#3739 Created 11/04/2014 Updated 03/24/2016
(caution: stolen from wikipedia)
Structural Marxism posits that the state functions to serve the long-term interests of the capitalist class. Building upon the works of Engels and Lenin, Structural Marxists posit the idea that the state is a mechanism for regulating class conflict, the irreconcilable tension between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. By regulating these antagonisms rather than eliminating them—which Lenin thought was impossible without violent revolution—the state serves to stabilize the capitalist system as a whole and preserve its existence.
Structuralists differentiate between the long-term and short-term interests of the capitalist class in order to describe the necessity of the state to the capitalism system. Short-term interests of the bourgeoisie include policies that affect capital accumulation in the immediate future such as tax breaks, reduced minimum wages, government subsidies, etc. They maintain that when the state is not benefiting the bourgeois class’ short-term interests, it is acting on the behalf of its future interests. Accordingly, when the state seems to act on behalf of the proletariat rather than the bourgeoisie (raising minimum wages, increasing rights of workers’ unions, etc.) it is serving capitalist interests by meeting the demands of workers only enough to prevent an uprising that could threaten the system as a whole. Because the interests of the proletariat and the capitalist classes are counter to one another, the state is necessary to regulate the capitalist system and assure its preservation by forcing capitalists to agree to demands of workers to which they otherwise would not succumb.
In a 1971 paper for Socialist Register, Polish philosopher Leszek Koakowski undertook a detailed critique of structural Marxism, arguing that the concept was seriously flawed on three main points: I will argue that the whole of Althusser's theory is made up of the following elements : 1. common sense banalities expressed with the help of unnecessarily complicated neologisms; 2. traditional Marxist concepts that are vague and ambiguous in Marx himself (or in Engels) and which remain, after Althusser's explanation, exactly as vague and ambiguous as they were before; 3. some striking historical inexactitudes.
...Koakowski further argued that, despite Althusser's claims of scientific rigor, structural Marxism was unfalsifiable and thus unscientific, and was best understood as a quasi-religious ideology. In 1980, sociologist Axel van den Berg described Koakowski's critique as "devastating," proving that "Althusser retains the orthodox radical rhetoric by simply severing all connections with verifiable facts." Similar arguments have been made concerning structural theories of the capitalist nature of the state. Claus Offe averred that the class-character of the state could only be observed in an ex post perspective. In other words, the class character of the state can only be shown after policies are put in place and the outcome is observed. Because of this, he criticizes structural theories which attempt to prove the capitalist character of the state, claiming they do so on an unfounded basis: because outcomes of the state's policies are empirically capitalist, it does not make the State a capitalist enterprise in its nature.: 45-46
POST STRUCTURALISM ---Post-structuralism offers a way of studying how knowledge is produced and critiques structuralist premises. It argues that because history and culture condition the study of underlying structures, both are subject to biases and misinterpretations. A post-structuralist approach argues that to understand an object (e.g., a text), it is necessary to study both the object itself and the systems of knowledge that produced the object.