Marxist development theory and state formation : a theoretical and empirical assessment : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University

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Massey University
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First and foremost, it is argued that contrary to traditional interpretations of Marx's work, his sociology does not provide a recipe for advancing a putative set of universal categories. The categories of the forces and social relations of production and the ideal superstructures are transhistorical categories. Taken alone, these categories are independent of any particular society and as such, have almost no explanatory value. This means, that to equate the productive forces with 'things', the social relations with economic relations and the superstructure with a 'relatively autonomous' level, irrespective of their particular mode of production, is at the same time to fetishize them. In terms of state formation, Marxism's failure to grasp this point reflects an inability to develop a mode of abstraction which is able to avoid arriving at a generic, dualistic notion of the state 'in general'. The result is a dehistorizing one: since conventional historical materialism takes the appearance of an isolated 'economic' sphere and an isolated 'political' sphere as a characteristic common to all human productive forms, this specifically capitalist form of appearance is transposed from a determinant historical form to a property political forms 'possess' transhistorically. The task which Marx set himself was to explain what definite form of labour organizes surplus value, capital, private property and the state as its outcome? In terms of the state, Marx was never to answering this question in anything like the detail in which he traced the development of surplus value and capital. Nonetheless, what we have in Marx's writing is a unity between object and method. Thus, while it is true that comparatively little attention is paid to bourgeois society as an effective phenomenal form, the analytic foundations for such a critique is clearly articulated. Thus, while part one of the present thesis is concerned with the impasse in Marxist development theory, parts two and three focus on Marx's theories of circulation, the labour theory of value and the law of equivalence in exchange. It is argued that the foregoing moments are organically linked via the category of abstract labour. However, because Marxists' have failed to grasp the originality of this category, they have also failed to identify the object of Marx's work. Furthermore, it is only through the category of abstract labour that we are able to develop a theory of state formation which can encompass the differences presented by the modern state in relation to all antecedent forms, and which does not, therefore, arrive at a generic notion of the state 'in general' (Colletti, 1972:8). This thesis is thus a study of Marx's ideas. It draws on a variety of texts, ranging from such early works as 'The Holy Family' (1844) through to the 'Marginal Notes of Adolf Wagner' (1880). How I interpret and link these ideas is by no means original, but is greatly influenced by the writings of Derek Sayer, Lucio Colletti, Ben Fine and Henry Bernstein.
State, The, Communism, Communism and society, Economic development