Paul Wetherly provides a timely and forceful restatement of the classical Marxist theory of the state. The book develops an analytical approach that draws on, but also provides criticism of, G.A. Cohen's functional interpretation of Marx's theory of history. Cohen's treatment of the 'base-superstructure' connection is rather limited, in contrast to the detailed argument in respect of the forces and relations of production, and this book seeks to remedy that deficiency. The book provides a much more systematic answer to the question of why bases need superstructures in the form of a novel theory of the 'needs of capital'. Instrumentalist and structuralist arguments are conceived as related causal mechanisms within the functional approach, thus showing how the nature of the economic structure explains the character of the legal and political superstructure. This involves rethinking the perennial problem of the relationship between structure and agency. In place of the false dichotomy of economic determinism versus state autonomy, it is argued that explanation of the superstructure by the base must be conceived as a strong tendency, and this requires a concept of the constrained or 'relative' autonomy of the state.

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