpationary groups. Irrdeed, entertained for the creation of a professional occupation sus-
the very notion of closure only makes sense as a form õf com*on tained by the device of strictly controlled entry faded with the
action, even though the actual criteria adopted for exclusionary pur- changing structure of industrial organisation and the pattern of
poses may be of an individualistic kind. It would therefore be greatly demand for draughtsmen. . .'32
confusing to set up a contrast between the 'collectivism, of trade
unionism and the 'individualism' of professions. Common or con- 'The market strategies of both draughtsmen and the other tech-
certed action is required of both; what is at issue is whether such nicians' associations moved towards a greater acceptance of col-
action is directed towards exclusionary or usurpationary ends. lective bargaining on behalf of "all working at the tools" and
This does not amount to saying that there is some necessary away from attempts to create dosed professional associations-'s
incompatibility in pursuing the exclusionary objectives of profes: The semi-professions of the welfare state have not travelled as far
sional closure simultaneously with those activities normally associ- down this path as the draughtsinen and technicians, pace tt:.e confi-
ated with usurpation- Attention has recently been drawn to the dent predictions of their imminent proletarianization. They remain
emergence of so-called 'professional unions,, which combine aspects archetypal intermediate groups by virtue of their continuing com-
of both fypes of organization.30 Similarly, Lansbury has pointed io the mitment to both main strategies of closure. In neo-Marxist terms they
tendency among some lower professional groups to sèek member- would no doubt qualify for candidature among those occupations in a
ship in professional associationsand trade,rniorrã, suggesting on the 'contradictory class location', having one foot in each of the two great
basis of his own study that this practice is ,increasingly regarded, classes. Flowever it should again be said that there is nothing neces-
particularly by the rnarginal professional groups, as complementary sarily contradictory in pursuing two different strategies in an attempt
rather than contradictory'.at It is this desire to place a ,beieach way;, to maximize rewards; complementarity would seem to be the more
as Lansbury puts it, that more probably accounts for the current appropriate term.
popularity of the trade union option than the sudden acknowledge- The theoretical purpose behind classifuing intermediate positions
ment of proletarian status. since there are no indications of the as contradictory is to suggest their inherent instability due to unman-
semi-professions abandoning their hopes in credentialism it would ageable cross-pressures that must ultimately be resolved by the
seem premature to consign them unequivocally to the subordinate acceptance of 'full' class membership. In Marxist theory the social
class. arena between the two main classes resembles a field of magnetic
Although intermediate white-collar groups may fruitfully combine forces pulling all elements in opposing directions in unceasing flux
exclusionary and usurpationary strategies, it seems likely that the and motion. There can be no pennanence or stability in this zone,
latter will be adopted with some reluctance, and only if the ãttempt to governed as it is by the forces of attraction and repulsion emanating
establish full closure fails to come off. Complete professional status is from opposite class poles. As a consequence, Marxist theorists from
probably always regarded as the more desirable goal, if only because Marx himself through to Trotsky and Poulantzas have consigned
there are very few social costs incurred in maintaining a légal mon- intermediate class groupings to a political and ideological limbo; their
opoly once it has been accomplished, compared with tñe coitir,.ro.r" history is made for them, not by therh, and it is a story told without a
organizational efforts and costs incurred. in the ever-recurring cycle of future tense.
usurpationary claims. The possibility, too, of confrontation with the The closure thesis, on the other hand, asserts that class formation
108 109
Marxism ønd class theory DuaI closure
and class conflict derive from opposing principles of distributive Þort may often be decisive in salary negotiationswith government- In
struggle, summed up in the metaphorical notion of the directional use åo far as it reflects any sharpening of class consciousness it ls probably
of power. And this is perfectly consistent with the idea that any in the direction of a keener awareness of rniddle-class identity-
particular social or occupational group may draw upon each of these The same could be said of strike activity on the part of professionals;
two opposing sets of principles in varying degrees without thereby it would seem to be less an indication of a new or emergent working-
entering a state of internal confusion and disarray. Social grouPs, no class alignment than a last ditch attempt to forestall it. This raises the
less than individuals, apPear to be quite capable of acting upon interesting question of whether professional strikes are in some sense
general principles, which, at some level of abstraction, seem so different from strikes by industrial workers for whom they are part of
apparently at odds as to lead only to self-annulrnent or paralysis. the standard repertoire of the bargaining Process. That is to say, can
Contradictory class locations, as with so many of the widely adver- direct industrial action, and similar shows of solidarism, be said to
tised contradictions of capitalism, seem to be especially glaring in the differ in an analytical sense as between those groups for whom
immaculate realm of theoretical construction but noticeably less exclusion is the predominant form of closure and those that rely
troublesome to those being theorized about. primarily on usurpation? It is necessary to suggest that any distinc-
lion should be on analytical grounds, since it would not be very
illuminating to be told that professional strikes were in some way
different simplybecause they were by professionals, even though in all
other important resPects they were identical to strikes by industrial
workers. Against the appealingly no-nonsense view that a strike is a
VI strike is a strike, the hypothesis advanced here is that solidaristic
industrial action by normally exclusionary grouPs will differ in one
Whereas the lower or semi-professions of the welfare state tend to highly significant way from similar action by usurpalon-a-ry grouPs-
adopt dual forms of closure, in which exclusionary and usurpationary Nãmety, that in the case of the latter, the withdrawal of labour will
elements are of roughly similar importance, the same could not be typically be accompanied by the institution of picketing, whereas in
said of the full professions, despite their recent skirmishes on the tirã casé of the former it typically will not. The crucial significance of
wages front and their occasional resort to direct industrial action. At picketing is that it represents an appeal for active supportand a show
firstblush it mightappear that strike activity and allied forms of public ãf solidarity from organized labour in general- It is thus one of the
protest by hospital doctors and consultants, higher civil servants, most important synrbols of contempotary class action, expressing as it
university teachers, and the like, dissolve all useful distinctions does an appeal to workers in all other occupations to give direct
between professional exclusion and trade union usurpation as alter- assistance by refusing to cross the invisible moral boundary staked
native strategies of distributive struggle. Moreover, the greater readi- out. It represents in other.words an appeal to the working-class
ness of certain professions now to affiliate to the TUC after a history of movement as a whole to honour the claims of usurpation over those
resistance to such a move, appears to blur the distinction even more in of exclusion. Moreover, in making such an appeal, those on the picket
so far as a formal attachment to the industrial wing of the labour line give an unspoken commitment to honour subsequent clairns
movement has generally been thought of as an index of 'unionate- made upon them by other groups of workers in dispute- Thus, under
ness', with all that this implies in the way of a working-class outlook inflationary conditions most occuPations may be willing to strike,
and commitment. including the full professions; but not all are willing to resort to even
Flowever, the fact that some of the full professions have affiliated to the peaceful variety of picketing, thereby incurring political and social
the TUC would seem to indicate not so much a shift in the class t debts to the organized labour movement. Direct action by the profes-
outlook of these grouPs as a sign that affiliation to the organized sions is thus likely to be kept within tightly circumscribed limits in
labour movement is no longer a useful index of class attachment, which the assistance of industrial workers or other occupational
however serviceable it might once have been. Such a move by the groups is not openly and routinely sought. It would certainly be
professions is more plausibly understood as an attempt to pranent any paradoxical if the members of a dominant, exclusionary class were to
slide towards proletarian status and a further narrowing of the earn- seek and to receive regular backing from the social groups whose own
ings gap, by forging tactical links with a powerful body whose sup- subordination they indirectly guaranteed.
L70 771
Marxism and cløss theory DuaI closure

vII relations be treated as conflict phenomena of the same general order

as inter-class relations, and not as mere disturbances or complications
within a'pure' class model. Hence the extension of the concept of
By way of concluding this part of the discussion, it might be appro_
exploitation to cover both sets of phenomena. There is, in addition, a
priate to offer some general remarks on the explanatory status òi tne
.eËommendation that social classes be defined by reference to their
closure model. This model, like any other, .eCom.r,enás the use of a
mode of collective action rather than to their place in the productive
particular sociological vocabulary and an attendant battery of con-
Drocess or the division of labour. The reason for this is that incum-
cepts that contain barely disguised moral assumptions ábout the
nature of class society. It is not strictly speaking a 'theory' of class but
L.n.y of position in a formally defined structure does not normally
correspond to class alignment where it really counts - at the level of
a way of conceptualizing it that differs from tñat propósed by other
orgar.ized political sentiment and conduct. This serious lack of fit
variants of bourgeois sociology or by Marxism. Moit of wirat we
between all positional or systemic definitions of class and the actual
conventionally call theories of class are in fact conceptual methods of
behaviour of classes in the course of distributive struggle, is not due to
this kind. They are, for the most part, take-it-or-leavé-it moral classifi-
any lack of refinement in the categories employed. It arises from the
cations, not sets of propositions that stand or fall under the impact of
initial theoretical decision to discount the significance and effect of
evidence. what conceivable social facts could destroy either the Marx-
variations in the cultural and social make-up of the groups assigned to
ist conception of class as an exploitative relationship, or the liberal
the categories in question. Models constructed upon such formal,
conception of class as an exchange relationship? since conceptual
systemic definitions require of their advocates much ingenuity in
models are ways of presenting social reality, it follows that the prefer-
accounting for the continuous and wholesale discrepanciès between
ence for one presentation over another entails a personal judgement
class position and class behaviour. A good deal of the intellectual
of some kind about the moral standi¡g of classìociety. energy of western Marxism has been dissipated in wrestling with this
on this score, the closure moder is aimost bound to áppear defec- very problem which is of its own conceptual making.
tive by liberal and Marxist theorists alike. Liberar theoryLndorses a
contractual view of class, in which the notion of mutuaiinterest and If the mode of collective action is itself taken to be the defining
feature of class, as proposed by the closure model, it follows that
harmony is the essential ingredient. Marxism, on the other hand,
problems of this kind do not arise. There is no independently defined
assumes not merely the absence of harmony and common
interests, but, more importantly, the presence of irresolvable
class structure of positiôns for class action to be discrepant with. The
predictable objection to this line of approach is to say that all forms of
antagonisms that drive the system to urtimate breakdown. The
neo-weberian position advanced here is that the relation between collective action are related to logically prior material factors, so that
these factors should be the principal focus of theoretical concern.
classes is neither one of harmony and mutuar benefit, nor of irresolv-
able and fatal contradiction. RatÀer, the relationship is under"tooa
From a Marxist point of view, any given set of closure strategies could
u" in principle be understood as mere responses to the material pres-
one of mutuar antagonism and perman enttmsion;that is, a condition
sures and forces set in play by the capitalist mode of production. Now
ot unrelieved distributive stmggle that is not necessarily impossible
such an objection would carry considerable weight if it were in fact the
tq'contain'- Class conflict may be without cease, but it is not inevit-
case that, say, exclusionary social closure on the grand scale was
ably fought to a conclusion. .The cornpeting notions of harmony,
unique to societies governed by the capitalist mode of production.
contradiction, and tension could thus b. tno.rgnt oras the three broad
However, the fact that it is found in all large-scale societies, including
possible ways of conceptualizing the relation Ëetween crasses,
and on all known varieties of socialism, makes it altogether plain that collec-
which all class models are grounded.
tive action to bring about closure is not dependent upon any one
since class models are not subject to direct empiricar assault, the
specific set of productive relations or material factors. Credentialism
case for advan-cing the cause of one in preferenc^e to another
rests flourishes as well in command economies as in market systerns; the
partly on the claim that it draws attention to a set of probrems
and exclusionary rights attaching to productive property are a prominent
issues that are otherr¡'ise obscured. Thus, one of the attractions
of the feature of capitalist, socialist, feudal, slave, and caste societies and
closure model is that it highlights the fact of cômmunat cteavalã
ana their associated modes of production; collective social closu¡e on the
its relationship to class, and éeeks to analyse both within the
same basis of sex and ethnici:ty shows a similar indifference to the type and
conceptual framework. More generally, iiproposes that intra-class
quality of the material substructure.

Marxism and class theory DuaI closure
Although it would be perfectly true to say that closure practices are
related to material factors, it would also bebanal. There is a world of reconstructs past and Present social reality in an unavoidably slanted
difference between the truism that the institutions of closure usually way.
ernerge in response to material forces of some kínd or ønother; and the The choice, in other words, is not between a sociological or
daim that such institutions are a response to one specificsef of material Weberian class model on the one hand, and a Marxist class theory on
forces. The first statement simply Ãays that the other; the choice is between competing models, each containing
-arise "r,f roi* of organized its own built-in recommendations as to the ProPer way to understand
closure in any type of society will on ihe basis of certain
economic and social factors, which can always be intelligibly and pronounce judgement uPon the forms and varieties of structured
described in the particular case. The second ståtement says that inequality and oppression. It is perhaps unlikely that Marxists would
be willing to concede that what is commonly presented as a powerful
closure is a phenomenon of that unique constellation of social and
economic factors known as capitalism - and is thus patently false. slobal theory is in effect only one morally loaded conceptual model
There might be a case for reducing patterns of social .io".r.. tã ã^ong others; in which case we shall have to go on waiting for the
prior materialist conception if past and present productive systems " curtain finally to rise on that grand explanatory performance for
all their manifold variety couldsomehow be incårporated inío a single
which so much of western Marxism seems like a permanent dress
theoretical schema - a kind of universal mode of production akin to
'dTp structural grammar'. It would then presumãUty U. possible to
explain all forms of social closure in all types of society by rèference to
general material laws, instead of resorting merely tó the descriptive
analysis of economic and social factors. Buì the likelihood of Maåism
ever producing such a general schema should not be rated very high, Notes
not least of all because its traditional preoccupation with capitaliim
has badly stunted its generarizing capacity. Tire conceptual ãrtiilery 1 As Castles and Kosack Point out, 'National trade union policy has always
constructed for the assault upon private property and the markei- called for equality, but in the absence of any practical programme to combat
place turns out to be virtually obsolete ãgainst th" ''rury different discrimination it has remained purely, abstract and has had little effect at
targets presented by contemporary socialist societies. Even the notion the local and plant levels.' Castles and Kosack a973:145. These authors
document numerous cases of the refusal of indigenous European workers
of a socialist mode of production remains thoroughly obscure, which to support industrial action taken by immigrant workers, even where both
is not the best advertisement for an ostensibly materialist theory groups were members of the same union. See pp. 152J9.
claiming wide explanatory powers. 2 Yarwood 1964; Palfreernan 197'l-.
Nor does it seem likely that historical materialism, ancient or mod- 3 Price 1974:135.
4 Simons and Simons 1969.618-19. The slogan of the early communist
ern, could account for the structure and origins of communal conflict. movement in South Africa was 'Workers of the World Unite - To Defend a
The answer to the question, why does exclusion and domination t{hite South Africa!'. Adam 7971:.19.
assume a predominantly racial form in one society, a religious form in 5 Mackenzie 1973:172-3.
another,_and a largely class form in yet a third, is onlyãxphcable in 6 Bauman 1972:99.
historical terms. There is no generaltheory that coulá exþlain why 7 Bauman 1,972:91,.
8 Davies 1973:49.
some societies and not others experienced the migratory and demo- 9 Davies 1973:51,.
graphic movements that finally resulted in communãl divisions. 10 Weber (eds Roth and Wittich) 1968:342.
These have to be treated as 'just so'historical facts, not as events to be 11 Capital 'requires racism not for racism's sake but for the sake of capital.
incorporated into some jumbo social theory. The events leading up to Hence at a cèrtain level of economic activity . . . it finds it more profitable to
abandon the idea of superiority of race in order to promote the idea of the
any particular system of domination can of course alwa-ys- be superiority of capital. Racism dies in order that capital might survive'.
described, analysed, and otherwise made intelligible. And Maixism, Sivanandan 1976:367.
like Weberian sociology, offers its own special package of con- 12 Note, in this respect, Perry Anderson's somewhat premature judgement
cepts for carrying out the exercise of making things intelligible. that, 'As a political weapon, strikes are nearly always profoundly ineffec-
tual. No general strike has ever been successful'. Anderson 1967:266.
But a conceptual package or model is not a tñeory .bo.rt ho=w or 13 In the eyes of some observers ihe tilt has been anything but modest.
why things came to be as they are; it is a moral vocabulary that According to Professor Grunfeld, 'The TUC has the legislative bit now
114 775
Mørxism and class theory
firmly between its teeth. Its change in attitude towards law dates from the
realisation in't'969 rhat the cabùiet room irself courd be p;;;;;à. ..
once the TUC realised it could control the law-making p'rã.ã.r-it*rr, it,.
attitude towards labour law made a u-turn'. Grunfeld 1 ízâ:gz -No estimate
is given of the date at which the representatives of capital a.. it ã"gnt t"
have'penetrated' the Cabinet room.
14 Johnson L 977 .ln this dia_gnosis of the times, the power of organized labour
is singled out as one of the factors contributing ø ,the atropiy of cánstitu-
tional habits' (p. viii).
15 Goode 1969.
L6 Etzioni 1969:vü.
17 Etzioni]969:vi.
Class and state
18 Simpson and Simpson 7969:L99.
19 Weber (eds Roth and Wittich) 19ß:49_SO.
20 Etzioni 7969:vtt.
21 Elliott's work suggests that the established professions in Britain were weII
on the way to securing a regar monoporyåefore a'knowredge base' had been
systematically cultivated. Elliott 1922:Zg1Z.
22 As Perrucci argues, 'while expert knowledge may be a factor in initiating
the_ power of an occupational group, thai same power is also used
maintain exclusive control overihe Ênowledge of ihe profession and the
legal right to use that knowredge in practice.-Thus, wliile the knowledge
base of an occupationar group rñay be critical for creäting a profession with
the power to control its activities, the knowledge base"is not a sufficient
^^ e_xplanation
for the continuation of this power']pern¡cci 1973:123.
on the unionization of women, see Lockr,iood 195g :rsr-s; gain r9i0 : ¿o-s.
24 Braverman],974:4ß -
25 Oppenheímer'1973:223.
26 Oppenheirner'1973 :225 -
27 lMarc:tts1973:192.
28 See, for example Prandy 1965.
29 As the Parryrs-point out, ,Unionism and professionalism may be seen as
alternative- occupational strategies which åre concerned with t'he collective
rnanipulation and control of particular types of market c"pu.ity;. f ãrry ur,a
Parry 1976:25L.
30 Dickens 1972.
31 Lansbury 1974:299.
32 Roberts, Loveridge, and Gennard 1922:?3.1,.
33 Roberts, Loveridge, anil Gennard 1972:232.

Social cleavages and
the forrns of state

The sombre reality of the state as a political force has always been fully
appreciated by Marxists, but it is only in quite recent times that the
state has been thought to Pose a serious theoretical problem. Lenin's
terse definition of the state as 'bodies of armed men' seemed service-
able enough to an earlier generation committed to its revolutionary
seizure and overthrow. For contemporary Marxism, on the other
hand, the state is at once a much more shadowy and omnipotent
creation; like the holy spirit, its manifestations are eve4rwhere. And
like the holy spirit, too, about the last thing it lends itself to is physical
seizure. In Miliband's words,' . . . "the state" is not a thing . . . it
does not as such exist'.r
Much of contemporary bourgeois theory also seems predicated on
the assumption that the state does not'as such' exist. Pluralist theory
in particular has little room in its explanatory model for a social
agency so heavily laden with the trappings of power. Power in the
pluralist model is a political resource that does not readily lend itself
to such storage and concentration; rather, it is subject to continuous
dissipation and self-cancellation through the push and pull of com-
peting veto groups. Since in any case pluralism is part of that tradition
that has sought to map out a terrain called'society'it would naturally
encounter some difficulty in incorporating a foreign body conven-
tionally thought to be above society. David Easton's pronouncement
that 'neither the state nor power is a concept that serves to bind
together political research', and that in his own analysis of the
political system the very term state would 'be avoided scmpulously'
on the grounds that 'clarity of expression demands this absti-

Marxism and class theory il

Social cleaaages and the forms of støte
nence', was simply a formal statement of tacitly accepted pt....ti.t i terntorial basis. Nations needed to become states in order to defend
practice.2 ì.. the boundaries of the cultural community against erosion or assault
It may be worth recalling that this particular form of abstin.r,." *u. í;l bv powerful neighbours. States needed to become nations in order to
to some extent a reaction to what was felt to be a tedious and fruitless
i oiovide the moral foundations of internal unity.
harping on the state_ theme by-earlier generations of western theor- ; ' It is significant that Weber's writings on the state are largely con-
ists. The notion of the state advanced by many nineteenth-century | cemed with its use of power in a purely territorial capacity, reflecting
writers was closely bound up with contemporary movements of i no doubt the German preoccupation with unification and the sensi-
national unification and the drawing and consolidation of territorial i,
tive issue of the eastern borders. He says comparatively little about
boundaries. The unity of the state served as an attractive doctrine in role of the state in relation to class structure and the distributive
I the
the struggle against local particularisms as well as against the claims i'l svstem. The state is decidedly not one of the 'aspects of the distribu-
of the universal church. In addition, of course, the iymbols of state
tíon of power' within the stratification system-
could be harnessed to the drive for internal cohesion against the $ In contemporary Marxism, by contrast, the state is considered in
schismatic appeals of class and sectional interests. Loyalty tó the state I almost no other light. Its function is one of purely internal social
could be presented as the ultimate moral commitment, transcending Ë control, and any mention of the use of state Powers for the defence of
loyalty to any particular set of leaders, institutions, or interests] Í national boundaries is something of a rarity. Marx's reference to the
Theorists of the state were thus in some respects busy concocting a $ state as an instrument adopted by the bourgeoisie to safeguard their
shining ideological rationale for the someümås grubby territorial aäa I 'internal and external purposes' has not really been pursued with
nationalist aspirations of their politicat masters. Given this back- ß equal seriousness on both counts.a For Marxism in the era of peaceful
ground of events it is not altogether surprising that the state should I co-existence the only serious threats acknowledged by the state
often come to be portrayed as the noblest and best of man's creations, I appear to be those that come from within its borders. And, for the
a form of adulation reaching its apogee in that strange Hegelian love
affair with the state idea.
I capitalist state in particular, the use of power in a territorial capacity is
I understood only in that very special sense of the territory on which
One of the most striking things about this is how few takers there I class struggles take Place.
now appear to be for the positive doctrine of the state. Who today, it ñ
might be asked, has a good word to say for the state? Conservative, I
anarchist, liberal, and Marxist theorists, each in their different way, I
present the state as a malevolent force squatting like a toad on the f;
backs-of men, stifling all human potential and indãpendent spirit. The
term has come very largely to be used as a derogàtory subsiitute for I
the more benign 'government' or'society, on thè puit of those who I
have not quite learned to love their rulers or their ãociar structures.r H Contemporary Marxist theorizing on the problem of the state is pre-
Part of the reason for this is that the concept of the state, in the $ ceded as a rule by two preliminary observations: first, that Marx
western world at least, has become to some extent divorced from the $ himself never developed a fully fledged theory of the state - an
concept of nation, with which it was once closely allied. A homely $ omission that, given the encroachment of the central powers in mod-
connotation was introduced by the hybrid ,r".gl ,nation-stat",, ií t ern times, is felt to be in urgent need of repair. And, second, that
that the concept of nation, impiying as it does a cultural .o*o,,r.,ity, Ë Marx's occasional treatment of the state as a working political entity
is not quite so contaminated with those ideas of force and violenãe Ë appears to be at some variance with his more lofty and programmatic
with which the concept of the state is impregnated. As weber pointed statements, at least in terms of a changed emphasis upon the inde-
out, although nation and state refer to quite d.iffereni social I$ pendent role of the state in the distribution of power.
categories, which are by no means congruent, they do tend to require The classic statement at the conceptual level is of course the ellipti-
one another for mutual survival. weber saw the main source of ,E cal pronouncement int};teCommunist Manifesfo in which the capitalist
national identity in the language community, the primary vehicle of is likened to an executive committee charged with the workaday
I state
task of managing the affairs of the bourgeoisie. The state acts in a
;:Ïä'*:Jiñï:ffi *:i'i.ï"ä'.::,T;l'i;i,i:""111'"""11î-[ fairly uncomplicated way as the direct spokesman and protector of


Marxism and class theory SociøI cleaaages and the forms of state
the exploiting class. Marx's own dismissive comment inThe German
Ideology that the state is 'nothing more than' this, seems to squash mediator acquires for the moment a certain degree of independence
quite firmly any idea that it raised problems of any real theorètical of both.'7 This idea of opposing classes reaching a point of temporary
import.s balance or equilibrium is logically implied in the classical Marxist
Flowever, in his account of the Bonapartist state, Marx abandons emphasis upon the ascendancy of new, and the decline of old or
the broad brush strokes of historical generalization in favour of a
degenerate, class forces. The very imagery of decline and fall natur-
detailed and finely drawn sketch. And in this, the relationship be- I
ally suggests the occurrence of brief historical interludes in which a
tween state and dominant class is shown to be one of considerable class in the ascendant has not quite reached its social climax, but still
complexity and tension. Marx portrayed the state under Louis r
hovers on the brink of evicting the sitting political tenant. It is under
Bonaparte as the saviour of the bourgeoisie, notwithstanding the fact il this temporary condition, when history holds its breath, that the state
that the coup d'état stripped the bouigeoisie of parliamentaú po*", il is felt able to emerge from the shadows as a force in its own right,
and elevated Bonaparte to the standing of a personal dictator. The I filling the vacuum created by class stalemate. Trotsky's metaphor
bourgeoisie, Marx implies, actually needed this form of rule, despite nicely caPtures the idea:

their formal opposition to it, in order to hold on to their social and i 'As soon as the struggle of two social strata - the haves and
economic privileges. ii
have-nots, the exploiters and the exploited - reaches its highest
The French bourgeoisie of the period were depicted as weak and i tension, the conditions are established for the domination of
disorganized, unable to destroy the vestigial power of the old aristoc- i
bureaucrary, police, soldiery. The government becornes "inde-
racy and riddled with anxieties about the political demands of the i pendent" of society. Let us once more recall: if two forks are stuck
newly emergent proletariat. Trapped and apparently ineffectual be- i symmetrically into a cork, the latter can stand even on the head of
tween these two opposing forces the bourgeoisie felt a collective need I a pin. That is precisely the schema of Bonapartism.'8
for a more protective state than parliamentary democrary could offer. f
Whatever parallels contemporary Marxism finds between Bonapar-
Bonaparte's dictatorship fitted the bill; it made safe the rights of f
tist and bourgeois states the idea of delicately balanced classes is not
property, though at the heavy cost of suspending traditional political I one of them. The standard account of the modern capitalist state is of
liberties and parliamentary rule. The bourgeoisie, it seems, wept all I
a system in which the bourgeoisie swamps totally the life and mind of
the way to the bank. Thus, in Marx's reading of events, the state r"tes ft
the proletariat. One of the intriguing things about this account is that
in the general interests of the dominant social class but is in no se.rse ß distinctive and decisive powers are accorded to the state under social
their 'executive committee'.6 Ë conditions that do not remotely approach class equilibrium. Flence
It is this second version of the state - as an agency serving the $ the organizing concept around which Marxist analysis of the modern
collective purposes of an exploiting class while notãcting as its ãirect I state revolves is not that of balance or equilibrium, as it was for earlier
representative - that provides the usual entry point for Marxist I theorists, but of 'relative autonomy'- that is, the capacit¡r of the state
analysis of the modern capitalist state. Far from being dismissed as a $ to break free of its role as a mere executive committee and to win sorne
non-problem, the bourgeois state now appears to qualify for the same $ measure of independence from the class whose destiny is so inti-
kind of theoretical treatment and elaboration rneted out to the E mately bound up with its own.
Bonapartist state. That is to say, those peculiarities of the state iden- I The state's need for, and ability to gain, relative autonomy is felt to
tified by Marx as the outcome of a somewhat unusual condition of I be necessary on a number of grounds. Most important among these is
class stalemate have now come to be regarded as intrinsic features of ,[ its function of organizing and replenishing the conditions that make
almost any kind of state, including the modern capitalist variety. B bourgeois hegemony possible. It seems that, left to its own devices,
Although the Bonapartist model undoubtedly provides the inspira- fl the dominant class would be unable to make secure its political and
tion for much current Marxist writing on the state, it is noticeable that $ social pre-eminence. In Poulantzas' view, for example, 'because of
the original emphasis on unstable class equilibrium has been quietly I the isolation of socio-economic relations and because of the break-up
dropped. The equilibrium thesis was stated in general terms by $ of the bourgeois class into fractions, etc., the dominant classes a¡e
Engels in the course of his discussion on the origins and evolution of I more often than not unable to raise themselves by their own efforts to
the state: ßy w ay of exception periods occur in which warring classes't a hegemonic level vis-a-vis the dominated classes.'e This is a view
balance each other so nearly that the state power as ostensible echoed in Miliband's remarks to the effect that a prime responsibilit¡r
122 I L23

Marxism and class theory Social cleaoages and the forms of støte
of the capitalist state is to resolve conflicts within the bourgeoisie, a crucial term to stand as a faultless
be qualified only by that final
task it can only properly perform if some measure of autonomy from of the neo-Marxist view'
this class is ,n**ury
"*i¡,lr is because present fascination with the modern capitalist state
Another beneficial effect for the dominant class of the state's sep- -o.*r", much less upon its brutish aspects than upon its apparent
aration is that the state is better placed to accomplish necessary )ìI""iW to win the hearts and minds of those who, on any rational
political and social reforms which, although appearing to conflict ,í,""t¿ find the state and all its works repulsive. That is tosay,
with bourgeois interests, actually serve to shore them up. The intro- "ìå*, attemPt to dress itself in
duction by the state of universal suf.frage, the Factory Acts, the legal
;;";;;;" is now directed to the tostate's transform class rePresentations
örrrLt clothing by seeking
recognition of trade unions, and so forth, was almost everywhere "it"i"n
ãio.otl..tirre representations. And, once again, the task of-accom-
accompanied by intense opposition from the capitalist class, even this difficult feat of normative persuasion is thought to be
though in retrospect it can be seen that these reforms contributed 'ir.fri"*
ãJ"riãå.Uty eased when the state can keep its distance from
the class
greatly to its very survival. It is, in other words, as if the state acts as *t it is attempting to universalize'
the 'intelligence' of the bourgeoisie; by virtue of its social distance " ot" values its show of detachment from the dominant class, es-
it " gr."i.r to the under-
from the class it serves, the state is all the more able to orchestrate and o"ãàifiUy *ay of its ability to force through concessions
plan the strategies for bourgeois survival. The bourgeoisie itself is ã""r. ín. *ore resounding is felt to be the state's success in winning
caught up in the day-to-day struggle against the working class and of thé subordinate classes. Workers and other
t.?áor"l allegiance
therefore tends to be conscious only of its immediate, short-term ;;;b;;d g."t[s beco*e prone to look upon the srate as f heir charnp-
interests. The state, on the other hand, being well removed from the ãä, tnuirä.fe-nce againsl the ravages of a soulless dominantbeliev- class,
front line, can take the long-term, strategic view.rr i. the way thaî the French peasantry were deluded into
This idea of the state as a kind of intelligence is not a specifically -i.t,
ins that Bonaparte was their ihampion against other powerful
Marxist one, as writers of Hegelian persuasion make clear. Bosan- i.ri"r"tat." Legitimacy for the system would be far more difficult to
quet, for example, speaks of the state as 'an intelligent system' that win if the state were seen blatantly to be acting in the interests
of one
appeals 'by reasoning and persuasion to the logical will'. 12 Durkheim, class at the expense of all others - i.e. as the former's executive
too, from a very different tradition, elaborates on the same theme: committee. The state thus performs its highest service for an exploit-
ir,g .turr when, as Milibanã expresses it, it acts 'on behalf of
that class
'The State is the centre . . . of a particular kind of consciousness,
of one that is limited but higher, clearer and with a more vivid -raiher than at its behest' state as the higher intellige-nce- of- the

sense of itself. . . The representations that derive from the State The concePtion of the
are always more conscious of themselves, of their causes and bourgeoisie b-"ur" -ot than a passing resemblance to the Leninist
their aims. These have been concerted in a way that is less of the vanguard party as the political intelligence of the
obscured. The collective agenry which plans them realizes better proletariat. There too we find the assumPtion that, left to its own
äe',rices, the working class would give an extremely poor account
what it is about. . . refined political
'To sum up, we can therefore say that the State is a special itself; hence the neeá for a separate agency of more
organ whose responsibility it is to work out certain rePres- consciousness to serve on its behalf. Such an agency, in virtue of
entations which hold good for the collectivity. These rePres- being for the working masses but not directly of them, would not be
entations are distinguished from other collective representations hamþere.d or side-trãcked by any of those debilitating concerns for
by their higher degree of consciousness and reflection. . . Strictly immãdiate, short-term economic gratification at the exPense of the
speaking, the State is the very organ of social thought . . . Its ultimate political goal. The vanguard Party too, then, can only oper-
principal function is to think.'r3 ate effectively if ai area of sociafspace is preserved bepveen itself and
the class it rápresents. One of ttr-e mostþressing of all problems for
Needless to say, for Durkheim all this vital thinking is performed Marxism, practical as much as theoretical, is how to account for the
for the good of the collective whole, not for the good of something as process b/which the relative autonomy of the vanguard party tends
unimaginable as an exploiting class- Nevertheless, his definition of io develóp into full autonomy after the seizure of power' What
the state as 'a special organ whose responsibility it is to work out in other iords explains the party's transition from the status of
certain representations which hold good for the collectivity' needs to a mere'agency' to ã poütical pbwer in its own right? Similarþ' once

124 725

Marxism and class theory Social cleøaages and the forms of state
the state is emboldened to act as something more than pursuing interests at variance with those of all other
group's executive committee, how and by whom are political ^oørandizement, Plamenatz has argued, in the course of his critique
l?Írror or classes.
imposed upon its independence? Why are such irnportant apparatus
cal relationships always thought to freeze at the stage of åiit å V.oist position, that although members of the state they will
Ir.v bu of bouigeois stock there is no reason to suppose that
autonomy? of above their own corPorate
.,eãessurily pui the lnte;¡ests class
interests as state Seen from this perspective, the state
not merely make the transition from relative to full autonomy but may
iicertain circumstances rise to a position of ascendancy over all social
classes, including the dominant'
The notion of the state as a corPorate interest grouP is, of course,
ilI more than hinted at in Weber's discussion of bureaucratic powers,
usefully summarized by Beetham as follows:
The social fact of relative autonomy tends to be demonstrated by
reference to the tensions and occasional conflicts that arise between 'Though in theory only an impersonal apparatus, a bureaucracy
state and bourgeoisie. These are believed to emerge in the course of formeã at the same time a separate grouP within the state, with
the state's attempt to grant concessionary reforms to the its own special interests, values and power basis. Its seParate
class that encroach on bourgeois rights and privileges. The state interests lay in the maintenance and extension of administrative
appears to become caught up in a byzantine set of political arrange- positions and power; its distinctive outlook lay in a belief in its
ments in which the aid of the subordinate class is enlisted in the äwn superior objectivity in interpreting the national interest free
stmggle against the bourgeoisie - a struggle that, paradoxically, is from party bias; its Power lay in its knowledge and experience
fought in the best interests of the bourgeoisie itself. 16 The curiously and in the cloak of secrecy with which it concealed its operations'
antagonistic relationship between state and dominant class is brought While these features were important to its effectiveness as a
out with particular clarity in that formulation that draws a firm con- technical instrument, they also helped mould a bureaucracy into
ceptual distinction between power as embodied in the. state, and the a special grouP within the state, with its own separate
power originating in social classes: interests.'re
'one of the main reasons for stressing the notion of the relative Although Weber speaks of bureaucracy as a corPorate group within
autonomy of the state is that there is a basic distinction to be the state, it is only a small step to combine the two in the concept of a
made between class power and state power, and that the analysis state bureau ctacy, denoting a powerful stratum distinct from social
of the meaning and implications of that notion of relative auton- classes. This usage is of course to be found in the classical liberal view
omy must indeed focus on the forces which cause it to be greater of the state, still kept alive in the writings of von Hayek and propa-
gated by economists of the Chicago school. This is the picture of the
or less, the circr¡mstances in which it is exercised, and so on. The
blurring of the distinction between class pgwer and state power ãtut. uJ a modern Leviathan trampling roughshod over cherished
. . makes any such analysis impossible.'r1 bourgeois values and institutions. The unchecked exPansion of the
cenh;l powers is felt to lead to the steady erosion of the moral core of
Once it is acknowledged, as it is here by Miliband, that the state is bourgeôis ideology, especially the ideals of self-help, market free-
founded on a separate and possibly competing basis of power to that dom, and individualism - ideals that are displaced by their very
of social classes, then indeed the state does pose a serious problem, opposites: state welfare, central planning, and collectivism' It is
though the most awkward questions are addressed to Marxism tãviathan itself, not the working class, that is here singled out as the
itself. implacable enemy of the bourgeoisie.
Conceptions of the state that start off from the idea of a separate, This vision of the state as a bureaucratic monster that has wrenched
jl] independent source of state power are, after all, plentiful enorgh; brt itself free of class control to become parasitic upon the rest of society
they stem from traditions completely alien to Marxism. TherJis, for cannot easily be squared with the unshakable Marxist assumption
example, an established school of thought that views the state as an that the oniy natural habitat of power is in social classes' Thus,
exploitative agency in its own right, concerned only with its self- Marxists, of whatever vintage, never 8o so far as to entertain the

ill 126 727


Marxism and class theory
Social cleøaages and the forms of state

always thought to be circumscribed in the long run by the parameters

of class-based power. That is to say, the modern capitalist state
!s, in effect, conceived of as an executive committee with wide dis-
cretronary Powers, answerable in the last resort to its bourgeois
constituency. After all, what could the capitalist state possibly
do for the bourgeoisie by virtue of its 'relative autonomy' that it
would be unable to do in its capacity as a sophisticated 'executive

At the root of all these difficulties is the current fascination with
Bonapartism, that peculiar condition of the state that Marx, rightly or
wrongly, diagnosed as the outcome of class stalemate. What is now
felt to distinguish one type of state from another is simply the degree
to which it departs from the pure Bonapartist model.2l The question
of the day thus becomes 'how much' relative autonomy is enjoyed
by this or that state, a question that serVes as the basis for a classi-
ficatory system of different types of state. Bourgeois and fascist
states, for example, can be said to differ from each other on the
grounds of their varying degrees of relative autonomy - the fascist
state approximating more closely to the pure Bonapartist model by
virtue of its greater degree of independence from the dominant
However, instead of assuming that modern states enjoy a measure
of autonomy as of necessity, it might be more useful to reformulate
the problem by attempting to specify the structural fêatures that
actually govern the relations between state and class- It would in fact
seem profitable to juxtapose state power and class power only when
fwo conditions are fulfilled: first, when the incumbents of state offices
form a corporate political elite with distinct aims and interests of its
own; and, second, when there also edsts alongside this corporate
elite a dominant or exploiting class in some broadly accepted sense-
Toimpart as much significance to the idea of relative Questions raised by the notion of relative autonomy are pertinent
autonomv as is
claimed for ir by contemporary theorists could be only when both these social ingredients are present. If state power is
done only by áevel-
oping tully the tentative and unorthodox suggestion not in the control of a distinct corporate elite it is theoretically barren
lti concerning
the ability of the state to generate its own power. to juxtapose state and dominant class; if state power ís monopolized
Ffowever much
Marxist writers flirt with this suggestion they invariably by such an elite, but there is rr-o exploiting chÀs, the juxtaposition is
f¡om its full implica tions. Whatever autonomy the pull back
state enjoys is 99"¿y redundant. The two variables can be combined tó give the
following classification:
Marxism and ctass theory f Social cleaaages and the forms of state
Corporate political elite Dominant class Type of system I the eruption into open conflict of the ever-Present tension between
+ +
u.irto.rãti. landed interests and the royal power. This 'nobiliary
Absolutist; fascist F revolt against the consolidation of Absolutism' is shown to have been
+ i å:äiåî- Ë
especiallY fierce in France:z2
,The objective contradictions of Absolutism here unfolded in
'Full communism'
t their plainest form. The monarchy sought to tax the wealth of the
on this classification the neo-Mancist concept of the state would be å nobility, while the nobility demanded controls on the policies of
applicable only to the first of the four theoreticãl possibilities trrat is,
- t the monarchy: the aristocracy, in effect, refused to alienate its
without gaining political rights over the
a political system in which a corporate state elite;xists in conjun.uon
with a dominant social class. A6solutist and fascist states do seem to I
I economicofprivileges
the roYal State.'23
lend themselves quite well to that kind of analysis that draws ,-rpon B
Yet however deep the antagonisms between royal and aristocratic
the Bonapartist imagery of mutual attraction and repulsion between
I might have run, they were never likely to result in a destruc-
state incumbents on the one hand and a dominant clãss on the other. f interests
conflict à I'outrance. The dominant landed class was all too well
Bourgeois society, by contrast, does not lend itself to such analvsis I tive
aware of the political threat posed by usurpationary SrouPS among
because the bourgeois state is not in the grip of a corporate group óit},
I peasantry and the nascent bourgeoisie of the towns. It was there-
distinct interests over and above those of the bouigeoisie. socialist I the willing to suffer the profligacy and arbitrary
fore Powers of the
society is also not amenable to such analysis, because although state risk possibility of complete expropriation
I rather than the
power is certainly monopolized by a distinct political elite, iicannot I monarchy
which would almost certainly have followed the collapse of the royal
to the power of any dominant class recognizabte to state apparatus. There could never be a 'full scale, united aristocratic
ffj:åi:*osed I onslaught on the monarchy, for the two were held together by an
All judgements as to the usefulness or otherwise of the Marxist Ë umbilical class cord'-2n
theory of the state presumably carry more weight if the state in ! In Anderson's presentation, the landed nobility under absolutism
question is seen within the context of a class analysis congenial to I
thus appear to occuPy a somewhat similar position to the French
Marxism. To find the Marxist theory of the state wanting ptrely by I bourgeoisie under Bonaparte in Marx's portrayal- The bourgeoisie
reference to bourgeois definitions of social reality wouldtã . [ reluciantly condoned the exercise of political power by a dictator who
what pointless exercise. In what follows, thereforã, it should be "*"1 borne E was not directly of themselves in order to secure their econornic
in mind that the brief statements about the nature of absolutist. I ascendanÇy over the masses- In Marx's striking phrase, the
fascist, bourgeois, and socialist systems are not offered as definitivá t
bourgeoisie in order 'to save its purse must lay aside its crown'.ã In
9r c-gTmonly agreed upon versións of political reality, but as speci ! similãr vein, the nobility under absolutism could only make sure of
fically Marxist constructs. Anderson's account of the absolutist àtate I their dominance as a class by agreeing, as Anderson puts it, 'to
is the first case in point. I deposit power with the monarchy'.26
Anderson"it" that absolutism is to be und.erstood as a political The essential feature of this type of account is that the dominant
system-developed by the European landed nobility us a ,espïr,"e to ,! social class of the epoch is counterposed not against an abstraction
the decline of serfdom. once tñe peasantry had escaped rrorn airect
subjugatíon by the land-owning crass at thé vilage or inanoriar rever -
I called the state, but against a definable political elite with specific
I interests of its own which lrLas control of the agencies of state. The
mainly through the commutation of labour services into rents the I notion of relative autonomy has some meaning here in so far as it
nobility sought to re-establish and consolidate their control by the- use I points up the tense and ambivalent relationship between the incum-
of coercion at the level of the state. At the apex of this systern of social
control stood the monarchy vested with absolute poiers-
! bents of state power and an exploiting class that is the indirect
I beneficiary of stãte rule. It is a relationship between two groups, each
fil , The particular point of interest for the present discussion l powerful in a different way,locked together in a kind of love-hate
the uneasy relationship between the nobility as the dominant"on."rr,,class of f bondage, and sustained only by the mutual fear of a more terrible
the period, and the monarchy as the embodiment of absolute state I fate. It is precisely this schema too, of course, that sums up the
l Anderson chronicles numerous episodes that demonstr"te standard Marxist account of fascism.
iil ï;*. L31


il I
Marxísm and class theory $ Social clemsages ønd the forms of state
Fascist regimes are usually interpreted as a response to an .rO.-
cìally acute crisis of monopoly capitárism, in which parliamentu.v u'"ì
[ economically and socially dominantclass, however secure it may
democratic institurions are unable to provide u päuti..i f;;;;;ik
t feel about the ultimate intentions of its rulers, can contemplate
capable of guaranteeing the class soverãignty of tÂe boutgeoisie. Due
I without grave qualms, since it introduces into the process of
to the internal contradictions of a system-in decay, whicñ a.u .*"."ì
decision-making, to which its members have been used to rnak-
bated by the general international ã¡sis and incråasing poritical miri ing a major contribution, an extremely high element of unpredic-
tancy on the part of the working class, the normaily ãtäule foundi- I tabibtY.'28
tions of exploitation are badly shaken. In desperãtion, influentid [
sections of the bourgeoisie, above all the representatives of monopotv This presumably is the price to be paid by the bourgeoisie when the
capital, reluctantly opt for a 'strong' politiial regime capabre state rules 'on its behalf' but not 'at its behest'. If this distinction is
ing up the crumbling edifice of capilahsm in iti finar pnu"u."r.i.oi- offered as anything more than a terminological nicety the very fact

ft,is is ü
achieved by dispensing with the luxuries of parliaåe"t, p"riti"ur that it can readily be accepted as an aPt description of fascist rule
parties, and civil liberties-,-and by reducing to naùght the usurpatioru ä necessarily weakens its application to the condition of bourgeois rule,
ary cap.acity of organized labour. In Mandel's parãphrase or rrotst<v: [ where no equivalent price has to be paid because the bourgeoisie does
'The historical function of the fascist seizure ãr pä*ut is to chanËe ã nof relinquish effective control over the state. The advantage of
bourgeois democrary for the dominant class is surely that the state
suddenly and violently the conditions of the proáuction u.ra ,uuliä-
tion of surplus value, to the advantage of ihe decisive gt""p;-or does rule largely at its 'behest' and not merely on its 'behalf.
monopoly capitalism.' But at the samqtime, 'fascism nu" ã"tyï""r, !
able to perform rhis.tunction by the extensive poritical .,.pr"píiutiãi 'l
of the bourgeoisie'.2z -- !
Once again, Marx's metaphor of crowns being exchanged fo,
purses seems appropriate. In this case the crown of political authoritv !
is passed from the capitalist class to the fascist pärty apparutrr, å E
corporate body with quite definite ideas and purposes åu ii, rn"
fascist parþr assumes control of virtually [h. "*.,. àÌ üH The Marxist analysis of the state grounds itself upon that unchartered
".,tir. -..nir,..v
government, law, and coercion; it staffs ari key positions of state íith Í social space between the institutions of state and an exploiting class.
its chosen members and supporters, and insinuates its own From this position Marxism seeks to observe the antagonisrns and
t occasional conflicts that mark the fruitful tension between the two
doctrines into social pohryãnd the circuration of ideas. Th" ""i"""
;Ë"ì; I
becomes-relatively autonomous of the bourgeoisie by virtue of the powers. Flowever, in the important case of bourgeois society, what
that all the important agencies and functiãns of siate n.rr" U..oÀ" II
are taken to be manifestations of tension between state and dorninant
inextricably fused with the fascist party apparatus. Wh"; class turn out on closer inspection to be manifestations of tension
hegemonic party has its hand on arl the levårs of poritical and
; I within the bourgeoisie itself. It is not the state acting as the organized
control, yet continues to respect bourgeois rights of pr"p".ty"à"i.i I intelligence of the bourgeoisie that drives through social and political
expropriation, then the stage seems set for a genuine ai"piuy óf tnut I reforms against the shortsighted opposition of this same class; the
li reforms in question are championed and set in motion by those whom
delicate and taut relationship between state power arrd clrss p;;;
that so excites the Marxist imagination. undår fascism it ."" i.,a"J I Marxist historiography would judge to be the shrewder elements
be said that the state is no me.e executive committee I among the exclusionary class itself, in the teeth of opposition from
ih; l
"f their less politically astute brethren. The protracted and often bitter

bourgeoisie' Th,e experience of the Itarian and German u"rrrg.oiriã ,l

under fascism drove this point home in the sharpest rr,u.,r,"i, struggles over the piecemeal programme designed to incorporate

I labour into civil society were fought out within the ranks of that class
'Having helped the dictators to rob alr other crasses, and whose members shared a cornmon interest in the survival of capita-
illii the working classes, of any semblance of power, they found
notably ,l' lism.
thei As suggested in the discussion of social closure, antagonisms

1) own drastically curtailed and in some crüciar areas,'notabry for- 'N
eign policy, altogether nullified. This is not a situation which | within the dominant class frequently revolve around differing
an I' interpretations of liberal ideology, in particular those touching upon



'rf, t

Marxism and class theory i, Social cleaaages and the forms of state
the delicate matter of class reproduction and the moral basis of exclu- i in a conflict that is felt to be too profound to divide a class against
il sion. A shared commitment to property ownership, rights of appro- i itself.
priation, and a market economy by no means precludes intense dis- To draw upon the notion of a seParate and distinct state power is
;'l agreemerrt over the practical translation of these values into social really to imply that the workings and the contours of the distributive
policy. The variety of labels used to denote contending factions system cannot properly be accounted for by reference to the Power
within the bourgeoisie - Whig and Tory, Liberal and Conservative, qenerated by class forces. The leading assumption would seem to be
progressive and reactionary, etc. - would seem to suggest that ihat serious discrepancies exist between the formal Power of a social
ideological cleavages are inseparable from the history of this class. class and the actual share of resources accruing to it - discrepancies
Once the antagonisms over social reform are perceived in the light of that are accounted for by the intervention of an exogenous force, in
this chronic internal class division the need to invoke an additional the shape of the state, that distorts or uPsets the distributive effects of
jl l
explanatory factor in the guise of the state quickly evaporates. It is not unimpeded class struggles. Flence, in the interpretation of fascism,
l:i', the state acting as some 'third force' that settles the issues of the day,
Llll the share of surplus going to the capitalist class is held to be greatly in
but the most powerful section of the bourgeoisie acting directly excess of what it would have gained under conditions of parliamen-
ll through parliament and the legislative machinery. tary democracy and institutionalized class struggle; given its grave
The only third force that Marxism would find it necessary to intro- political weaknesses the bourgeoisie would probably have come off
duce is that of the working-class movement. It could be argued with very badly in an outright and open conflict with the organized work-
,t, all plausibility that it is only in response to pressure from below that ing class. The difference between what the bourgeoisie actually
the liberal and reforming spirits within the bourgeoisie are set loose to gained under fascism, and what it would probably have got merely
i do their work, inspired by the formidable combination of charitable as a result of its own unaided'collective efforts, is the Product
sentiment and political prudence. Social reform within capitalist soci- of direct intervention by the fascist Party-state on its behalf. It

ety could therefore easily be thought of as the outcome of a continu- is the fact of that crucial something extra - a bonus or 'political
ally changing balance of class forces, both within the bourgeoisie and rent', as it were, accruing to a class - that is the telltale sign of the
between this class and the proletariat. It could be predicted that small state's direct entry into the distributive arena as a force in its own
Ì and gradual shifts in the balance of power to labour's advantage right.
would eventually give rise to a demand for political or social reforms, On Marxism's own reading of class struggles in modern bourgeois
some of which would be found quite acceptable to the liberal wing of society it would be extremely difficult to cite comparable instances in
the bourgeoisie. A not unusual political line-up would therefore which the share of spoils were attributable to something in addition to
,,i, consist of a temporary alliance between organized labour and the of capital and labour. The handsome surplus
:l the relative power
;r liberal bourgeoisie against the conservative elements in that same granted to the bourgeoisie under fascism, in excess of its own
class. exploitative capacity, was made possible precisely because the
To the extent that such an alliance could be said to have smoothed benefactor was not the bourgeoisie's 'own' state. It was the rePara-
the passage of laws whose overall effect was to domesticate the tion, so to speak, made by the fascist Party to the bourgeoisie for so
working class, then it might indeed by claimed that the bourgeoiäie rudely relieving the latter of state power. When, however, a domi-
had, and still has, an 'intelligence' at its service. But this intelligence nant class is in control of the state, such that no other corporate group
emanates not from the state but from influential sections of the stands between it and the levers of power, it makes little sense to
exclusionary class itself. The oddity is that Marxists should have think of the state as a separate agency in the distributive system; the
brought their heaviest theoretical equipment to bear on the problem allocation of rewards follows directly from the distribution of power
of the modern capitalist state, when it is this type of state above all between classes. All declarations as to the state's intervention on
others that requires little in the way of special understanding beyond behalf of this or that class can usually be rephrased to read 'interven-
that provided by orthodox class analysis. It is partly, perhaps, tion by a section of the exclusionary class' without much loss of
because Marxism tacitly assumes that conflicts internal to a class are meaning - a restatement that certainly could not be made in the case
never quite as real as conflicts between classes that the bourgeois state of fascism- It could therefore be said that whereas, under fascism,
is thought to take on decisive powers of its own. Imbued with a reality state and parþr are virtually one, under bourgeois democracy, state
sui generis, it can then be represented as one of the protagonists and dominant class are virtually one: in neither case can anything of

134 L35
Marxism and class theory Sociøt cleaaøges and the forms of state

much explanatory value be gained by driving a notional wedge be- }êrr'arts,theywould.neverthelesstendtobeatarelativedisadvan-

tween the two ["i-t-ir" íestern bourgeoisie in so far as their ability to translate of
f:il"" iit" nign q.ralityþersonal services and the accoutrements
status is somewhat reduced'
Hlgtrer-irrcome grouPs naturally thrive,
best within a system in
as well as consumer goods are
*ilË valuable pãt"otãt services Where' on the other hand' resources
ir".i"¿ as cash cãmrnodities'
VI rnedicine, transport' recreational
,',iJ- ., housing, education,
- and
for in the
f"rii,tã .r,a tnã nte' ate withdrawn from
high income are
The juxtaposition of class power and state power is uncalled by purely social criteria, the advantages
society, because the state lacks a separate corpo- "ìi.."*á b"i.,g largely confined t3 the purchase domestic
analysis of bourgeois i"r"r-p.*"ítt", -of
respect it could be said that
tå," í"rfiay. In tlie analysis óf socialist society, on the other hand' such ,äé,, and other co^".r.Ãu. goods._Intothis
a juxtapósition is uncalted for on reverse grounds: namely'.the it ì*.fn"i"nary privileges gãnted the intelligentsia by the com-
ubse^.e of formal class powers. Marxism recognizes no unambigu- "
munist party-state,ru ,ãth.i less consequential in their social effects
ously exploiting class in åocialist society that could stand in a relation- il;;.; the equivalent rights guaranteed to the western bourgeoisie
ship of ?ruitfui tension with the state' The concept of proletarian very own state'
bv i - ^^^: Lt-
diciatorship does certainly suggest the possibility of a state ruling on naturally follow from this that the condition of the socialist
behatf of workers und pãusa.,ts, even if not directly controlled by favourable than thatof
-'nletariat is, in comparatlve class terms, more in absolute terms
them, somewhat akin io the role assigned to the fascist state in it ã *.rr"r" working class, even though measured
relation to the bourgeoisie. But few western Marxists' any more
than off than their western
*o*.r" in the sociallist camp might be worse
bourgeoistheorists,wouldbewillingtoconcedethattheproletariat eouivalents.onthisinterpretationthesocialiststatecouldbeseenas a
in mãdern socialist societies enjoyed such a position of comparable i"tlUltitg the inielligentsia-from transforming itself into
"¿t*liv, õhile simulianeously underwriting privileges
class dominance under the benevolence of the communist party är*i"å", such
apparatus. There is rather too much evidence to show that the
uria Conversely, the state-might be said to acquiesce in the
is, on almost all counts, "r,¡oyr. the conditions that
tr'ibutive system of contemporary socialism l.rUor¿ír,áti"n of the práletariat while also creating
far more gãr,..orrt to the intelligentsia than to workers and peasants' It i"ia uu"rrr from tie harsh economic climate of market rationality
Equally', though, Marxist critics of soviet socialism and its offshoots and commoditY exchange'
are not generally inclined to think of the intelligentsia_as a dominant ììor,i..tty, then, the ,ñoduttt socialist state, in the tight grip of the
or explõiting-tnrß, either, notwithstanding its undoubted. social communist Party aPParatus, would aPPear to be the
closest realiza-
advaitages. one of the crucial differences between fascist and tion of that iheoretiàl possibility sketched by Engels of a state sus-
socialist systems, as seen through western Marxist eyes, is that p""a.a above classes. hhe party-state, impelled by aims and pur-
although úoth have hegemonic parties that are closely interlocked to make secure its own dominion and to
þoses of its own, seeks another' In
with tñe state, socialism has no obvious candidate for the role of a by playing off one class against
i."t"*" political stabilitysuåcãeds in winning its independent Power
dominant class basking in the protective, if irksome, warmth of state Ëngets' the state
omnipotence. u, ã ".'hurr," of class stalemate or equilibrium; state power fills
Thå communist party-state, it might be said, strives to maintain the the vacuum created by the temporary suspension of class power'
"or,r"q,rence In
uneven equilibrium bátween intelligentsia and proÞtariat through a the socialist reality, hbwever, the causal sequence is reversed- It is
consciorrs'manipulation of the distributive system. That is to say, the state power that brings about the suspension of class power' and
party permits white-collar experts and technocrats to accumulate a anything but a temforary basis. The party-state strips aw-ay the
ãisproportionate share of social rewards, while at the same time caiacit/of social classes ìo organize in defence of their collective
ensuring that the gulf between this group and the workers does not inieresis and replaces oPen distributive struggle by a centralized
llii widen tó the extent that it might under an open market system' So system of allocation- Undèr such an arrangement there may-well exist
although the socialist intelligentsia might fare as well in comparison a privileged class, but not an exploiting, dominant class' Whether
with workers, in terms of disposable income, as do their western coun- nåt this ii.t,-.r. of the socialist state as one aPProximating to Engels'


Marxism and class theory Social cleaaages and the forms of state
closure that predomi-
,i model of a power risen above classes would be endorsed by western þ vary according to the type of exclusionary
Marxists cannot really be known, for the murtitude of urglnt ques- T"*. í" a sociery. That is to say, the kind of state sanctions employed
closure are likely to differ fromthose
l: '],i
tions raised about the nature of the socialist state have been answered lriiil ""f"r.emánt of communal of closure along class lines.
for the most part by an almost unbroken silence.2s employed in the enforcement
.;'i äàr,"rufty
for example, draw
i;r"-s.,i,n efriãan stare and the orangeinstate,
securing the domination
*å." fru.fy upon directcoercive methods
more deli-
resPectively, than upon those
'.,1 äi *t t,"t ånd Protestants,
rl bourgeois state in
ãå*fy p..rrrasive methods favoured by the modern
The fact that the modern
rì äå-i*áiilt g the domination of class by class- to control the working
lrì U.-g."ir iate is not routinely catled upon
\/II ãfurr"Uy the same heavy-handed means as those
used to
as indica-
Ioittoí"..¡ordinate communal groups should be
lltl, The foregoing discussion seems to harbour a poorly concealed belief it is indicative
ti* of tn" special properties of the bourgeois state pet se;less
il antagonisms are themselves politically
,l that the problem of the state could be allowed to wither away without å"fy the fact thãt class

1, undue loss to Marxism or bourgeois social theory. The term itself, of "f
Lrãr,r. and less morally encompassing than antagonisms between
i course, is indispensable as a means of describing the cluster of ãopo"i.g communal gro'ps. The combination of coercive, normative,
,i-,à *uãriul sanctioñs drãwn upon by the state will thus tend
administrative, judicial, military, and coercive institutions that the to be
term government does not adequately capture. But a descriptive different in the two cases-
l term, however serviceable, has no automatic claim to be elevatãd to As this argument implies, the state can be thought of as a ¡nirror
the status of a conceptual problem. There is in other words something that reflects ihe pattern of relations between exclusionary and
If this relationship changes, so too does
to be said for Marx's own refusal to take it too seriously. fationary gto,tpt. and when
i,,l ine ucti.rity of the state. Thus, if the modern bourgeois state co¡nes to
Questions about the state mainly become interesting when framed social life'
otuu u^ increasingty interventionist role in economic and
as questions about the nature of the social group that monopolizes the
offices of state- Considered independently of this, as an abJtraction or [t iJ ir rrot U".u.6Jtir" state itsell wallowing in its 'relative autonomy'
an entity 'in itself', the state is no more inherently problematic than initiates such a course of action; it is because the balance of power
'l any other institution. If the state is conceived of as an instrument of tetwee., the classes has changed in some significant degree. It results
social domination and control, the important question must surely be: Írom the fact that the usurpationary class is able to mount more
effective demands for the supply of public goods and services that
who controls this instrument? And the answer always turns out to be
áf special benefit to its members, and which large sections the
some social or political group - be it.class, race, party, military junta, -of
or whatever - that can be defined quite independently of the state exclusionary class would prefer to be supplied on a market basis. The
instrument itself. nature of ttre state can, in other words, be 'read off' from the balance
This suggests that the Marxist conception of the state as the servant of forces in civil societY.
and protector of a dominant class is far too narrow; the state can StatepowerisfeltbyMarxiststobeespeciallyproblematicunder
equally well serve the interests of a dominant racial group, a domi- that setãf circumstances in which the major exclusionary group
nant religious community, or a dominant parry. State powers can, in society is not in direct control of the very agencies that legitimate and
other words, be harnessed in support of many forms of exclusionary enforie its closure practices. The bourgeoisie under fascism, and the
closure, not only those that promote and sustain class exploitation. intelligentsia under socialism, are each dependent for their ex-
The closure model conceptualizes the state as an agency that but- clusiolary privileges on the monolithic party that controls the.state
tresses and consolidates the rules and institutions of exclusion gov- machine,-and whóse own social closure is governed in the main by
erning all relations of domination and subjection. Indeed, a class, strictly political and id.eological considerations' Flowever, what in
race, sex, or ethnic group only accomplishes domination to the extent Marxiâtänalysis is usually presented as a social tension between state
that its exclusionary prerogatives are backed up by the persuasive and privilegåd.lurr, better understood as a tension between
instruments of state. party and. c-iass. The tension arises from the use of the same state
It follows from this that the political character of the state will tend þoti..t to enforce and sanctify exclusionary practices designed to
Mørxism ønd class theory
Social cleaaages and the forms of state
accomprish the 'reproduction of the partf,
r and for the simultaneoqs with this idea that always falls short of its final
e.ndorsement of quite different cfo".rå prä"u..s
designed to maintai¡ a nervous dalliance
the privileges of crass- The poriticar rriction endorsement.
some sections of the-spanish bourgeoisie
at the close or thäFranco""d
era, or between the communist parþ .pprrutrrs
intelligentsia and sections of the
in eastern Europe, ¿oér to suggest that special
problems arise whenever state powers are
emproyed in the service of
two guite differentlv constituted exclusionary groups.
society is not faced Bourgeois Notes
win tn ãrrü.iÇ direct access to state
powers is not governed by"u^" "rnce
exclusionarí criteria
important way from the méans uy *ni.d that differ i^-..y 1 Miliband 196949.
tie dominant class itserf is 2 Easton 1953:706 and 108.
3 Thus, current expressions such as 'fiscal crisis of the state' could easily be
rendered as the fiscal crisis of 'government' without any loss of meaning.
This is by no means to say that the two terms can always be treated
interchangeably - what might be regarded as the 'Weimar fallacy'.
5 Marx1965:78.
'l:li 6 Marx's analysis is echoed in Weber's equally scathing account of the
German bourgeoisie under Bismarck. Weber suggested that the German
ill bourgeoisie, although the economically dominant class, were content to let
;,lil the Junker aristocracy monopolize state power. Again, this 'cowardice of
the bourgeoisie in the face of democracy' was put down partly to an
lunjustified) fear of the working class, and partly to the political immaturity
of the bourgeoisie - what Weber derided aa its 'will to þowerlessness'. Seê
the excellent discussion in Beetham 1974:157-4'1,.
7 Engels 1972:1'60.
8 Trotsky L975:263.
9 Poulantzas 1973:287.
10 Miliband 1,973:85, footnote 4.
11 As Miliband puts it, 'the dear perception of the lnterests of a class in no way
betokens a clear perception of the ways in which these interests may best
be defended'. As a matter of 'historical fact, privileged classes have very
often been short-sighted in this respect, and have ñeeded the skills and
adroitness of agents acting on their behalf but with a sufficient degree of
independence to mitigate if not to overcome the shortsightedness óf their
masters'. Miliband 1977:31-2.
L2 Bosanquet Lf2O:173.
13 Durkheim 1957:fi--L.
14 Poulantzas 1973:285.
15 Miliband 1975:31.6; see also Miliband 1977:74. O'Connor has similarly
argued that 'A capitalist state that openly uses its coercive forces to helþ
one class accumulate capital at the expense of other classes loses its legiti-
macy and hence undermines the basis of its loyalty and support . . . The
state must involve itself in the accumulation process, but it must either
mystify its policies by calling them something that they are not, or it must
try to conceal them. . .'. O'Connor 1973:6.
L6 Poulantzas refers to social policies that have been'imposed on the dominant
classes by the state, through the pressure of the dominated classes', an
imposition giving rise to 'hostilit¡r between the state and the dominant
classes'. 'Thus, in fulfilling its political function, the capitalist state comes
t9 rely on dominated classes and sometimes to play them off against the
iii dominant classes.' Poulantzas 1973:2Í35 and 286.
rllir,i 140
lilliI l


rri !
Marxism ønd class theory
L7 Miliband'1.973:.88.
1.8 Plamenatz].96}370J1.
19 Beetham'1.974:72.
20 Poulantzas'1,969:73 and 75. only at a much later stage in the debate does
Poulantzas seem to become furiy aware of the direcúon this argument is
Ieading to_. His retraction takes the form of a strong denial that tËe state is
capable of generating its own porruer in the manne"r suggested by bureau_
cratic theory. See Poulantzas 7976:724.
21 Miliband is openly critic-al of the promiscuous use of the term Bonapartism PART THREE
to describe features of the modern capitalist state. Nevertheless, Êis o*n
positio_n is in complete accord with the leitmotif of all analyses ihat draw
upon the Bonapartist model - namely that the îunction of íelative auton-
Class and party
_^ oml is to enable the state to save the bourgeoisie from itself.
22 Anderson 1,974:54.
23 Anderson 1974:LO9.
24 Anderson 1974:54.
25 Marx 1.926:74.
26 Anderson 1,974A'1.
27 lv{.andel'1.975:xix and xx.
28 Miliband 1.969:.93.
29 Miliband, one of the few academic Marxists to confront the problem of the
socialist state, has recently declared that this type of state ,,,iepresents,, no
single class or group andis the instrument oi iro such crass ór group; the
collectivist character of the society precludes it from being such"an instru-
ment . . . Instead, the state may be taken to ,,represenù, the collectivist
society or system itself. . .'. Miliband 1,972:1'1.4. Such a Durkheimian con-
ception of the socialist state appears to rule out the possibility that the state
could serve as the instrument with which the party sé its own
hegemony. This is all the more curious in the light òf Niiliband,s recogn!
tion that "'The state" effectively mearis here the-ieaders of the Commuìist
P arty' . Miliband'1.977 :7't 4.

The transition
to socialisrn

l Of all the doctrinal schisms with which Marxism has continuallybeen
riiii beset, none has had such fateful political consequences as that sur-
rounding the theory of transition from capitalism to socialism. The
question of the displacement of bourgeois society by the proletarian
state, and the means by which this was to be brought about, provoked
one very distinctive set of answers which can be taken to mark the
passage from Marxism to Marxism-Leninism. With Lenin's formid-
able entry into the arena/ conflicting interpretations of the classical
texts became crystallized around two diametrically opposed world-
views whose final outcome was the permanent political bifurcation of
the western working-class movement.
Although the uniquely Leninist contribution to the theory of social-
ist transition could be said to centre on the decisive role accorded to
the vanguard party, it is clear that the conception of the party and its
tasks arises naturally from Lenin's prior rejection of the orthodox
interpretation of Marxism as an'organic'theory of political and social
change. The organic interpretation, associated above all with the
works of Kautsky, picked out those various and many strands run-
ning through Marx's writings that portrayed the demise of capitalism
as following inexorably from the social and political ascendancy of the
working class. In this view of things, the assumption of state power is
not regarded as especially problematic; it is seen as the final act of a
lengthy drama whose dénouement has been clearly signalled by pre-
iii ceding events in the shape of social and economic victories notched
up by the newly emergent class. Political power simply follows from,
and makes manifest, the power already contained in emergent
socio-economic forces.


Mørxísm ønd cløss theory
The transition to sociølism

have reached a particular stage. Without the factory system arising

out of the capitalist mode of Production there could have been no
co-operative factories'.
It ãeems clear from all this that his resort to the irnagery of the
de[very theatre was no mere indulgence on Marx's parÇ it -was a
áevice for illustrating in a vivid and simplified form a schema of social
ìl transformation that occupied a central place in his general theory. The
factthat neither of the two tendencies he singled out proved to have
very startling social consequences in no way detracts from the irnpor-
tance of his methodological intent in seeking to reveal traces of the
new order pre-formed within the body of the old. It is as though, for
Marx, such traces were taken to be not merely advance signs of a new
socral order and a new set of productive relations, but the very
ore-condition for the ascendancy of a new class. The future
ir"g.*ony of the proletariat was guaranteed not by virtue of anything
as ãrude as its sheer numerical weight but, as in the case of its great
predecessor, by the fact that it was the social embodiment of new
The fact that Marx was not here wholly engaged iroductive forces. Marx's effort to locate these new productive forces,
upon metaphor is clearly indicated by his attempt in a fanciful play

to discover inci_ parallel to existing bourgeois forms, was therefore a very necessary
pient forms of socialism within capitalist society
Iiving ãxercise if it was to be shown that the ultimate triumph of the pro-
embryo nestling within the womb. As Avineri - signs of the
letariat did not hinge on anything so capricious as political fortune-dIf
has suggested, Marx
attached considera ble importance to two particular
lines of develop- early traces of new ProPerty relations could never be revealed within
ment that appeared to exemplify early forms
of property and produc- capitalism the outlook for proletarian sovereignty would b-e some-
tive relations that might come to replace bourgeois
property rela- wñat bleak; it would be as if history had ground to a halt at the
tions. I The first of these was the rise of the joint
stock company. Marx bourgeois stage of development - one stoP too soon before the ter-
felt that the separation of ownership from
control acted as a corrosive minus. Such a self-evidently absurd proposition meant that for those
force upon capital; and while this did
not in itself amount to the who treated Marxism as an organic theory of change the socialist
liqu idation of private property it was to be understood future was virtually assured; because capitalism had no unique clairn
as a heces_
sary transitional phase towards the reconversion to immortality there was no imaginable alternative but its eventual
property of producers, although no longer as the
of capital into the
private properÇ of displacement by socialism.
the individual producers, but rather as the
properf¡z of associated Almost the entire intellectual weight of Leninism is directed against
producers, as outright social propert¡r '.2 As Marx saw it, this this interpretation of Marx's theory of transition and its confident
development heralded'the abolition of the capitalist prognosiJ. Lenin's alternative reading systematically plays down the
mode of produc-
tion within the capitalistmode of production
itself and could thus be .rocãb,tlary of organic growth into socialism in favour of the equally
understood as a'mere phase of transition to
a new form of produc_
authentic language of violent transformation. The imagery of wombs
tion'.3 and embryos gives way to that of the Phoenü; socialism emerges not
A second and paraller development was the growth
of the workers,
through a slow process of maturation, gradually supplanting its
co-operative movement. Marx argued that
thìs movement brought proger,ito. - it ariães from the ashes of a capitalist order destroyed in
into being a new set of properqr"relations in which ,the antithesis ihe fl.mes of the class struggle. Nothing could be further from the
between labour and capiial i, oí"r.o-",.1 ft" spirit of the organic model of transition than Lenin's relentless under-
co_operative factory
system demonstrated ,how a new mode of lining of those passages by Marx and Engels that exult in the creative
production ,,"ùì.ffy
grows out of an old one, when the deveropmenfof possibilities of political violence. References in the classical texts to
the materiar forces
of production, and of the correspondi";?r." the need to smash the state, destroy all existing institutions, suPPress
of social production
the former ruling class, and generally get quite rough, are plentiful

Marxism and ctass theory The trønsition to socíalism
enough to enabre Lenin to construct a moder of transition and argument for uniqueness, though on opposite grounds: namely,
that is no less quintessentially Marxist than th.;;;.;;;;i;;ä:. chans" I because the transition to socialism called for a muchgreøter show of
The g"ynaecologicar metaphor tould quickry be ai"p."r,".ã I
;t.h;;;ï [ force than was necessary at any former stage of development. In
was assumed, as it ce.rrainly was by Lènin,'that thË pursuing this line of argument, Lukacs suggests, in contradistinction
body or
had become far too diseasåd to giíe forrh a healthy ".piiåìi"* I Ë

[o Kautsky and Beinstein, that the tasks of the bourgeois revolution

Thgse differing interpretations of the transition ""'.i"iiri'ir,äîil'
to sociarism .." i were far less onerous than those now facing the revolutionary work-
matched by equally divergent views concerning the nature
til f ing class. The foundations of absolutism had already been com-
preceding stage of.transition ro bourgeois societ!. The point "; prehensively undermined by capitalist property and market relation-
agreement is over the question of whai kinds of pára[er cän be "iii;- [ ihips, so creating an extremely rickety political superstructure that
between bourgeois and proretarian revorution-s and *; b";h I
aru*" I
could be toppled without undue difficulty. Indeed, the delivery of the
conform to the same general laws. Somewhat paradoxically, p.rh;;; hnal coup de grâce hardly qualified for the title of anything quite so
exponents of the organic theory generaily argued that thÉ'transitilí i grand as a revoluti,on:
from absolutism to bourgeois *.s an uiusually tr""*.ti. rr,ä t
violent affair, "ó.rãty 'The ability of bourgeois revolutions to storm ahead with such
to which ihe transition fro* i" I
socialism would -c91pared "upitrri*inã
be extremery peaceabre. According t" r.rixp brilliantélan is grounded socially in the fact that they are drazoing
bourgeois revolution 'had fai greater obstacles to ovãrcome, f", ,.;;; I the consequenccs of an øImost completed economic ønd social procæs in a
difficult problems to solve thãn are today connected. with th.-.;;- I society uhose feudal and øbsolutist structure has been proþuntlly
quest of political power by the proretariai under democratic
I unilermined politically, gouernmentally, juridically, etc., by the aigor-
tions'.' Bourgeois revolutions were violent and dram.ti.
."r,ãi t ous upsurge of capitalism. The true revolutionary element is the
| economic transformation of the feudal system of production into
becau-se oj the unyielding character of feudal institutions; "pi*a.ì r; til I a capitalist one so that it would be possible in theory for this
capacit¡r for innovation and internal reform, the clumsy
apparatuses of absolutism had to be dismantled by force.îhe ,libeä
.rd;i;iã I process to take placewithout ø bourgeois reoolution , without politi-
organizations of modern societ¡z are distinguished fro* *,os.,, I cal upheaval on the part of the revolutionary bourgeoisie. And in
stein suggested, 'exactly because they arã flexible, .rra .rpáUËãf |
n-e...- that case those parts of the feudal and absolutist superstructure
and development. They do not-need ro be desrroy.a, f"ià"i" I that were not eliminated by "revolutions from above" would
to be further developed'.e r --' --' e^"r I collapse of their own accord when capitalism was already fully
I developed.'ro
Kautsky and Bernstein thus pay a handsome doubre tribute to
- I
the. bourgeoisie, comparabre to M.r*'" own eulogy of capitalist The victorious bourgeoisie, far from corresponding to Kautsky's
achievements: first, foi successfully challenging the portrait of an heroic class struggling against the odds, are here
of autocrary-by way of revolutionåry struggle;-and, "rg".¿.d*;Ii I
säond, fJ;?;_ | depicted as a class that takes power by stealth rather than by storm;
ting up a political and social order that, ,rñlít. aU,rs;y*;;, the defences of absolutism, that Kautsky and Bernstein found so
was so versatile as to allow for its own radical transiormatior,
íitno.r* I formidable, appear to have been flattened in advance by the heavy
the resort to violence. Kautsky felt it to be a huge *i""""".;ti;;;; guns of capital. Lukacs shares Lenin's low regard for the quality of
the coming revolution after the styleãf tne ot¿,,^o, iiåi I bourgeois revolutions by suggesting that, WicoUy, the represen-
a''ned rnsurrection, with barricades and similar warrike incidents I
tatives of capitalbecome a hegemonic classwithout going through the
will nowadays play a decisive part,.e One of the chief ,uuror,J'äl II ordeal of a 1789-style revolution-
,.autsky's later insistence upon defining the Bolshevik revolution As both Lenin and Lukacs well recognized, most European
as a I
bourgeois revolution was precisely beäuse of its violen, bourgeois revolutions were of the 'failed' variety - L848 being the
the use of force was. the unmistaiable sign of the ."._pr"i;,;;;; "nu...iãJ II symbolic year rather than 1789. Although the western bourgeoisie
j status of any revolution. I does not, in the standard case, successfully storm the local equivalent
The Kautskyist schoor of Marxism argued. in effect for of the Bastille, its eventual displacement of absolutism is nowhere
the unique- |
ness of the sociarist transition on the giounds that denied. Thus, in so far as the degree of political mastery enjoyed by
it marked. å;;, I
the pattern of violenãe established fy .ft pr"rrio-ä the modern French bourgeoisie does not appear to be remarkably
tonns ot transition- The Leninist schoor of Marxism alsá |
greater than that enjoyed by the bourgeoisie of neighbouringwestern
endórsed the
L48 I

Marxism and class theory
The trønsition to sociøIism

and the goal of political dominion on the other. The individual and
.hort-run interests of the bourgeoisie correspond closely with thei¡
iollective and long-term interests as a class; in striving to satisfy their
irnrnediate personal ambitions they were, nolens ttolens, acting in
fudherance of their general class destiny. There was, therefore, no
oressing need for the bourgeoisie to raise itself to a high pitch of
iolitical consciousness and awarenessi doing what came naturally
i^¡as all that was
Lukacs' estimation of the lesser importance to the bourgeoisie of a
svstem of beliefs, consciously articulated, contrasts unusually with
his more familiar emphasis upon the hypnotic Powers of bourgeois
ideology. Flowever, these two views are not incompatible, since it
I could presumably be argued that bourgeois ideology only comes to
full efflorescence after capitalist ascendancy is an accomplished fact.

That is to say, a complex belief system might be less necessary as a
prelude to bourgeois rule than as a subsequent means of legitimating
ih".r"* system once it becomes a going concern. This need would no
doubt be especially pressing when capitalism itself came to be chal-
( lenged by an alternative set of ideas stemming from the working-class
However this may be, it is the need of the proletariat to raise itself to
I a high peak of class consciousness prior to its emancipation which
I Lukãcsiees to be a unique feature of the transition to socialism. In
pursuing their immediate and individual interests workers, unlike
ri ihe bourgeoisie, do not thereby automatically advance their collective
interests as a class.rG Quite the contrary; the path to immediate gratifi-
cation appears to run off at an alarming tangent from the main route
to politiða1 power. Consequently, workers need access to a set of ideas
thãt enable them to grasp the essential nature of the capitalist system
in broad theoretical terms in order that the larger design should not
become obscured by the routine demands of everyday life- What is
needed above all is a clear picture of an alternative system if the class
that really counts is not to find itself hopelessly entangled in the coils
of capitalism's own restrictive logic.
Evãn those Marxists of the Second International who normally
seized upon any of Marx's ideas suggesting the possibility of an
organic growth into socialism could not readily accept that class
The proletariat was felt
unique in the annals of class struggle coñsciouãness would simply develop as Part of the natural order of
in that one of the oreconditions får its things. It was Kautsky who first formulated the controversial thesis,
eìãntual triumph was the
politicatry .o.,r.¡o,r, ài iì, ì.¡rto¡" laterappropriated by Lenin, that workers could not by themselves
:.?19 l" that all previous ascendanr classes
mission. Lukacs
become fully conscious of their political destiny, unaided by instruc-
requrrement because there was no greal
were exempt from this
tion from the radical intelligentsia. As might be expected, however,
pursuit of their immediate economic ài..r"pur,q, between the
ana ,o.ìa gout. on the one hand Kautsky did not regard this as a serious stumbling block cluttering up
the path to socialism. Although the proletariat might not be able to
Marxism and class theory The transition to socialism

+housht of as the base, must now be extended to the region of the

ä"irt ,r.t rr".ls That is, because the legal, political, ideological, and
üfi"r"1"^"t ts that comprise the superstructure do notalways evolve
]i rne sam. pace or along the same lines, serious discontinuities or
l".,tradictio"s are liable to occur between these various elements.
j it "r" .o.ttadictions ramify throughout the social structure,
its entire equilibrium; conversely, social stability is more
a l"r,"d when the comPonent Parts of the superstructure show
and cohesion.
- eood measure of congruence
unlikely to
i{".,." the mere economic crisis of capitalism is Promote
øeneral political disturbances and social disarray if the suPerstructure
is a cloiely integrated whole; nor, as a result, can working-class
consciousr,ess flourish and expand to its proper limits.
.ririr it a highly inflammable material, but it has to be ignited by
soarks given off by friction from within the superstructure. Althusser
o'ff"rr ño clues that might enable the political observer to detect
whether or not the superstructure is out of joint. But this small
oversight is understandable, perhaps, given Althusser's PreoccuPa-
tion with the forces of unity and cohesion at work within the super-
structure of modern capitalism. The mesmerizing effects of the
'ideological state aPParatuses', in particular, aPPear to suffer no
abatem-ent even in the depths of economic gloom. Seen through
Althusserian lenses the outlook for proletarian class consciousness
looks anything but rosY.
It might well be, of course, that to paint the prospects for a growth
in revolutionary consciousness in the darkest colours helps, inten-
tionally or otherwise, to prepare the way for an alternative, less
troublesome solution. If, for whatever reasons, the mental and politi-
cal capacities of the working class are felt to fall short of historical
requiiements, hope may be found in a more reliable instrument: the
vanguard party. It is only a very short step from Lenin's conception of
the vanguard party as the decisive agency of socialist transition to
Lukacs' discovery that the party itself, rather than the proletariat, 'is
the historical embodiment and the active incarnation of class con-
sciousness'.te Because the proletariat is submerged in the travails of
economic necessity it cannot be expected to raise itself as a class to a
state of revolutionary awareness. Only the party, by virtue of the
creative distance it maintains between itself and the ideologically
imprisoned masses, is capable of constructing a politically coherent
world-view from the inchoate sentiments that stmggle for expression
within the proletariat. Although not necessarily perceived as such by
the workers, the parÇ actually becomes 'the objectification of their
own will'.2o As workers gravitate towards the vanguard party they
do, in this very process, attain the elusive condition of class con-
Marxism and class theory
The transition to socialism

whose very nature, according to Lukacs, 'presupposes its possession

of a correct theory' -2a Given the stra4ge
belief that 'the consequence
ãf u fult" theory. would soon destroy' the Party, it follows that the
very existence of the party is tangible proof of its infallibiliiy''?5 This
ub"li"f thut does not obviously Promote an open-minded willingness
en the part of the 'dozen wise men' to take political lessons
from the
not-so-wise multitudes.
The oft-proclaimed desire among western Marxists to encourage a
ti more 'interactionist' approach between party and proletariat, within
to under-
ihe overall framework of the vanguard model, thus appears
estimate the difficulty of allaying the deep-seated Leninist fear of
ti infection from the bourgeois virus, a virus that the vanguard organ-
ization was explicitly designed to counteract. Too close a contact with
th" *utt"t, however desirable as an abstract principle, exposes the
oarfy to that most fatal of political diseases: reformism- The tasks of
ihe ievolutionary transition would therefore seem to require the party
to maintain a healthy distance between itself and the working masses
if it is not to end up in the graveyard of social democracy. Given that
reouirement, it seems rather unlikely that Lenin would have set much

store Uy the claims of modem Eurocommunism to be heading for an


altogether different destination.

By bringing about an alteration in the relative weighting assigned to
clãss and party in the mechanism of transition, Leninism also intro-
duces a new iet of complexities into the historical time-table' When
social classes are held to be the prime movers of history the schedule
ie drawn up in terms of 'epochs' and 'stages of development', i'e'
units of brãad temporal and social span appropriate to the Sreat
transformations wrought by the action of entire classes. When, how-
ever, the vanguard pãrty is brought to the centre of the stage, the
problem of soãahst tiansition ultimatelyboils down to the problem of
when to seize the opportune revolutionary moment. For Leninism,
historical time is measured by the second hand, with the consequ-
ence, unanticipated by Marx, that the transition to socialism could
easily be missed as a result of careless timing.
This is by no means to say that Lenin adopts a Posture of indiffer-
ence to the classical Marxist predilection for mapping out the Phases
of social and economic development. On the contrary, Lenin could be

The transition to socialism
Marxism and class theory
a theorist of stages and theMenshevikandsocialdemocraticformulaoffixedevolutionary
reearded, more than any other Marxist, as of an archaic dosma'
ir'#t r"r"a ail the aPPearance
i"n"åäääi i^i i¡ri¡í the capitalist epoch' Because the entire perception ot capitalism as a. system ofihronic turmoil and

o"uj subcategories were This

ji Ë;ä ;;;-Ë"ildonary "'ot"..tefined
srlbtle shifts and detours instability permeates Le'ni"'s
entire théory of the transition to social-
needed for interpreting anâ analysing tf9 in seeking tó uring d"ïÎ.tiT:*L:
final stage"of its journey' Moreover' the ïä]*no'plrotical rationalethe revolution would quickly sPread rrom
made by capitalism ott"th" was that

of thevanguard paTty.had always to

be determined ¡uät*".¿ n"ssia ftta¡tlanðof the new socialist
there to west",,t E"'opt',î"
öltri.;í;itegy the was uppJttt"a
immeaiáte pnãse ihrough which capitalism to an intemational chain
hw reference to
';;ï""ä" -ti""-term order. Capitalism was íik"""Ïby
tactical manoeuvres could only be being one of the weakest
ti ;åtñ,
iustified as a respon'" to p'op"rly classified
shifts in the ever- iåö¡*äåiweak and tii""g links; Russia
the first
ünks therefor" ,""-"iittt piop"t Pl^::."t which to strike could
ct anging balance of social forces' tnui"' On li"e of reasoning there
blow that wo,rta ,"t'"' itt"
unMarxist in the poligr of leading, an

be nothing 'premature' or
The verv notion of 'country'
;.';;rä;;" i., u uutti"tø country' if ãapitalism iete co"c"i"ed of as a
would in any case be 'åat^¿urrt
of varìou.s regionalbranches or links'
single global system comprised
the idea of national varieties
îåri* ã.."t"iuily *utåËihe thethat
nineteenth century' when the
of capitalism was pertinent io
economy of each ,otitiy *ut
still sufficiently self-contained to allow
capiialist relations' But in the
inãïãä.it *press of loät t"itt""t ttpon of capitalism were
ï*""á"rí, ."åt,ry tttu purely nationåt to*þott"ttts system' Capitalism
features of the
äåî*"rgned úy thå uniíersal not collection of distinct and sep-
was now a unified' *o't¿ ota"t'
be brought into tine *äh
tttlt äominant fact of the imperialist epoch'
chain was a useful
Although the metaphor of an international of capitalist
the problem
device in Lenin'. utt"o[ft à i"to"t"ptt'ulize to Russian re-
to conform
l breakdown arrd .et'olt-'ionary transition would n1"". O:-""
appropriate metaphor
ality, it is clear that a more
îr."i a"*ino ttt"o'y' rnË r-u"i"ist assumptiott the yu:.":l sim¡ly
"i,ln" chain would be first to snap;
ii-,"i tt. *"utest link in the capitalist state to
that the first capitalist
far more importa,,t was the assumption link in
i" t"ppìe' The fracture of one weak
fall would cause the
chain does not cause the stronger ones
to give' In.:Ífutt'-tl^"1,"^f,T"'
that the transition to socra[sm
Lenin actually proceeded on the view
in Europe could be ;;i"d on its way by knocking down the least
justification fo. its expected impact upon the
more advan."d
"RrrJurr.evolutionwãs the råfusal of these other
dominoes to fall wåuld negate
the purpose of his entire political
tlïifl.;ro to the
perhaps be remembered that this commitment
quirk on'Lenin's
domino theory was ,,ot ti" pt"auct of some strange
was at this time
part; belief in the contagiãtåp'op"tti"s of revolution
movement and
widespread both withiî the Ëuropean working-class
(i il

Marxism and class theory The transition to socíalism
among its opponents. Thus while Kautsky, in his condemnation of
I the October uprising, was perfectly correct in pointing out that the in a week more than they do in a year of ordinary, somnolent
* ttl Bolsheviks 'staked everything on one card, on a genãral European lífe.'32
revolution',28 Lenin could no less correctly .e*ind him that this not
expectation was 'not an infatuation of the Bóbheviks, but tt.e general Lenin's idea of revolutions as 'festivals of the oppressed',is
to Durkheim's notion of the creative Powers of 'efferves-
i opiníon of all Marxists'.2e dtsimitar
that under
This opinion was Lùtimately grounded, of course, in a highly J"r,.", g".,"ruted by collective social action. Each suggests
li and social intensity of dramatic events individuals are
favourable estimate of the revolutionary potential of the *"riu.n it
" "*.ituti".,
to experience a moral transformation in which routine, taken-
working class. Retrospectively, it is bound to seem surprising that fiuùf"
conceptions of the world are displaced by radically new

Lenin, of all people, was willing to bank so heavily on support from

.o.ã"ptior,r. Thaiis, when the'temper, excitement and convictions

this quarter. On various occasions he had felt it necessary to excoriate inaction' of an extraor-
the leading cadres of the working,class movement because of their ãf th"^*us"" must and do reveal themselves
i', ãi"ufy ti"¿."3 The impoverished consciousness of western workers
propensity to elevate themselves into a labour aristocracy. A pro- by their immersion in the routinized
i'"r aít"t partly to be éxplained
letariat whose upper and most influential layers were steeped in petty politics that went out of
årrã a"uaå"ir,g polltics of social démocracy, a
bourgeois ideology, as a result of living off the imperial fat, mujt not imagination'.But once the
its way not to over-excite the proletarian
have seemed the most promising candidates to take over the revolu- translated into tact, and
revolutionary possibility had actually been
tionary torch. Moreover, after the moral collapse of the Second Inter- by the
tl' national on the outbreak of war, Lenin had never bothered to conceal ii",rt...uUiliiy of capitalism had been vividly demonstratedquickly
Bolshevik example, workers' aspirations and ideals would
the magnitude of his contempt for the political leadership of social somnolent
ij',.' democracy. The prospects of a Russian-led revolution itriting a Uurst through the straitjacket imposed by the 'ordinary,
responsive chord in these burnt-out cases must surely have been life,. Becauú the Russian revolution would give western workers_a

n.rg" pty.nological boost and provide them with a crash course

judged extremely slim. The paradox is, then, knowing what he knew could not called into ques-
ooñti.ãl .d.t.ation, the domino theory be
about the political condition of the western labour movement, how to the
could Lenin persist so doggedly in the belief that the spread of il;t thepreuaíling level of class consciousness' All obstacles mind would
,pr"uá of t"nolutioñ set up by social democratic habits of
revolution across Europe was 'beyond doubt', such that all his ,hopes andby that'revolutionary
b'e sweptaside by the momentum of events
li for tt:.e final victory of socialism are founded on this certainÇ anðon which can perform miracles'.
ã.".gy^urd ..voiutionary enthusiasm
this scientific prognosis'?æ the revolutionary
Le"nin,s belief in the almost miraculous powers of
The answer would seem to lie in Lenin's equally firm conviction the
that revolutions obeyed peculiar laws of their own that superseded spirit contrasts rather starkly with the orthodox Kautskian view of
rãt.i fi*itt imposed upoi political action by mate-rial and social
the ordinary rules of social life. Under conditions of routine ãdstence
the political education of the proletariat was a slow and uncertain conditions. Thé Marxisfs of the Second International drew susten-

ance from the conviction that workers' induction into

socialist ways of
affair. Lessons were learned by a gradual and painful process, with with the tempo set by the nicely maturing produc-
iÀought kept pace
the ever-attendant risk that the collective experiences of one genera- with Weber, they assumed the need for
tive fãrces.-Sómewhat in line
tion would not be passed on and fully absorbed by the next. But under system of beliefs
an'elective affinity'between any widely accePtable
revolutionary conditions the educative process is suddenly acceler-
and a socially given structure of interests and values' Any serious
ated. 'Revolution enlightens all classes with a rapidity and thorough-
mis-match bét*""t the two would result in the rejection of the belief
ness unknown in normal, peaceful times.'ar bland'
system by all save a small band of the deviant faithful' The
o'rgunic ,rä.sion of Marxism espoused by Kautsky and his.colleagues
'Every revolution means a sharp turn in the lives of vast masses
of people . . . And just as any turn in the life of an individual
*ä futt to be fully in tune with the general sentiments and ideals of a
proletariat that had been raised in tne temperate climate of liberal
teaches him a great deal and is fraught with rich experience and ä"*o..".y, a climate not in the least hospitable to the propagation of
great emotional stress, so also a revolution teaches a whole Leninist irinciples. The same point wa! occasionally çsnceded by
people many a rich and valuable lesson in a short space of time. Lenin. Hè once suggested thaibecause absolutism was a far more
l During a revolution millions and tens of millions of people learn transparent systemã-f oppression than bourgeois democracy' it was a
l L58 759

Marxism and class theory
The transition to socialism

oPens up the intriguing thought

àofiinoeswere in fact very unstable,
in their fixed
äTi ,t leaders of social democracy were almost alone
" the impossibility of revolution. In view of the close elective
il"i*f the ideology of
íiÄii y U"*"en at least it¡eir ideals and interests, and disinclined to
äiåì"íi"""ry socialism, they were understandably
urru*" thal the proletarian rank and file was any less resistant than
li"*, tfremselves were to the appeals of a revolutionary alternative. In
,rri^t"g this they were not, of course,tonecessarily wro¡g' In fact'
l"ï ,""ä"t"s on the failed transition socialism in Europe fre-
the Kautskian view that the condition of the working
ã"""tl' accept
of revolutionary sym-
å"rr toó favourable to permit the spread
I"tl.ries; for a proletariat cosieted by liberal democracy the Bolshevik
i"*rug" seeÅed, as Carr puts it, 'inadequate and inapplicable''s
Iàni"iã^ is thus presenteà as an alien thing whose only natural
t uUlau, is absolutism and which would naturally
perish in the atmo.-
democracy. However, the unanswered questron rs: ü
sphere of liberal
:Ì could harbour within itself both revolutionary Bolshevism

u.J to.¡ut democratic gradualism of the Menshevik variety' both

ri',""1¿ not bourgeois ãemocracy be similarly receptive

onilosophies? why, in other words, are the constraints of
åffi.rity in",tght tobe so much more severe in one system than in the
No certain pronouncement can in fact be made as to the readiness
or otherwise of the western working class to follow the Russian
u*u*pl", for the good reason that this alternative was never squarely
put tó them by the leaders of social democracy' Quite the- 9"tttu.y.
ihis alternatirrã *as systematically derided and dismissed from the
realms of political possibility. The fact that we,stern workers conscien-
tio,rsty followed ihe dictaies of the party leadership in declining
I Lenin-,sinvitation to insurrection does not therefore permit the con-
clusion that a profound incompatibility existed between the social
condition of thã proletariat on the one hand and revolutionary prin-

.ipl", or, the othËr. Such a conclusion could only properly be drawn if

the leadership of social democracy had actually issued a call -for

revolutionary action that the rank and file had then procee{ed to
ignore. It is simply not possible to evaluate the collective state of mind

o'f the proletutåiitt this volatile period as something existing quite

i indepen,ilently of the political outlook and conduct of the mass party
ienir,,s guess that workers would have followed their trusted
,: i leaders to ihe barricades, had the call been issued, was no doubt
i basedona Michelsianview of the disciplinedobedience of the masses.
ii The failure of the revolution to materialize could therefore be attri-
buted directly to the policy of the leadership itself' Lenin's charge


Marxism ønd class theory The trønsition to s:ociølism

(autsky was extremely adept at manipulating the language and con-

of revolutionary Marxism in advocating a policy of parliamen-
"eptssocialism. In addition, Kautsky's polemics against Bemstein's
Wá"d revisionism, and his own regular insistence on the need for
lsooal "frevolution', could superficially be construed as a line of
( thought having more in common with a Bolshevik than
a Menshevik
defending the need for social revolution Kautsky was
( .ast õf mir,d. In
trimself against that trend in the party that saw the transition
I toão.i"lis* as a tranquil and barely perceptible change in economic
to by
and social relationships.aa Wholesale revisionism was objected
Kautsky because it proposed that the bulk of existing institutions
could simply be refashioned to meet new needs, instead of being
superseded by institutions of completely different design- Moreover,
thå revisionists'erroneous belief that the capitalist class could quietly
be expropriated had the unfortunate consequence of lulling
the work-
ins class into a false sense of political security instead of preparing it
foi ttre intense class conflicts that lay ahead- Kautsky, not unlike
Lenin, held that labour could only overcome the might of capital by
way of a bitterly contested struggle, and that final victory could not be
secured until the working class had captured the power of the state'
'The social revolution for which we are striving can only be achieved
I by means of a political revolution, by means of the conquest of
t pôtiticat power by the miliiant proletariat.'G It was this type of lan-
iuaee thãt put Lenin off his guard and caused him to back Kautsky in
7 in" Iutt"f"-polemics against genuine revolutionaries such as Rosa
I Luxemburg.6 This was Kautsky the true Marxist, before he turned
I Holever handy as a face-saving formula, Lenin's identification of
two Kautskys - an early revolutionary one, and a later reformist one -
does not beâr close scrutiny. Kautsky's theoretical position was in fact
remarkably consistent. As already suggested, the misconception
arises largely because of his facility in exploiting the ambiguities in
Marxist tãrminology. His writings are punctuated with references to
'class struggle', thelfighting proletariat', the 'capture of state power' ,
the coming'political revolution', and similar trigger phrases drawn
from the ãpi*oit" of revolutionary Marxism- But it is quite clear
throughout that the vocabulary of conflict and struggle is being em-
ployeá in its strictly non-oiolent usage. The class battles and political
åonf¡ontations envisaged by Kautsky were of an institutional and
parliamentary, not a physical, kind. Nothing was more foreign to his
version of Mãncism than the idea of an armed proletariat storming its
way to socialism. His definition of a revolutionary as one'whose aim
is that a hitherto oppressed class should conquer the power of the
State', allowed hirnto include himself in Leninist company-az But by
Marxism and class theory The trønsition to socialism
corrquering the power of the state he did not mean, as Lenin did,
taking itby force; he meant winningkey positions one by one through
parliamentary and other legal means that is, by dintãf ,".o.o*i.,
legislative and moral pressure,.a8 The revolutior,, fo. Kautsky, took revolution raised in a particularly
The failure of the European socialist
the form of an irreversible takeover by the working crass of ail posi
acute form the question of political leadership in the transitionary
tions of social and economic power culminating, despite rpi.itud process. No matter how propitious the economic and social circum-
constitutional resistance by the bourgeoisie, in the bloodiess triumph
åt"tr."r, faulty or corrupt leadership could apparently cause the
of labour over capital. The overwhelming preponderance of the woik- ,locomotives of history' to become derailed. The urgent need, there-
ing class, and the formidable power oiits organizations, made the
fore, was to raise the qualify of working-class leadership to the level of
resort to violence quite unnecessary.
the Russian model, a task the Bolsheviks undertook by setting up the
These arguments were lucidly presented by Kautsky inThe Road to
Third International. This organization was designed to loosen the
Pouser in L909, though they had been deployed muc-h earrier in
his sooal-democratic grip on the western proletariat by cultivating a
newspaper articles- The passages that ought to have given Lenin
lr hardier revolutionary breed trained and supervised by the Proven
greatest pause were not only those that eschewed the use of revolu-
i; specialists in the field. As a result, what was thought of as the
tionary force, but those that drew a pointed distinction between a
'leadership problem' was not so much resolved as restated. The
revolutionary party and a ,revolution-making, party:

trouble now was not so much a lack of revolutionary will, as it

'Social democracy is a revolutionary parry, but not a had been in the case of democrats, as lack of political
revolution-making party. We know that our óbjeåtive can only be competence in reading the arcane signs of a 'revolutionary situa-
reached through revolution. But we also know that it is ,ro *o." tion'.
in our power to make this revorution than it is in the power of our The difficulty arose from the fact that Leninism decreed that the
enemies to prevent it. We have no wish either to stir up revolu_ successful oveithrow of capitalism hinged to a very large degree upon
tion or to prepare the ground for one.,ae the actual timing of the operation. Revolutionary leadership therefore
called for special skill in diagnosing the ever-changing balance of class
Kautsky could hardly have made it plainer that his understanding
and political forces in order to determine the exact moment when the
of Marxism was completely at variance with Lenin's on all fund.amen'-
i insurrectionary blow should be struck- The need was for leaders who
tal points, including the very meaning of revolution. As Nettl possessed what Rosa Luxemburg called 'the scrutinizing eye, trained

observes, 'The whole concept of revoluüãn, indeed the very use of to decipher the historical dialectic of revolution No one pur-
rll the word by Ka-utsky, proved to be meaningless; it had onlyio come
sued this point more tirelessly than Trotsky; his conviction that'in our
into contact with a real revolutionary situati,on to break down into its epoch of abrupt turns the greatest difficulty for a revolutionary lead-
constituent syllables, so many daring sounds without real mean_ ership lies in being able to feel the pulse of the political situation at the
proper moment, so as to catch the abrupt contingency and to turn the
It can only be a matter for wonder that Lenin could have been so helm in due time', was a conviction that grew stronger over the
taken aback at Kautsky's censorious reaction to the Bolshevik years.52 Trotsky, like Lenin, reckoned revolutionary time in very fine
of power when suctr a response was so plainly foreshadowed in units, so that he felt it more than usually incumbent upon party
practically all of Kautsky's dicta on the transition tã socialism. Lenin,s leaders to develop that special sixth sense that was needed to 'catch
hopelessly defective reading of Kautsky's Marxism must have contri- the abrupt contingency'. Failure to pinpoint correctly the fleeting
buted to his underestimation of the cóunter-revolutionary potential revolutionary moment would be punished by history's cruellest pos-
of German social democracy, the movement that Lenin häå banked sible retribution:
on above all others to consummate the European revolution. This
grave error of judgement helped to ensure tire falsification of the 'To rise in arms, to overwhelm the enemy, to seize power, may be
domino-theory and so, ironically, confirmed the aptness of Lenin,s possible today, but tomorrow may be impossible. But to seize
own unhappy metaphor of a chain being severed at its one weakest power is to change the course of history. Is it really true that such
:l link. a historic event can hinge upon an interval of 24 hours? Yes, it
can. . To lose several weeks, several days, and sometimes even
r,li 165

Marxism and class theory
The transition to socialism
a single day is tantamount under certain conditions to the sur-
charge of things, some other figure would have stepped
forr'vard, in
render of the revolution. . .53
acco;dance with the well-known formula that 'events call forth the
If, as it seems from this, the transition to socialism hangs very much man'. In Trotsky's judgement, however, this would not have hap-
in the balance, and is settled finally by the delicacy of the party,s sense Dened because there was one possible man - Lenin - capable of
of timing, then responsibilities of awesome magnitude áre placed on åetting the revolution in motion. Flowever well-versed in the Marxist
arts ¡utha¡n, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Stalin, and the rest might
the shoulders of the vanguard leadership. It is small wonder that have
Trotsky spent sudr a large part of his life in bitter lamentation that this been, 'not a single one of them showed himself capable of applying
leadership was nowhere fit to discharge such responsibilities. Almost independently the theoretical and practical experiences of the party at
wherever he tumed his gaze Trotsky could see golden revolutionary a most important and most critical historical moment'.56 Trotsky
opportunities being frittered away because of the political ineptitude acknowledged that he himself, in the absence of Lenin, would have
of party cadres. His diagnosis of the failure of the German insurrec- been unable to direct the party on to its insurrectionary course/
tion in 1923 as a classic case of a 'mature revolutionary situation though Lenin would most likely have succeeded without the assis-
without a revolutionary party of due stature and without correct tance of Trotsky. 'If neither Lenin nor I had been Present in Peters-
leadership', came to be applied quite liberally to a growing list of burg, there would have been no October Revolution: the leadership
societies and This was especially so when the iniquities of of tñe Bolshevik Party would have prevented it from occurring''57
social democracybecame in his mind compoundedwith the incompe- The rather startling implication of this is that the path from capita-
tence and treachery of the Third International in the Stalin period. lism to socialism can be traversed only under the guidance of a
once-in-a-lifetime political superman- And, as Trotsky ruefully
'In the German revolution of 1918, in the Hungarian revolution reminds us, 'not evèry party will have its Lenin. - .'.58 The elaborate
of 1919, in the September movement of the Italian proletariat in Marxist choreography of social forces and class conjunctures, danced
192O, in the English general strike of 1926, in the Vienna uprising by a cast of miúlons, cánnot actually be staged in the absence of the
of '1,927, and in the Chinese revolution of 1925--27 - everywhere, léading virtuoso. Historical materialism and the laws of social motion
one and the same political contradiction of the entire past decade ur" r,o* held in abeyance, neutralized by the chaotic forces of histori-
. . was manifested. [NamelyJ the subjective factor, that is, a cal accident and contingency. No sealed train : no Lenin
: no
revolutionary mass part¡2, was lacking or else this party lacked a socialist revolution. In the light of his own account of the touch-and-
farsighted and intrepid leadership.'s5 go nature of the event, Trotsky's claim to have 'foretold the inevit-
it took place',
ãUruty of the October Revolution thirteen years before
Trotsky's infatuation with the leadership problem marked what to blur the distinction between Marxist science and
rather seems
could perhaps be seen as the culmination of a tendency within Marx-
ism towards the progressive narrowing down of the social basis of
revolutionary agency. If Leninism signifies a shift away from Marx,s.
Whit, indeed, is to be made of this science as a source of special
insight and understanding not accessible to the bourgeois mind when
emphasis on social class to a greater emphasis on the role of party,
itr most illustrious exPonents are deemed incompetent to apply
Trotskyism signifies a further shift from the role of party to the iole of "rr"ñ
leader. A fairly unconvincing case might just about be made out for
it? It is a novel type of scientific knowledge that requires for its
successful app[cãUon the combination of superhuman gifts and
the proposition that class, party, and leader were regarded by all
freakish circumstances. Not surprisingly, with the passing of Lenin,
three theorists as essential ingredients in the transition to socialism.
Trotsky could conclude: 'There is now no one excePt me to carry out
But it would call upon immense resources of textual inventiveness to
the mission of arming a new generation with the revolutionary
show that the political recipes of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky each
method . . .'60 It is hard to imagine Trotsky dissenting from the
ti combined these different ingredients in similar measure.
'l thought that the secret of that method accompanied him to the grave'
The strength of the leadership ingredient in Trotsky's own special
blend is well shown in his speculation upon the likely fate of the
il Russian revolution in the absence of Lenin. Considering the wealth of
Marxist talent in the Bolshevik party at the time, it might reasonably
lr ,]
have been supposed that had Lenin not been at hand to take personal
rlli L66 167
Iil't,' r

Marxism and class theory The transition to socialism

dangerous fatalism that might allow barbarism to triumph by default.

IV Thèiecognition of a clear political either/or, following the collapse of
bourgeois democracy, meant thí t the call to action could be reconciled
The more prominent the place given to factors of happenstance and withãeterminist convictions, somewhat akin to the Calvinist attempt
contingency, the smaller the scope for the pretensions of grand to square the doctrine of predestination with the injunction to Per-
theory. The presentation of history as a chapter of accidents is a form good works.
standpoint commonly put forward in direct opposition to Marxist or The 'socialism or barbarism' thesis was an interesting innovation in
sociological attempts to discern some pattern and regularity in the historical materialism in that the nature of the system earmarked to
apparant randomness of events. When Marxism is injected with a follow the bourgeois stage of development was now indicated by a
heavy dose of contingency the outcome is bound to be lethal for those ouestion mark. Whereas the passage from feudalism to absolutism,
variants that seek to provide a general theory of transitior. History ind from absolutism to capitaiism, allowed of no exceptions or alter-
becomes, moreover, if not exactly open-ended, at least open to the natives, the passage frorn capitalism led to more than one possible
very real possibility that the transition to socialism might never occur, destination. To parody Marx, if the embryo of the new order matures
that the bourgeois stage of development might be followed by some- in the womb ofthe old, then bourgeois society aPPears to be preg-
thing quite unlike a workers' state. From Trotsky, and more especially nant with non-identical twins, only one of which could be a live
from Lukacs and Luxemburg, onwards, Marxism confronts for the birth.
li first time in any systematic way the daunting thought of a possible Events in various parts of Europe in the inter-war period appeared
future without socialism. to justify Lukacs' and Luxemburg's worst forebodings, and in ,so

This readiness to think the hitherto unthinkable did not spring doíng råisea another awkward problem: how to account for the
from revisionist beliefs in the regenerative powers of capitalism; transition from bourgeois democrary to fascism. Starting from the
rather the reverse. Luxemburg's celebrated doctrine that'the collapse assumption that thelapitalist system in general was in a state of

of capitalism follows inevitably, as an obiective historical necessity' severe crisis, how was it to be explained that some capitalist societies
required not the slightest modification.6r The reason is that although developed in the direction of fascism while others held fast to
bourgeois society could not avoid the fate that Marx had predicted for bourgeãis democracy? What common features could be discerned in
it, it could quite easily be followed not by a new socialist order but by the make-up of ltalian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Japanese
what Lukacs and Luxemburg called a 'new barbarism' nowhere society thaiwere conducive to a 'fascist solution', and which were
envisaged by Marx. Phoenix would still rise from the smouldering absent in Britain, France, Scandinavia, and the United States?
ashes of bourgeois democracy, but possibly in the monstrous form of It is when this type of problem is addressed that a more than
l military dictatorship or fascism. The introduction of the formula usually wide discrepãncy uppeuts between the confident theoretical
'socialism or barbarism' drove home the point that socialism was not chimiof Marxism and its actual explanatory performance' The stan-
ll historically privileged, and that if the dark alternative was to be dard opening gambit is to accentuate the generic, universal features
'lÌìrl' avoided political action of the most resolute kind was called for.62 of capiìahsrn ás the main elements of the explanatory model,- i'e'
l This formula could be said to have resolved an apparent paradox in those features that are taken to be the defining characteristics of the
Marxist theory: namely, the combination of a doctrine of inevitable system and which are therefore present in some combination or other
capitalist collapse with a rallying call to political action to bring this in all capitalist societies. At the same time, recognition is given to the
end about. Pronouncements to the effect that political action was fact thaieach society is historically and culturally unique, so that each
necessary to accelerate the inevitable, to nudge history along, skated society will combinó the basic features of the system in its own special
over rather than resolved the paradox. The Lukacs-Luxemburg for- way. This idea is enshrined in the 'law of uneven development',
mula, on the other hand, managed to synthesize the seemingly which postulates that the various institutions of capitalism evolve at a
irreconcilable elements of agency and determinism. It was precisely different pace and in a somewhat different manner. The problem for
on account of the fact that capitalism was set irretrievably on its Marxism is how to strike a ProPer balance between the generalizing
doom-laden course that strenuous social intervention was needed to scope of its global model and the particularizing slant that pays due
settle the sharply contested issue of the political succession. The homage to local variety and distinctiveness. No explanation-is
unwarranted optimism of Kautskian social democracy encouraged a deemãd possible that does not directly engage with the facts of the
1-68 L69
Marxism and class theory
The transition to socialism
purely national context; at the same time, however, if these
+emptation of fascism would, in other words, be decided by the
factors are weighted too heavily the explanation would
be couched in
terms. of culturar peculiarities and tr;c.itions, response of the working-class movement. Trotsky's position
and unique historicar "áliä.¡ ,historical law' that stated that 'fascism was able
experiences, that are not the essential ingredients
u åpitufiriryr_ lrã**"a ip in an labour
tem as defined by the general model. "f ,ã-.orqru..or,ly in those countries where the conservative
in ourti"r^pr",r"nted the proletariat from utilizing the revolutionary
_tnrr, . societies to account for the vulnerability of certain
oourgeois to fascism and alied forms of barbarism, Marxist åituation and seizing Power''e
theory.attempts to integrate the variety of specific if,i, freshly-mintãd Marxist law leads to the rather unexpected
causes into some fascism must either explanation. In at least óne application
of the th;;ry, conclusion that bourgeois societies that spurned
beet blessed with sound working-class leadership o-r were not
the notion of an 'imperialist stage' is fert tå pro"ia" ar," huve
,.,tential candidates for socialist revolution - the two conditions that
theoretical focus for examining eãch nationar variant "..""J..y
of fascism: conceivable. It seems improbable,,to
Íiotsky .rs.rully regards as barely
'Fascism in effect belongs to the imperi tná verv léastitnat he intended such a handsome tribute to the
I alist stage of capitalism. """
The point is therefore to try to eruciàate certain
general charac- i,Jå.fing-cúss leadership of so many western countries. Trotsky's
teristics of the stage, and their impact fu".irri- in" p;;; )law' , il ¡act, reveals the òbvious defect in the 'socialism or barbarism'
causes of fascism are not the factorioften""seen as tfresis: the neglect of a third alternative in the continued
existence of
rtsbasitsrne qüL
non, such as the particular economic crises Germany
and Italv Co*g""i, ,o.T"ty itself. Since the question is stated incorrectly in the
were caught in when fascism was establishing itself,
tí.r""rtiàirrf iiirt þtu." it is nôt surprising that the answer should be so seriously
peculiarities of the two countries, the consequences
of the First -awry.
World War, etc. Th-ese factors are importanionìy in
relation to Oíty the most faithful devotees of Parisian Marxism would be
the stage_of imperialism, as elements o/ one
of the fosritt, ,o^¡in"_ ük;ly io feel that the answer offered by Poulantzas is much of an
tures of this stage.,6s i*pío*r"*"t t. Adopting Lenin's ill-starred concePt, he sugge-sts that
without the internationar antagonism arising from the imperiarist iur'.ir* triumphedìn those countries that were the weakest links in
the capitalist ih"ir,. Th"r" links gave way under the extreme
crisis, the nationar stresses and strains so conscientiousry fact that it
that the entire international chain was subjected to; and the
documented by bourgeois writers wourd not read
to the kind of was the Italian and German links that gave way was due to their
breakdown that prepares. the way for fascism. The
global crisis of
in the imperialist stage creates a general disposition intemal structural weaknesses. In the case of Italy, this was to do with
rascrst soluhon in
a/r capitalist societies, whicñ is then triggered
a the contradictions set up between an industrializing north and- a
a certain few' But the fact that the accumulatio" off in backward, agricultural south; in the German case, it arose from the
ll or tãirt"t u.,a country's htã entry on to the imperialist stage'6 Francg, Britain' and
contradictions is politicany manageable in some capitarist
ii but not in others must alÁo be aðcounted for by ."^"o.rrru societies the United States were also 'affãcted by the transition to monopoly
lir to
general proposition if the descent to bourgeois particurarism "o*" capitalism and by "economic crises". But they do not lly", th:
avoided. The assumption-must be that ttãty,
is to be acämulation of éontradictions which typify Germany and ltaly"s
ierma"y, Spui., For any society known to have embraced fascism Poulantzas is ready
,tl; combined the elements of the capitalist *ut¡, in
sucÉ'a ;;t ;,"t..à to disciose thát it was wracked by contradictions sufficiently intense
.:p.ulally vulnerable to the external pressures eåanat_
rng the global crisis. what, then, is the natuie of the to qualify it for membership in the family-of.weak links' It therefore
*l1tir,g through these societies that distinguishes them fatal flaw .o*", as no surprise to be totd tnut, after Italy and Germany, 'Spain
fro_ ihe in its turn became the riodal point of imperialist contradictions in
Trotsky, true to form, proposed that the answer was to Europe'.67 Poulantzas' theory il resoundingly confirmed by the fact
be found in that none of the societies whose internal tensions were politically
,:i' th_e_quality of working-clasá leadership. He saw the
tascrst movement as the most palpable sign of a revolution-ary manageable took the route to fascism; none of the strong li-nks
,i tion; consequently, the failure ðf the prore-tariat to rise to snapp"ed under tension, white all the weak ones did' This revealing
the occasior¡ in the comparative method shows the same order of Marxist
yg"l$ almost certainly leave the way clear for the fascist alternative. "*""
scientific rigour ut ihut shown by Althusser in his theory of socialist
ii' whether or not any particular bourgeois society succumbed
to the transition.
iii;ii 170

Marxism ønd class theory
The trønsition to sociølism
For Althusser, the transition to socialism also occurs only
inner contradictions have built up to an exprosive pitch. why oredicting the past; but perhaps that would be to reveal another
process occurs in some bourgeois societies but not in åymptom of that strange inability to think outside the confines of a
others deiends
on the actual conditions prevailing at any given time and rn any úurgeois Problematic.
place.s on the face of ii this wo-ula r."ñ', to be a highif
approach, leading to different explanations fo. euch suãceåsful
ist revolution. Flowever, Arthusser is at pains to point out that
notion of appropriatè 'conditions' is 'essentiar to ñ4arxism precisely
because it is not an empirical concept: a statement about what
exists. Notes
On the contrary, it is a theoreficalioncept Armed with this
theoretical device, Althusser is then abie to explain that
socialist L Avineri 1968:174 fÍ-
revolution 'could only break out . . . in Russia, in China, in Cuba, 2 Mal:x1959:428.
1917 in 1949 , in 1958, and not ersewhere; and not in
' another ,,situa- 3 Marx 1959:429'
tion". . .'.?0 Thus, remarkably, the transition to socialism nowhere 4 Marx 1959:43L-
occurred where the conditions forit were not properly ripe, urry 5 Marx 7959:431'-
Áor" 6 'According to Marx, the recourse to political power can never do more than
than had the transition to barbarism. realize potentialities already existing within the socio-economic structure.
since accumulated contradictions sometimes prepare the ground Political power, according to Marx, can never create anything er níhilo. . .
for fascism and sometimes for socialism, it would be of more than Political power may be crucial for the realization of potentialities, but it
passing interest to know in what way the contradictions preceding does not create the new structures realized . . . it can never be the prime
mover.' Avineri 1968:181.
the one differed from the contradictions preceding tñe other. 7 Kautsky 1922:.18'l-82.
Poulantzas does seem to recognize the problém, " 8 Bernstein 1909:163.
9 Kautsky 1902:42 and43.
'. - - although the revolution was made in the weakest link in the 10 Lukacs 197L:282.
chain (Russia), fascism arose in the next two links, i.e., those 11 Lenin 1950:Vo1. I, part II 'Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Demo-
which were, relatively speaking, the weakest in Europe at the cratic Revolution'. Lenin felt that the bourgeoisie preferred an incomplete
time. In no sense do I mean that fascism was fated to happen revolution because it would need to draw on support from autocratic
powers in its ensuing struggle against the revolutionary proletariat. An
there, any more than the Bolshevik Revolution was fated 1848-style revolution was therefore preferable to a1789, since the latter
to åËcur
in the weakest link. I simply mean that in the particular might unleash popular revolutionary forces that the bourgeoisie would be
of class struggle in these countries, which for a whore Jeries
tu.res unable to restrain.
of reasons led to such different results, their position in the L2 Lukacs 1971:279 and 284. Thus in Rosa Luxemburg's statement that 'The
imperialist chain was of crucial importance.,zr relations of production in capitalist society become increasingly socialist
but its politicaluand legal arrangements erect an ever loftier wall between
Not even a few of the 'whole series of reasons' that lay behind capitalist and socialist society', Lukacs detects the 'seeds of a belief that the
the Revolution was needed only to remove the "political" obstacles from the
transformation of one weak rink into fascism, another inio
socialism, path of economic developments'. Lukacs 1971:277. Lttxernburg's theory of
are thought to be worth mentioning. To do so might 'spontaneism', with its implied opposition to Leninist organizational prin-
after ail revear the
decisive importance of those purely nationar f"ãt,rr", and ciples, is traced back to this 'error'.
rocal cir-
cumstances that play such havoc with systemic models. 13 Lukacs 1971,:283-
Even worse, 1.4 'Classes that successfully carried out revolutions in earlier societies had
a proper comparison of the structure of weak and
strong rinks might their task made easier subjectiaely by this very fact of the discrepancy
easily end up by doing away altogether with the cherisñed between their own class consciousness and the objective economic set-uP,
notion of
an imperial chain. i.e., by their very unawareness of their own function in the process of
metaphor of embryos maturing in wombs, with which the change. They had only to use the power at their disposal to enforce their
discussion started off, seems to h-ave gi'ien way to the immeilíate intercsts while the social import of their actions was hidden from
ress homery one them and left to the "mse of reason" of the course of events.' By contrast,
of chains under tension and weak hnr.s snapping. It would
be tempt- 'in the centre ofproletari4n class consciousness we discover an antagonism
ing to ask whether this new play on metapht'r
.;;;;r:_;îí"_ between momenta.y anil ultimate goal.' Lukacs 1971:7L and 73. -
tion, or is simply one more contribution to "lri the Marxist science of 15 Lukacs 7971.:65-
16 Lukacs 197a310.
Marxism and class theory The transition to socialism
'17 Lukacs 1971:305.
j9 Carr 1966:'1.86. Sturmthal also phrased his guess in the form of a factual
18 Althusser 1969; ar.d 1971. statement that 'Most German workers refused to risk a war against what
19 Lukacs 7977:42. they considered hopeless odds for the sake of a proletarian revolution . . .'.
20 Lukacs 1971:42. Sturmthal, 19M:52.
]! I.eni1 1950:Vol. I, part I 343 and 333; Vol. II, part I 482.
22 Cited in Deutscher
40 TrotskY 1937:30.
1954:76. 41 Scheidemann 1929:645.
23 Lukacs 1977:329. 42 Kautsky 1946:L42. This judgement was made in 1937, though offered as
24 Lukacs 1971:327. confirmation of his earlier prediction about the development and character
25 Lukacs 7977:327. of Leninist Russia.
26 Harding 7977:Yol- 1102. 43 Lenin 1950:Vol. II, part II 105.
27 ln1902, when his parÇ was in only its eighteenth year, Lenin felt it already 44 Kautsky 1909; and 1903.
had a 'history' that could be'distinctly divided into three periods,, the firét 45 KautskY 1909:53.
ten years_ being the period of 'foetal development'; the next four years 46 Nettl 1969:'292.
marking 'the period of its childhood and adolescence'; and the lasi four 47 KautskY 1902:3.
years being the 'period of disunity, dissolution and vacillation'. Lenin 48 KautskY 1909:53.
1950:Vol- I, part I396 and397. Again in 1.91.0, surveying the political scene 49 Kautsky 1909:53.
over the past six years, he could'at once discern two threé-year periods 50 Nettl 1.969:290.
into which this six-year period falls'. The first period, ending with the 51 Luxemburg (ed. Davis) 1976:93.
summer of 1907, was 'distinguished by rapid changes in the fuñdamental 52 TrotskY 1970:91.
features of the state system . . .'. Tlie sècond pãriod, ending with the 53 Trotsky 1977:47.
summer of 1910, was distinguished by 'an evolution so slow thãt it almost 54 TrotskY 197221'l'.
amounted to stagnation. There were no changes at all noticeable in the 55 Trotsky 1970:85.
state system'. Lenin 1950:Vol. I, part II 202. 56 TrotskY 1962:2.
As 1917 approaches his periodization becomes ever more refined, as 57 Trotsky 1976:46.
when the JulI days' (3rd and 4th) are sharply counterposed to the 'Sep- 58 Trotsky 1977:38.
tember days'. During the former, 'the objective conditions for the victorybf 59 Trotsky 1962:27.
the insurrection did not exist', whereas during the latter period, 'all ihe 60 Trotsky 1976:47.
oljective conditions . . . lor a successful insurrèction' were suddenly vis- 61 Luxemburg 1951;.417.
ible. Lenin 1972:580 and 581. With even more exactitude, the period justify- 62 For a full discussion of this point see Geras 1976.
ing the slogan 'all power to the Soviets'was pinpointed as thãt hstiág from 63 Poulantzas 1974:17.
F9!ry".y 27 to July 4. The period immediaielyfollowing July 4 waã das- 64 Trotsky 1975:468.
sified as one in which the 'objective situation underwent â drastic change', 65 Poulantzas 1974:Chapter 2.
rendering the same slogan 'absolutely impossible', until the commerice- 66 Poulantzas 1974:.34.
ment of a new period ón October 8 wheñ it once again became wholly 67 Poulantzas 7974:35.
corr€ct. Lenin 1950:Vol. II, part I 88, 89 and 186. 68 Althusser 1969:'Contradiction and Overdetermination'.
28 Cited in Lenin 1.950:Vol. II, part II 100. 69 Althusser 1969:.2O7.
29 Lenin 1950:102. 70 Althusser 1969:207.
3O Lenin 1.950:Vol. II, part læ7. 71 Poulantzas 7974:24.
31 Lenin 1950:Vol. II, part I 106.
32 Lenin 1950:Vol. II, part 197.
33 Le-nin 1950:Yol.l, partll72. Durkheim suggests that under the influence of
'effervescent social environments' the individual feels himself ,dominated
and carried away by some sort of an external powerwhich makes him think
and-act differently than in normal times . . . õverything is just as though he
really were kansported into a special world, entirely diffeient from thã one
where he ordi-narily lives, andinto an environmeít filled with exception-
ally-intense forces that take hold of him and metamorphose-him.,
:\ Durkheim 1964b:218.
34 Lenin 1950:108.
35.Lenin 1950:Vol. ll, partl429.
3ó Lenin 195O:Vol. lI, part 1429.
37 Car¡r 7966:185-
38 Cited in Carr 1966:134-35.

774 775
The dictatorship of the proletøriat

under the latter the palaces and mansions of the dispossesed class
would be made over to workers as places toassemble ín. Similarþ, the
freedom of the press would be given content under socialism because
9 the printing Presses would be removed from the monopoly of press
barons and handed over to workers' committees.r The point being
rnade by Lenin's polemic is that the dissolution of bourgeois democ-
The dictatorshi P racy- the 'dictatorship of the bourgeoisie' - the expansion of
practical freedom well beyond the limits envisaged in liberal theory.
of the proletariat The traditional argument for the inseparability of equality and
and social democracy liberty has undergone something of a revival in current Marxist
debate, provoked in no small part by the unspectacular record of
socialist states in actually pushing forward the frontiers of freedom.
The sensitivity to this matter on the part of Eurocommunists, in
particular, is not of course unconnected to the fact that the western
working class, to whom their message is directed, is in a position to
draw some rough comparisons between the conditions of liberty
nrevailing in European bourgeois and socialist states. Eurocommu-
The great promise contained within the heart of Marxism is nism acknowledges that a socialist society in western Europe would
merely that of a classless future, but of a society in which the highest call for the active endorsement of a working class whose exPecta-
tions in the field of civil and political liberties had been shaped by the
aspirations for liberty wilr find furfilment. Márxism does not
from other and earlier traditions of socialist thought
äiffer relatively high standards set by bourgeois democracy. Almost with-
n ,n" i-fo.iur,.. out exception, the societies in which capitalism has been displaced by
it attaches to the combined package of equalityãnd freedom,
nor in socialism had no prior tradition of established civil liberties and citi-
the conviction that one harãly *ãk"r sense without the
other. The zenship rights; consequently, the absence of such liberties under the
I socialist critique of the liberar theory of freedom revorves
I around the new dispensation would hardly be perceived by the working class as
ll argument that formar rights and Iiberties enshrined in bourgeois
,], law a novel and worrisome deprivation. In large parts of western Europe,
are purely notional in a crass-stratified society. Great
wealth and opportunity ensure that onry a favoured f"r, år"
disp"aritres in by contrast, the working-class movement has come to regard the
able to extension of citizenship and civil rights as one of its most impressive
activate and realize rhe iights supposedÇ available to
I alr. Bourgãois political monuments. And it is by no means certain, to put it mildly,
i liberty, in a well-known formulåtion, is'the freedom of the
uíem- that the material and social gains offered by a socialist society would
lt ployed to dine at the Ritz or the freedom of every ghetto
child to enter be regarded as acceptable compensation for any corresponding loss
,tirlirl university- The very existence of social classes is taken to
be a dimin- ordiminution of existing liberties. The strategists of Eurocommunism
ution of, or restriction upon, personar liberty by virtue
,'rl of the com- are probably correct in their calculation that popular legitimacy could
l manding powers conferred upon those of property and
'I wealth over only be won for western socialism if the claims of liberty were treated
the rest of the community. Thè unequal aisiriUution
of fiU"rty ioiù_s no less seriously than the claims of equality.
." Lutylul consequence of the unequal distribution of po*u,
embodied in class
Now the political theory of liberty in the classless society or in the
society. transitional socialist state is not to be found ready made in classical
The Marxist case forthe.crassless society is that sociar
equality is not Marxism and its offshoots. Nor for that matter have latter-day Marx-
only a valuable end in itself,_but also the
free societ¡r. socialism transforms nominal
irecondition foå g";ri""ly ists given it the prominent place it might be thought to deserve in a
or formal ribertieî into real programme ostensibly designed with human emancipation in mind.
or substantive liberties by providing alr citizens wiih
il the material and Despite the avowed responsiveness of Marxism to the lessons of
social wherewithal for uiilizing tieir legal rights
to the full. In
Lenin's illusrration, the differenãe betweex righis of asse*ùryî"a".
history, there is still no general schema of a socialist political system
that indicates how power should be distributed, how conflicting
bourgeois democracy and under proletariañ democracy
was that interests should be represented and resolved, how abuses to socialist
Marxism and class theory The díctatorship of the proletariat
legality should be checked, and so on. There are no principles q¡ obsolete the complex political machinery of conflict resolution.
guidelines of even the most general kind pertaining to the conãuct
of ãuch mach¡nery is thought to be necê_ssary
for bourgeois society
political life under the dictatorship of the
þroletariat, nor any attemp¡ l."asety because this type of society knows only a condition of
to systematize Lenin's own scrappy remarks on the subject. Iurr.o,t and civil strife. In that explosive condition where the few
Miliband s judgement that the exercise of power under proletaria¡ must be numerous and
seek to dominate the many, safet¡r-valves
dictatorship is the'Achilles'heel of Marxism'is in no obviðus danger
of becoming outdated by current theory or practice.2 Lenin's own artist's impression of the proletarian state highlights
This is all the more surprising in that few Marxists today suppose the contrastbetween a cumbersome and elaborate
battery of constitu-
that classes and class conflict would suffer immediate decline rôfow- and formal rules required by an exploitative system, and
äonul bodies
ing the socialization of property and the expropriation of the tt sh".. simplicity of government by workers' decree. In his total
bourgeoisie. It is well understood that conflicting ãlaims and interests "
or,.o."u^ foithe formalities of legislation and administration Lenin
.orrruyr the impression that governing a socialist state is about on
stemming from the division of labour are quitecapable of outliving a
cha¡ges in the legal status of productive property, so that some social iu, *ítt running a branch office of the Thames Valley Water Board.a
and political mechanisms would be required for resolving these iI" in fãct, to have taken very seriously Saint-Simon's fam-
antagonisms. within a western context, in particular, difficulties "pp"utt,
o", u.,.¿ absurd distinction between a society founded on the'gover-
could be expected in thé integration of professional and managerial nanc" of men, and one founded on the 'administration of
elites into a system founded on the assumption of proletãrian Marxists have yet to reveal the secret of how 'things' are to be
hegemony. Although the skills and aptitudes óf tne former middle administe.ed without the need to cajole, placate, and coerce 'men''
classes would presumably be essential to the success of the new But the very fact that it is thought to be both desirable and possible
system, all the precedents suggest that the political allegiance of these ,"purutu tnL two tasks gives uslfnl adrrance-warning of how ill-suited
white-collar groups would be less than wholehearted. As the Mår*ism is as a guide to the practical realities of government in a
architects of the first proletarian dictatorship discovered, the services socialist state.
of white-collar elites could only be securèd under the promise of
concessionary privileges that were in direct violation of egalitarian
ideals.s In any conceivable western version of a proletarian state the
problem of white-collar or elite incorporation would loom larger
r-ather than smaller, given the proportionate size of these grorrpJin
the working population. Consequently, the need for representàtive u
bodies to speak for the interests of this 'honorary proletãriat, would
be that much greater. part of the reason why proletarian dictatorship was felt to require only
At the same time, this matter of representation has never really the flimsiest administrative apparatus was that with the majority
been Marxism's strong suit. Classical Marxism fostered the comfort- in control for the first time the load could be spread thinly among all
ing belief that antagonistic interests were the by-product of a particu- properly accredited citizens. The baroque edifice of parliament, P?T-
lar mode of appropriation, and that once this noxious elemãnt had ii.ui puii.r, executive and judicial bodies was an historically specific
been removed from human affairs, the way would be clear for a more and lìmited form of democracy answering to a particular set of class
harmonious and accommodating political mood. It was as if the needs; it was not a universã[y valid form applicable to all state
model for socialist society were to be drawn from sketches supplied systems, least of all socialist ones. In Rosa Luxemburg's view the
by Durkheim or Parsons rather than by Marx himself. In the post- parliamentary variant of democracy was set up by the bourgeolsie
regimes, so
alienation society individuals would apparently be too absorbãd in þrincipally aã a vehicle in its struggle against absolutist
the fascinating arts of self-realization tobother unduly with anything inut o.t"" bourgeois authority had become decently established
as squalid and divisive as the pursuit of material interest. The parliament andTts supporting institutions would serve no further
rationale for a one-party monopoly of political life is traceable to this It could cert;ùly .,ot b" taken over and transformed by the
belief that with the elimination of property the worst of human Marxists there is
þroietariat to serve its own very different ends. For
passions could be calmed down to an extent that would render something in the very nature of the parliamentary form that makes it

1.78 779

Mørxism ønd class theory
. The dictatorship of the proletariat

don of potential or acfual civil war the case for an opposition can never
be sustained. When society is divided into 'two ãrmed camps,, to
press for the right of opposition would be akin to demanding par-
üamentary procedures in the trenches.
It is on these grounds that the workers' state has never felt able to
tolerate peasant and proletarian parties other than the Leninist van-
guard. On the face of it, it might seem reasonable to suppose that a
socialist society could operate with at least two parties in competition
for political power, as a means of providing some check against the
I abuse of office by a single political clique or leader. Refleciing upon
L the degeneration of the Russian revolution, Trotsky concluded thãt it
was 'absolutely indisputable that the domination of a single party
i served as the juridical point of departure for the stalinist totalitarian
system'.8 Under a genuine workers' dictatorship, therefore, it was
essential to have two or more independent political parties that dif-
fered only programatically and not in their commitment to the
defence of the revolution. An analogy might be pressed with the
American party system in which Republicans and Democrats com-
pete for power within the framework of a capitalist system that each
endorses unreservedly. If bourgeois society can run successfully
along the lines of a two-party system in which the main contestants
are divided ideologically only on matters of nuance, then could not
socialist society follow suit?
The reason why the answer to this question cannot be a straight-
forward yes is that a newly constituted proletarian state is essentiãily
a siege_society. It-is a type of system that only comes into being in thL
teeth of concerted resistance, intemal and exiernal, and whichãt once
finds itself in a less than friendly political environment. perhaps the
most telling difference between bourgeois and socialist revolutions is
that, in their opposition to the revolutionary bourgeoisie, the absolut-
ist regimes acted almost wholly within the boundaries of their own
national territory; absolute monarchies were not constituent parts of a
single international economic and political order to anything like the
same extent as capitalist regimes. Consequently, bourgeois threats to
royal and aristocratic power had to be countered laÇty by loyatist
forces within the nation. By contrast, any attempi tó topptå the
bourgeoisie from its perch in any one nation-state is tltety toþrovoke
Certainly the notion of a 'loyar opposition' a concerted reaction by other capitalist powers. socialism thus
is one that is not easily begins
squared with the stern.imperaiirrestf p.oletu¡"r, its life as a society under siege.
held tha-t "'opposition,, is a concept tn'ut
ãi.t"ø.rf.r'. iä"i; In a siege society, intemal class relations and. political divisions
Uãiãr,gs to the peaceful and .have exceptionally sharp edges. The indigenous bourgeoisie is at
only to the parliamentary, struggle, i.e. a concept
that corresponds to a once cast in the role of a potential fifth column; real and imaginary
non-¡evolutio¡ary situation - .-. to anøbsenceàf
reuolutíon,.ä ¡"iri^.à enemies abound. Under these tense circumstances there is ã ten-
a proletarian dictatorship, almost by
d"fi"itio"l ñr;;ö*r""î"";di dency for the governing party to construe the smallest degree of
Marxism and class theory The dictatorship of the proletariat
opposition from other parties as a sign of political defection from the working class. In many resPects, the
new system. When the only legally permitted parties are those cor¡_ energetic efforts on behalf of the
iå1" ãtto,a"a to trade unions
under socialist regimes reflects the ambi-
mitted to the defence of the revolution, opponents of the regime will
vàlent stance that Marxists have always adopted towards
be inclined to gravitate towards the main opposition party t'aute de in capitalist society. on the one hand, unions are considered to
mieux . This party then becomes politically tainted by such association, for
so that official doubts can then be cast upon rhe genuineness cf iis
¡s a useful-training ground for workers in the coming struggle
,ro*"t; on the other hand, they are charged with lowering or displac-
support for socialism, and hence upon its very legãlity." The first law
lng *o.kittg-class consciousness through the promotion of
of the siege society is that all other parties, whatever their avowed ,eãonomistic' strategies. Paradoxically, in striving for the incorpora-
intentions, contain within themselves the seeds of counter- Marxists contribute to
tion of workers into the trade union movement
revolution. The fate of workers' and peasants' parties in the young .,r"ry process by which potentially revolutionary material is
Soviet state is a fate that awaits all parties that seek to play the role of
fashioned into conservative designs' (This paradox can, however,
loyal opposition in a socialist society under siege. The line between the
irnmediately be resolved by driving a conceptual wedge between
treasonable activites and a legitimate 'workers' opposition' or'left and the 'bureaucracy'; with the surgical
rank and fiie membership
opposition' is much easier to discern in the orderly world of Marxist
removal of the latter, workers' organizations would be free to act
theory than in the unavoidable chaos of a proletarian dictatorship. ãore it accordance with the expectations of revolutionary theory')
The fact that capitalism's writ no longer runs unchallenged The question facing the proletarian dictatorship is: could these
throughout the world, but only in diminishing areas of it, by no to defend workers against capitalist
same oiganizations, created
means alleviates the pressure on a siege society. Indeed, the first be carried over into a new order set up as the very
westerrÌ socialist society could expect to find itself under particularly
aniithesis of exploitation? The dictatorship's answer is an unequi-
severe external constraints. It is precisely because a large slice of the
vocal yes - and no. unions cannot in practice be accorded the same
world has become labelled as the socialist camp that any move in the rights;nder socialism that they have traditionally enjoyed in modern
direction of this camp by a western state would be regarded by other bãurgeois regimes, since these rights are not comPatible with
bourgeois states as an unacceptable political defection. It would be egalii'arian aims. Because industrial bargaining Power is unevenly
interpreted by the western powers not merely as a defeat in the dirtrib.rt"d among trade unions, the right to use this power in fur-
ideological struggle between democracy and communism but, more therance of wage ãnd other demands would give rise to inequalities
seriously, as a direct military threat. The manichaen division of the between stronger and weaker SrouPs. Whereas under capitaljsm
industrialized world into opposing military blocs is an additional unions can be ãncouraged to use their industrial muscle to the full,
complicating factor in the transition to socialism, and one that raises under socialism the Durkheimian philosophy of self-restraint
difficulties not experienced by the working-class movement in the becomes immediately respectable. when the national product is
inter-war period. The first western state to declare a proletarian divided not principally between capital and labour, but between
dictatorship could expect to become the siege society par excellence. different categories of labour, different moral rules of distribution
The prospects for anything approaching an open socialist society, apply. Under"the dictatorship of the proletariat, powerful groups of
with legal parties and rights of opposition, must be judged against *ótú".r really cannot be permitted to 'hold the country to ransom''
this unpromising background. What possible place could there in fact be in the new society for
organizations that, in their aggressively competitive and divisive
behaviour, so plainly reveal their bourgeois origins?
If, in the best interests of socialism, trade unions are to be denied
their traditional bargaining rights, they are not simply to be dumped
in the junkyard of history. Inþractice, their duties become redefined
III by the dictatorship to allow them to continue in the service of the
working class, albèit in somewhat novel ways. Trotsky's imagrnalion
If the labour movement in a proletarian
democracy finds that its was esfecially exercised with this problem. The founder of the Red
political wing has become severely clipped, it is also likely to find that Army was also a forceful advocate of the 'militarization of labour',
its industrial wing is unable to compensate for this through its own beheíing that factories needed to be run along regimental lines and
782 1_83

Marxism and class theory The dictatorshrp of the proletaríat
with military Trade unions were thus to become part of ism is a qualitatively different act from shooting down workers in the
an army-style command structure, with workers as front-line troops. name of socialism. To put the two acts on a par is to display a sad
Trotsky decreed that under the dictatorship trade unions had to be inability to think dialectically.
transformed into an 'apparatus of revolutionary repression against
undisciplined, anarchical, parasitic elements in the working class,.rr
The full weight of this repressive apparatus was to descend on work-
ers who were resistant to the dictates of management and who still
harboured petty-bourgeois yearnings for'workers' control'. As Lenin
reminded the trade union leadership, since they were now 'partici- rv
pants in the exercise of state power' they could not'refuse to share in
the work of coercion'. 12 With the transition from capitalism to social- The Marxist claim that the dictatorship of the proletariat is a higher
ism the trade unions appear to exchange their place in the form of democracy than anything offered by bourgeois society could
I ideological state apparatus for one in the coercive state apparatus. be advanced on grounds quite unrelated to the matter of formal
I' The fact that, under the dictatorship, the 'superintendence of political rights and representation. It could be argued that the true
labour' is to be carried out by the combined forces of management and measure of democracy is to be found not in the nature of the
unions might suggest that the latter are performing the ,global func- decision-making process but in the distributive outcome that this
tions of capital' with a vengeance. Trotsky, however, ridiculed all process yields. The charge against bourgeois democracy would be
attempts to point up apparent similarities in the subordination of that despite the jealously guarded rights of groups and individuals to
labour under capitalism and under socialism as 'shallow iiberal press their claims upon employers and the state, the division between
analogies'.r3 The relevant question for him, as for any Marxist, was: rich and poor stubbornly persists. To allow the appellation 'demo-
for what ultimate purpose were workers being subjected to the discip- cratic' to a system whose end product is the enrichment of a few and
line of the barracks? Marxism appraises the meaning and significance the impoverishment of many is to empty the term of all meaning. It is
of social facts not as isolated phenomena but in relation to their place a political usage that betrays a greater regard for the legal procedures
in the total moral configuration of which they form part. So although by which social assets are divided and distributed than for the actual
at first blush it might seem as if the treatment of workers under the pattern of allocation.
dictatorship of the proletariat was at least as harsh as their treatment In contrast to this procedural fetishism the dictatorship of the
under capitalism, the fact that the overall political contexts were proletariat seeks to be judged on the principte 'who gets what?,. A
altogether different meant that apparently similar factual conditions social system that discriminates consistently in favour of the majority
had entirely different moral connotations. As against the bourgeois classand against the once-privileged minority has, on this reckoning,
conception of a universally valid morality, Marxism asserts the politi- a stronger claim to the democratic title than any bourgeois society,
cally contingent nature of morality.ta Whereas it would be necessary however 'free'. The dictatorship of the proletariat is, in Lenin,s
to condemn the use of disciplinary powers over labour in capitaliit phrase, 'democracy for the poor'.16 As this suggests, it is not the case
society, the condemnation of labour discipline under socialism could that under the dictatorship thê poor will cease to be with us, but
not be justified since it is not used in the service of an exploitative rather that the rich will. Where there are no rich the poormay remain,
system. but poverty may not. Poverty is a condition brought about not so
much by a low level of material subsistence as by the flaunted wealth
'The whole question is: who applies the principle of compulsion,
of a favoured few. In removing privilege and wealth the dictatorship
over whom, and for what purpose? What State, what class, in
removes the humiliating sting of poverty, and creates a society of
what conditions, by what methods?"s
dignified and equal poor. In response to the predictable bourgãois
As Trotsky's question here implies, the massacre of the Kronstadt sneer that socialism is a system of levelling-down, in contrast to the
t workers cannot be equated with the massacres at St Petersburg or liberal ideal of levelling-up, the dictatorship replies: levelling-down is
{: Peterloo since the system of class relations under the proletarian the only kind of levelling that is socially ãnd-economicallli feasible,
dictatorship was entirely different from that of absolutist Russia and given finite resources. To suggest that everyone, with suffiiient drive
bourgeois England. To shoot down workers in the defence of capital- and application, could en¡'oy a place in the sun on millionaire,s row, or

184 L85
Marxism and class theory The dictøtorship of the proletaiat
even in the leafy suburbs, is typical of the deception that liberals tion with possessions was an unwelcome distraction from the serious
practise on themselves and on others. Levelling-up is the doctrine of business of living life constructively. Even if, against all expectation,
those who are in fact alarmed at the very prospect of equality; it is the capitalism were to ouþace socialism in the production ofthings, it
friend of privilege masquerading as its foe. could not compete on the territory that really mattered - the restora-
The liberal rejoinder to all this is to pose a question of its own: tion of the individual's lost internal unity.
namely, which of the following notional alternatives would.workers ' Capitalism's obsessive concern with ever-increasing ouþut
actually prefer - a small cake divided into equally thin slices, or a large seemed to give the clearest indication that material satisfactiãn was all
cake divided into slices of varying si ze, tt.e great majority of which aie it had to offer; iÍ it failed in this primitive endeavour there was little
bigger than the slices of the smaller cake? The liberal expectation is else left to hold the system together. The belief that capitalism could
that more personal satisfaction is to be got from a larger thãn a smaller not gg o-n indefinitely meeting ever-higher material expectations con-
share, irrespective of how much others get. Moreover, the fact that tained the moral for socialism that the foundations ofthe new order
some receive a much larger share than average would not cause should not be laid in the shifting sands of consumer wants. An
general resentment once it were properly understood that the steady economic environment fraught with great uncertainties, anxieties
and continuous increase in the size of the cake as a whole wai and social dislocation was in any case too high a price to pay for the
dependent upon this fact. To reduce the size of the bigger slices is to tawdry benefits of a consumer societ¡r. Bettei u roiiuty thát gives full
weaken the resolve of those responsible for finding ever new ways of protection to the traditional victims of market rationaiity thin one in
enlarging the cake to the benefit of all. which the threat of the dole queue hangs like a suspenâed sentence
The liberal justification for unequal shares rests squarely on this over every worker. If the demand for economic efficiency is necessar-
view that by identifying and rewarding generously a wealth-creating ily at odds wiih the demand for personal economic ,..úrity, better a
few the material well-being of everyone is enhanced. In its mosi societ¡r that gives first priority to the latter, cardboard shoés and all.
recent and systematic formulation the thesis holds that an increase in And if this high regard for personal economic security, as the bedrock
the share accruing to the best rewarded is justifiable if, and only if, it of all moral enrichment, should entail restrictions on the rights and
results in an enlargement of the share going to the least rewarded.l? liberties of individuals, so be it. Bourgeois societ¡', it is conceäed, is a
On the basis of this principle the relationship of the few to the many society of many freedoms and the greatest of these is the freedom to
cannot be one of exploitation since each party to the relationship treat labour as a mere_ commodity. All other bourgeois rights and
stands to benefit. False consciousness from a liberal perspective liberties are not only directly contingent upon thiJone inãlienable
would thus manifest itself in the peculiar tendency for workers to right of capital, they are diminished by it tõo. Thus speaks the dic_
construe the rewards accruing to capital as a species of theft instead of tatorship.
the very source of their own material well-being. In illustration of the
point, western workers are invited to compare their lot with that of
their counterparts in eastern Europe. The expropriation there of an
entrepreneurial class and the replacement of market 'anarchy' by
central planning and egalitarianism have resulted, so the story goes,
not in the anticipated dawn of abundance but a bleak land of V
slowly-moving bread queues and cardboard shoes.
This is a line of attack that, accurate or otherwise, would not These two contending philosophies could be regarded in some not
necessarily be regarded by Marxists as especially devastating, since completely abstract sense as being in competition-for the allegiance of
the virtues of the classless society are felt by many to Iie more in the the,western working class. But although liberalism and ñ4arxism
sphere of spiritual enrichment than in the accumulation of worldly mark out the two important poles of ideological contention in the
things. The Founder's contempt for 'commodity fetishism' offereà west, the schism within the working-classmovement is expressed by
more than a hint f¡om the outset that the good society was not to be these doctrines not in their pure or ãlassical form but in their contem-
measured solely by its display of cream buns and outboard motors. P9rary application in imperfect societies. That is to say, the ideologi-
His self-parody of a society of part-time hunters, fishermen, and cal struggle throughout much of the post-war period úas, in practiãe,
critics was intended to highlight a recuring theme that the fascina- been between Man<ism as representeã by the soviet achievement and

Marxism and cløss theory The dictatorship of the proletariat
liberalism as represented by social democracy. Within the context of strength, and thus ceasetobeabsolutely rnthe hands of the ruling
working-dass politics it is the social-democratic adaptation of liberal class."t
theory, not the pristine bourgeois version, against which contem-
porary Marxism is required to measure itself. Or, as social democracy As Balibar here implies, class hegemony, like exploitation, is an all
itself might choose to express it, the relevant comparison is now or nothing affair: either total domination or corr,plete emancipation,
between socialism Scandinavian style and socialism east European with no intermediate stages. Any idea that labour,s lot today is an
style. improvement over that described by Engels in The Condition of the
One good reason for regarding social democracy as a natural exten- Working Class ín England is therefore purely illusory.
sion and adaptation of liberalism is that it seeks to preserve, in Because social democracy is quite able to conceive of a possible
attentuated form, two of the main props of bourgeois society - private diminution in the extent of capital's supremacy over labour, it can also
property and market relations. Within this accepted framework it hope for some lowering of the temperature of class conflict. classes
sdves at the same time to bring the opposing forces of capital and and class antagonisms are accepted as depressingly unavoidable,
labour into some kind of uneven and always unsteady equilibrium. though not especially horrendous, features of an oþàn society. The
Social democracy, unlike classical bourgeois liberalism, does not hold aim is not to eradicate class conflict but to ritualize it. Marxist lheory
that the relationship between capital and labour is one of equally presents this conflict as the surface expression of deeper contradic-
beneficial exchange. The relationship is not, and cannot become, one tions that are not resolvable within a propertied society. such con-
of simple harmony and reciprocity. It is accepted that the exclu- tradictions are not merely irresolvable, they are cumulative in nature,
sionary powers of capital are always greater than the usurpationary
powers of labour, and that as a consequence irresolvable tensions luilaing up to an explosive pitch at some unknowable future point.
Social democracy, by contrast, conceives of class conflict simpiy as a
between the two are bound to persist. The unstated ideal is not to form of social tension that, although more or less perman"r,t, ¡, in
reverse this power relationship but to tilt it, by legislative means, as theory manageable- The concept of tension, unlike that of contradic-
far as possible to labour's advantage until capital is only just the tion, does not imply a fatal flaw at the centre of the system that must
dominant partner. With this in mind, organized labour becomes an lead to its eventual collapse. The troubled relationshþ between capi-
'estate of the realm' via the incorporation of its leaders into the tal and labour, rather like the average marriage, gäes through'its
governing bodies of the state - the final stage of that arduous journey periodic crises and disturbances without necesiariÇ ending iñ ais-
from Tolpuddle to Whitehall. But since capital would lose its r¿æor¡ solution. whereas Marxism recommends divorce th" on-ly solu-
d'être if. its powers were completely negated by the countervailing tion, so^cial democracy bends all its efforts towards "i marriage gui-
powers of labour, an unsteady equilibrium has to be struck at some dance. one step in this direction is the attempt to make tne nJtioä of
notional level just below the point of balance. class a bit more palatable by dismantling thoìe forms of closure that
Thus, even under'full' social democracy expioitation would per- foster the self-repróduction of classes along kinship lines and replac-
sist, even if to a controlled and Iimited degree. This notion of degrees ing-them by purely meritocratic forms õf closure. In this rt o.rg
of exploitation is quite foreign to Marxist theory. For Marxists, a preference for individualist over collectivist patterns of exclusion,
relationship is exploitative or it is not; there is no half-way house. If social democrats could be regarded as libeials who really mean
the dominion of capital over labour were to be presented as anything it.
other than absolute it would imply ihat the power relationship be- social democrary asks: given the flawed and imperfectible human
tween classes under capitalism was also a matter of degree. It might material we have to work with, what is the least áisagreeable social
easily lead to the view that the proletariat could gain some small system we could create? Marxism operates with the ãoncept of the
modicum of power at the expense of the bourgeoisie as a result of good society, social democracy withthe concept of the not'-as-bad-
political action at the national or state level. Hence it is important to "as-it-might-be society. Underlying this is sociaidemocrary,s implicit
scotch any idea that workers in a capitalist society could ever rejection of the doctrine of alienafión and the associatea
ueíier tnát, uy
determined political engineering, it would be possible to
'hold the least scrap of state polner, as if State power could be pluck out
the maggot in the soul. The Marxist belief in the
divided up into a number of different local or individual powers, human renewal means that any system þossibility oi ultimate
faling short of this loftv
shared out between the classes in proportion to their political attainment can never quite be uã"eptea as trury"sociulirc .t u"riiií,
Marxism and class theory The dictatorship of the proletaríat
'socialism' in heavily sardonic inverted commas, at worst a political
deformity with easily recognizable capitalist features. direction. On all matters pertaining to liberty, the smile says, Marxists
Although social democracy harbours no great hopes for the politi_ would do well to maintain an embarrassed silence.
For its part, however, social democraçy would do well to ponder a
cal redemption of mankind, neither does it endorse the conservativs
doctrine of the unchangability of human nature. Social democracy little more closely the relationship between property and liberty. In
*-assumes tñat
moral conduct is'conditioned by environmental factors partiíular, it should not be assumed that because liberal democracy
and that improvements in human circumstances do bring about cor_ and private property have often happily co-existed in the west, prop-
responding improvements in social behaviour. But it holds, too, that erty is in some sense a guarantor of an open society. Western and
there are definite limits to what could, or indeed should, be accomp- other regimes have also successfully combined private property with
lished by way of human remoulding. Even under the best and bright- very different political arrangements, including fascism and military
est conditions of life, anti-social and deviant behaviour could be dictatorship. Indeed, the frequency with which the men on horseback
have been called in to shore up crumbling bourgeois regimes plainly
expected to erupt in some shape or form. And this is to be understood
indicates that whenever a propertied class has faced a choice between
not as a residual legacy or throwback from a less agreeable past, but as
loss of liberty and loss of property it has not usually been paralysed by
a manifestation of that small inner core of human individuality that is
indecision. On any historical reckoning, the combination of private
thankfully resistant to all the blandishments of moral entrepreneurs
property and political despotism has been the normal pattern. The
and social engineers. social democracy thus aims to administer first
co-existence of liberty and property in bourgeois democracies is more
aid to the psychic and social injuries caused by human existence,
not to effect a permanent cure. Those sharp pains diagnosed in the way of being a freak occurrence than the spontaneous pairing
by of complementary institutions. Private property, unlike Professor
Marxism as alienation are believed to have no remedy this side of the
Hayek, is indifferent to the 'constitution of liberty'. If state socialism
finds civil and political liberties a burden too heavy to bear, this must
It has already been suggested that social democracy's affinity with be for reasons other than the absence of property's supporting role.
liberalism, and its corresponding distance from Marxism, is most Social democracy needs to look no further than to its own history to
clearly shown in its toleration for the exclusionary rights of private
observe the consequences of a faulty appreciation of the political
property. The commitment to a mixed economy is not solely, or even significance of property. The German party in the inter-war period
principally, made on the grounds of efficiency; rather, the belief is shared Kautsky's fatal belief that the ownership class was just as
that multiple forms of ownership bring about a potitically desirable devoted as was social democracy to the principles of legality and
fragmentation and dispersal of power. Where all economic power is order, and would therefore not resort to unconstitutional means to
controlled from a single source, as under state socialism, individuals defend itself against the encroachments of the labour movement. It
and groups are thought to have no room for independent political certainly did not occur to the leadership of the movement that the fear
manoeuvre. The complete monopolization of productive forces by of dispossession could be so intense as to make barbarism the pre-
the state always spells the end of political and civil liberties. So ferred alternative. Although modern social democracy does not
however lacking in enthusiasm for the rights of pro perty per se , social aspire to the complete expropriation of private proPerty, its strategy
democracy nevertheless feels these rights to be worth preserving for of gradually gnawing away at the foundations of the institution could
their beneficial side effects. The calculus seems to be that some degree also meet at some point with unexpected resistance. The closer the
of subordination of labour to capital, though falling far short oithe prospect of dispossession looms the more obvious it seems to those
latter's hegemony, is a price worth paying by the working class for the under threat that democracy has finally 'falled', and that a more
preservation of hard-won civil liberties. Because social democracy muscular replacement is called for.
regards these liberties not as a worthless offering from the In so far as the lines of connection between proPerty and liberty can
bourgeoisie, but as the brightest jewels in the crown of the labour so easily become frayed, the case for retaining property rights as a
movemefit, it is unwilling to trade them in for other presumed check upon the abuse of power loses its persuasiveness. Moreover,
benefits in kind. And in response to the western Marxist ciaim that, the dassical liberal thesis on the separation of powers, as set out by
under the authorized version of socialism, full political and civil Tocqueville and Durkheim, requires only that a multiplicity of inde-
liberties would still be preserved in the absence of private property, pendent bodies and institutions be allowed to flourish in the inter-
the social democrat gives a wry smile and points in an easterly mediate levels between family and state. It is not essential to the
L90 1.91
q i

Marxism and class theory The dictatorship of the proletariat

thesis that property should be one of these institutions. In Durk-

heim's formulation, professional and trade associations are singled VI

out as the bodies capable of bearing most of the weight of this

intermediate structure known as civil If a large measure of Contemporary western Marxism understandably denies that any
autonomy is granted to various groups in the middle layers of society, such'stark choice has to be made between the twin evils of ProPerty

then the desired fragmentation and dispersal of power could be and bureaucratic domination. Social democracy and state socialism
achieved without reliance upon private property. Not only does are each regarded as failed varieties of socialism having little affinity
property not guarantee liberty when it does exist, but its absence need with the model workers' state embalmed in western revolutionary
noi necessarily result in the monopolization of power, even on the literature. This is that well-known state in which the proletariat is free
reckoning of liberal theory. from the despotism of either capital or the central committee, in
Now it could perhaps be argued that the separation of powers and which the forcible suppression of the enemies of the state goes hand
the maintenance of distance between state and civil society, are them- in hand with the respect for civil liberties and the rule of law, in which
selves dependent upon the fulfilment of a prior condition: namely, centralized planning is neatly reconciled with workers' control of
the existence of independent political parties. It might well be that industry by factor committees, in which independent trade unions
only under a system in which the party of government was willing to co-operate in the erosion of traditional differentials, in which a work-
be elected out of office and replaced by its opponents could the ers' opposition enjoys full legal and political rights, and in which
separation of powers be anything more than a constitutional fiction. If those in high places are every ready to be recalled to the ranks.
an open or competitive Party system is the bedrock on which the Measured against this version of socialism, east European or Scan-
house of liberty must be built, then a weak case for private property dinavian varieties are almost bound to seem equally depressing.
rnight just about be made on the grounds that the only genuine This third or 'genuine' version of socialism is one that allegedly falls
opposition to the party of labour would be from the party of capital outside the limited conceptual range of bourgeois thought.
and its traditional supporters. At any rate, social democracy does
appear to operate on the peculiar assumption that a private owner- 'Bourgeois ideology can imagine . . . two forms of the exercise of
State power: the democratic form (parliamentary institutions,

ship class is needed to furnish the material basis of its own potential
displacement. Whereas the dictatorship of the proletariat recom- multi-party system, freedom of speech and assembly, etc.) and
mends a final solution to the problem of private ProPerty and the the dictatorial form (single Party system, fusion of party and
bourgeoisie, social democracy implicitly defends both in the name of state, refusal to tolerate opposition, and so on) . . . What it cannot
a higher political ideal. It is rather as if social democracy were to fear imagine is a State of the kind portrayed by Lenin, a genuinely
the worst of itself if left with untrammelled power and permanent proletarian State, a State whose function is to exercise poweronly
office. On this line of reasoning, the working class would have some- and precísely in order to prepare the conditions for its own disap-
thing to gain from the preservation of private ownership - not pearance . . . bourgeois ideology cannot imagine such a thing.'21
because it opens up a separate source of power from that of the state, Marxists, being of more vivid imagination, can easily picture such a
but because without it bourgeois parties would have no life, the society, even while acknowledging that its translation from the men-
electoral system would atrophy, and the fragile structure of civil tal to the material world does appear to have run into a few snags. Not
society would at once be in jeopardy. Rosa Luxemburg prophesied the least important reason for these difficulties is, of course, to do with
that: 'Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of the political method by which the translation is typically carried out.
press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in The complete dismemberment of bourgeois society has only occurred
every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which under the leadership of a Leninist party - an organization that is not
only the bureaucracy remains as the active element.'2o If the final altogether attuned to the idea of sharing power with other political
choice is between the rule of property and the rule of the bureaucracy, bodies, including soviets, in the manner required by the model of a
then perhaps the working class would do well to opt for the former; democratic workers' state. The social character of the new order is
property after all gives rise to nothing more disabling than alienation, stamped from the very outset by the imprint of the political organiza-
whereas the torments inflicted by the bureaucracy are likely to be of a tion largely responsible for orchestrating the forces of revolution. This
more corporeal kind. So says social democracy. is why Lenin's organizational handbook What is to be done? proves to
192 1"93
Marxism and cløss theory
The díctatorship of the proletaríat
be a much more reliable guide to the future character
of soviet society disprove this thesis by suggesting that the constitutional route does
than the optimistic sketch contained in state and Reoorutíozr. To to
sup- lead to a form of socialism that is true to the spirit of Leninism without
pose that the libertarian workers' democracy outlined in the
latter reproducing what Althusser has called 'the "grey" variety built on
document could be attained by way of the authoritarian instrument
recommended in the former is to believe in the almost force or even repression'.22 Moreover, however colourful and easy-
dissociation between political ends and means. $oing the new variety is thought likely to be, any family resemblance
between it and social democracy is vehemently denied. According to
- Assuming that there is no parliamentary route to the third and so
far unrealized version of sociàrism, the oníy alternative is Carrillo,
the revolu_
ti9nary route under the guidance of a Leninist party. The proponents '. . . there cannot be any confusion between "Eurocommunism"
of the new model socialism must therefo." pir, áU tn"i, håpes and social democracy in the ideological sphere . . . What is com-
proletarian democrary on the willingness of thà revolutionary monly called Eurocommunism proposes to transform capitalist
to relinquish its.emergen"ypó*"rr, after the society not to ødminister it, to work out a socialist alternative to the
¡hip nu,
been put down. In other wõras, the expectation must be ".å_y
"tur, that ,west- system of state monopoly capitalism, not to integrate in it and
ern' Leninism wourd not folrow the àxampre set by all previous become one of its governmental variants.'23
vanguard parties that have captured state po*er. Flowever, idarxists
have not yet addressed thernserves to thå inkiguing question This transformation is to be achieved not through the dictatorship
as to of the proletariat but by way of a socialist regime that will respect the
preciseìy why revolution in the west courd be explcteã
to depart from rights of private property and bourgeois opposition parties. The aim
the well-established pattern ersewhere by usheiing in Leninism
with is not to extinguish capital but only to remove its hegemony over
a human face.
The realization of a fundamentally new type of socialism cannot labour. Furthermore, the traditional Marxist disdain for the institu-
of tions of bourgeois democrary suddenly gives way to a more apprecia-
course be declared beyond the bounds of pósìibility, even though
it is tive stance. Carrillo, having belatedly discovered that Lenin was
a species that has nowhere survived outiide the protected
eniiron- somewhat prone to 'underestimate and belittle the generic concept of
ment of Marxist theory- But the likelihood of any such third *oã"1
coming into being is not enhanced by the fact thaÍ there ur" or,ly two democrary', is clearly keen to make amends:2a
broad political strategies available ai meuns to this end partiamen- 'the political system established in Western Europe, based on
tary and revolutionary. on ail the now considerable eviàence, the representative political institutions - parliament, political and
former leads no further than social democracy and the latter to some philosophical pluralism, the theory of the separation of powers,
variety of state socialism. It is not as if pariiamentary and revolu- decentralization, human rights, etc. - . . . is in essentials valid
tionary strategies were simply end pointi on a politiãal continuum and it will be still more effective with a socialist, and not a
between which were to be found vãrious hybrid forms leading to capitalist, economic foundation.'6
various socialist outcomes. The commitment to a constitutional rõute
The obvious and embarrassing parallels between this conception
cannot be dovetailed into a programme based on the violent seizure
of and that of social democracy renders it necessary for Eurocommun-
the state, nor vice versa. Thãy represent stark either/or choices,
ism to give renewed endorsement to the Leninist anathema placed
excluding any third way. And since the political means by which
power is attained inderibry marks the end resurt, the rangé of out- upon the founding fathers of revisionism. To revive the ancient
comes is as narrow as the choice of strategies. This is not tã say that
denunciations of Kautsky and Bernstein is perhaps one way of allay-
ing suspicion that the political ideas of renegades and revisionists
s-tate socialist regimes display no significant variations, nor
that social have been plagiarized by the exponents of Eurocommunism.æ Par-
democracies are interchangõabre; Èut it is to say that the centrar
and Iiamentary Marxism is somehow able to see a world of difference
defining characteristics of these two general types are rargery formed
by the manner of their political inception. between the recent claim that socialism can be attained 'without
breaking the rules of democracy' but by 'changing the content of
It should follow from this that once Marxist parties abandon insur-
traditional democratic institutions, complementing them with new
rectionary programmes in favour of the pailiamentary road they
forms which expand and establish democracy still more firmly' ,22 and
point themselves towards a poritical des-tination at which sociãr
democracy long ago arrived. The advocates of Eurocommunism
Bernstein's much-derided claim that because of their ftexibility
seek bourgeois institutions'do not need to be destroyed, but only to be
Marxism and cløss theory The dictatorshrp of the.proletøriat
further developed'.28 It is, in fact, difficult to see what objections the meant that it was no longer realistic to rely upon the mass defection of
early theorists of social democracy would be able to raise against the the ranks to the side of the Soldiers were no longer
Eurocommunìst programme - other than in Kautsky,s case,-perhaps, simply'peasants and workers in uniform'. Kautsky felt that armed
the marked absence of any reference to 'revolution,. insurrection could only be successful in under-developed societies in
The early social democrats would have been especially approving which the capital city was the only centre of mass population, as in the
of the Eurocommunists' renunciation of Lenin's téachings on tne art caée of many absolutist states. By seizing a few strategic positions the
of armed struggle and the constructive uses of ,red terror,. Lenin entire apparatus of power could be taken over by armed men. In
placed much emphasis on the need to arm the proletariat and instruct developed capitalist societies, on the other hand, the population was
it in the techniques of street fighting and urban guerilla warfäre. One typically dispersed throughout many metropolitan centres, linked by
of Trotsky's great complaints against Rosa Luxemburg was that her good communications, so that the system could not be paralysed for
theory of the mass strike fudged the crucial issue of armed revolt. In long by the seizure of a few key buildings or the erection of street
his view, the seizure of power would come about not by means of the barricades.s2 Kautsky's implied question is: what exactly would
general strike itself but through 'the armed insurrection on the basis workers have to seize in order to take over the modern state? Where
of the general strike'.2e Proletarian power came, ultimately, not from precisely is the Winter Palace?
its collective social and political strength, but through the barrel of a These doubts and misgivings about the efficacy and likely outcome
gun. Hence Lenin's stern admonition that,an oppressed class which of an armed proletarian uprising had earlier been voiced by Engels in
does not strive to learn to use arms, to acquire arms, only deserves to his last major pronouncement on the strategy of class struggle. In an
be treated like slaves'.3o essay that could stand as the charter for'Eurocommunism, Engels
This call to arms was closely bound up with Lenin,s strategic drew a pointed contrast between 'the old-style, street fighting with
conception of 'dual power'. The extinction of the bourgeois state wãs barricades', typical of the 1848 rebellions, u.d th" moãproÃising
to be preceded by the emergence within it of an autonõmous political line of attack opened up by the extension of the Echoing
force that could successfully challenge the jurisdiction of gove-rnment the theme of Marx's Amsterdam address, Engels argued that as a
and its allied institutions. This alternative power structurã, embodied result of electoral reforms, the franchise had become 'transformed
above all in the soviets, was to become a kind of state within the state . . . from a means of deception, which it was before, into an instru-
in so far as it sought to enforce its own political and moral authority by ment of emancipation'.e Not even Kautsky could match Engels'
resort to the ultimate sanction. As a political strategy, the setting up of euphoria over thã unimpeded progress of social democrary throùgh-
a dual power is at considerable variance with tire ,salami ìã"ti.r, out western Europe as the citadels of capital appeared to crumble
recommended by both Kautsky and the Eurocommunists. These beneath the weight of the organized labour movement. Engels felt
tactics call for the piecemeal absorption of existing state bod.ies by the that German social democracy, in particular, would within a very few
working-class movement exercising its constituìional powers. The years be 'the decisive power in the land, before which all other
bourgeois state is not so- much destroyed as gradually wÀittled away; powers will have to bow. . .'.s
consequently, the need for a workers, militia is leis apparent. The Engels was not merely unenthusiastic about the use of arms by the
conflict issuing from dual power, on the other hand.,- åan only be proletariaÇ he believed that an armed uprising would play directly
settled by a violent showdown between the bourgeois state and its into the hands of their far better equipped opponents. Why else, he
potential usurper. The military proficiency of the proletariat would enquired, should these class enemies'so earnestly implore us to play
therefore be of decisive importance to the outcome. for once the part of cannon fodder?'36 The only thing that could now
The distaste expressed by the early social democrats for this idea halt the progress of the working class was that type of violent confron-
that the dass struggle was to be decided by a contest of arms arose tation with the state that Lenin was later to declare mandatory. With
partly from the conviction that in such a contest the proletariat would the organizational and electoral power of the working class growing
be on the losing side. Kautsky pointed out that the lechnical innova- boundlessly, Engels warned the movement explicitly against all
tions of advanced capitalism were being applied to the tools of viol- temptation'to fritter away this daily increasing shock force in van-
ence; the sophisticated weaponry at thã dìiposal of the state made guard skirmishes. . .'.37
dangerous nonsense of those romantic ideas òf workers manning the There is much here to give comfort to the latter-day advocates of
barricades. Moreover, the professionalization of the standing irmy parliamentary Marxism, especially if they are able to erase all memory
Marxism ønd class theory
The dictøtorship of the proletariat
of the fact that these same arguments brought similar relief to Kautsky
and his colleagues more than half a century earlier. Ironically, thä the insurrectionary effort might require something more solid than
same doctrinal authority on which early social democracy took its this to go on. Given what they now know about Marxist societies-
stand is now appealed to by the proclaimed opponents of social without-blueprints built elsewhere, it should come as no great sur-
democracy. The attraction for Eurocommunists of Engels, ow¡ prise if western workers were to show some scepticism about the
embellishments upon the Amsterdam address is understandable ie\ia'ai7it'y <;f ihis architectural procedure. It is not, after all, as if the
enough; it provides the clearest legitimation for an alternative to unflattering image of existing socialist states is a malicious fabrication
Leninism to issue f¡om a totally unimpeachable source. But in coun- of the bourgeois mind. Western Marxists of many breeds and disposi-
terposing Engels to Lenin, parliamentary Marxism is not exactly in tions have been just as disparaging of state socialism as any mere
the best position from which to preach the apostasy of the erstwhile liberal. With social democrats, conserVatives, anarchists, and Marx-
Marxist Pope and his followers. In so far as Eurocommunism con- ists of different hue all chanting their own version of the same refrain,
tinues to invoke the name and ideals of Lenin, while heading down the western working class could easily be forgiven for concluding that
the peaceful road to socialism, it is bound to seem to incorrigible something must be very badly wrong with state socialism after all.
revolutionaries that the spirit of Kautsky lives on. Flowever this may They migit also reasonably wonder why, if all known versions of
be, the case for a third version of socialism can hardly be said to draw Marxist society are so seriously flawed, and their revolutions always
strength from the Eurocommunist example. If social democrats are betrayed, the result next time should be any different-
liberals who really mean it, Eurocommunists seem well on the way to Latter-day Leninists continue to maintain that a new, western
becoming social democrats who really mean it. brand of socialism is perfectly conceivable and is not made any less so
by repeated failurei elsewhere. In any case, things might have
wortce¿ out very differently the first time round if only conditions in
Russia had been less harsh, if only the revolution had spread across
Europe, if only Lenin had not died prematurely, if only Trotsky
had succeeded him instead of Stalin, and if only the bureaucracy
vu had been nipped in the bud. A genuine workers' state is perfectly
attainable, prõvided it is not expected to coPe with any unforeseen
Western Marxists who maintain faith in Leninist principles and prac- difficulties.
tice are also more likely to have their sights set on some as yet Naturally the realization of a model Marxist state cannot be dis-
unattained model of socialism than on any of the existing state var- missed as logically unsound or empirically impossible. Such a society
ieties. However, the political and institutional forms propõsed for the has as much warrant to a conceptual life as the idea of a society
new dispensation are never revealed in any more detail than they without sin or wickedness. Because sin is everywhere rampant now
were in Lenin's own shadowy prototype. Now, as then, the task of does not clinch the argument for the sheer impossibility of a

seeing away with the existing order is apparently too absorbing to redeemed society. As with real socialism, there is always the future
permit much time for reflection upon the character and quality of its prospect. In the case of real socialism, however, the snag is that those
replacement. The new system is characterized in effect only in terms ãssigned the burdensome and hazardous task of making it come
of what it will not be; it will not be Eurocommunism's liberal democ- aboùt are much more likely to be impressed by what is empitically
racy for the working man, nor of course will it be that bureaucratic probøble than by what is merely theoreticølly possible. If it is assumed
travesty of proletarian dictatorship that everywhere sullies the good that workers are mentally capable of weighing up the political costs
name of Marxism. Those who crave more positive clues about the and benefits of alternative forms of action, then it should not occasion
intended political format of the new order can always be reminded of great wonder if their preference was for social democracy (including
the fact that Marxism has never gone in for blueprints. New social and ihe E rro"o*munist variant) with all its well-known imperfections,
political formations, we are told, emerge in response to concrete rather than for the uncertainties of the high-risk alternative offered by
historical imperatives and unforeseen contingencies. The curious, in Leninism. Only if it were patently and unambiguously the case that
other words, will have to wait and see. the forcible ovèrthrow of bourgeois regimes elsewhere had usually
resulted in the reclamation of the proletariat would a social-
il Now, it could well be that those expected to bear the main brunt of
democratic commitment on the part of western workers seem es-
r"l 1"98

Marxism and cløss theory The dictatorship of the proletariat
pecially odd. But, as things stand, Marxists are an alone in their
leaders, always detectable through Marxists lenses, than to the mani-
puzzlement at this and in their busy search for its chean division of the industrialized world already alluded to. The first
causes among the ideological state apparatuses.