Marxist Theory Of State
About Karl Marx
Karl Marx(1818-1883) was a philosopher, social theorist and economist. He was
called the father of modern socialism,communism and conflict theory. Marxism is
a western intellectual tradition spanning 150 years, consisting of three
- A political doctrine
- A philosophy (Anti-philosophy) of history
- An analysis of the functioning of the economy
According to Karl Marx the society is divided into two parts, Bourgeoisie(
Capitalists) and Proletariat (workers). Bourgeoisie would own the production,
the haves and Proletariat would be workers who own nothing and provide
labour,the have-nots. This division will eventually lead to inequality and this
in turn will cause imbalance in the society.
Class conflict would lead to a classless society which will welcome the idea of
communism. Marx with Friedrich Engels, published The Communist Manifesto in
1848. Later he wrote Das Kapital which discussed the labor theory of life.
Marx�s ideas left a huge impact on communist projects of the USSR, China and
Cuba. Another theory by Karl Marx is known as historical materialism. According
to this theory, society is mainly governed by the type of technology used in the
production. All objects,living or inanimate, are subject to continuous change.
Origin Of Marxist Theory Of State
As we have already read in the article, Karl Marx gave rise to the very famous
theory of Marxism. Marxism is a social, political, economical theory. Marxist
focused on the relationship between capitalists and workers which was exploiting
the workers and creating class conflicts. Marx, Engels and Lenin believed that
the origin of the state comes from a materialistic viewpoint and there is no
emotion. In order to get a better understanding they divided the development of
the society into 4 parts.
Old Communist Social System:
- Slave Society
- Feudal Society
- Industrial Society
In this part there was no state because there existed no private properties.
So according to them private property was the potential cause of the rise of the
state. As soon as private property came into existence it automatically divided
the society into two classes of people,one was the owner of property and other
was without property. The conflict then became prominent. Marx and engle
beleived that the state for all practical purposes was set up in slave society.
In this society there were mainly two classes, one was the owners of the slaves
and the other was the slaves themselves. Friedrich Engles in one of his books
�The Origin of Family, Private Property and State'' has quoted that:
�The state is, by no means, a power forced on society from without; rather it is
a product of society at a certain stage of development.�
Marx and Engels have paid special attention to the importance of ideology. Why?
If we try to put it in simple words, the purpose of the ruling class is to
exploit the other vulnerable sections of the society. And this would lead to
The ruling class want to prove that it's not just for their own benefits but for
an ideology and in the garb of an ideology the exploiters justify their actions
as they cannot declare their real motives. That's why they have said that
ideology acts as a weapon. In the German Ideology they have mentioned that for
each new class which replaces the one ruling before it, presents its interest as
the common interest of all the other members of the society�.if it fails to
convince the general mass, agitation is bound to arise.
What does the theory say:
As we have already discussed Marxism is a social, economic and political theory
by Karl Marx. This theory discusses the struggle between capitalists and the
working class. He believed this conflict would lead to inequality and ultimately
a revolution where the working class would overthrow the capitalist class and
seize control of the economy.
Models of Marxist theory of state
There are two models of the Marxist theory of state:
- The instrumental model (Marx, Lenin, Ralph Miliband)
- Relative autonomy model (Marx, Gramsci, Althusser, Nicos Poulantzas)
The Instrumental Model:
Marx and Engels believed that the state was created to protect the economic
interest including others interests but economic interest was primary. And
eventually the state was an instrument used by the property owners. The prime
idea of this model was to fulfil the interests of a particular class or section
of the society by using society as an instrument.
Ralph Miiband, Sanderson, and Avineri are the chief spokespersons of this model.
This approach also holds an important place in The German Ideology(1846). This
approach has also faced much criticism. One being that neither Marx nor Engels
has stated clearly this concept. It was merely the interpretation of their
The critics argued that the state sometimes acts in favour of the bourgeoisie or
the capitalist but not necessarily all the time. And when it acts in the favour
of the capitalists, the capitalists use the state for other purposes also and
not just for exploitation of the other class of the society, unfortunately Marx
has overlooked it. The followers of Marx and Engels singled out a particular
role of the capitalists dominating the working class and have over emphasised it
which is not correct.
Relative Autonomy Model:
This was the opposite of the previous model. According to this model even though
the capitalists work as a dominant class the state exercises its power
State is not always dictated by the capitalists and nor does it discharge its
functions on the command of the bourgeoisie. Now it's very interesting to note
that the word relative means that sometimes it acts without being influenced by
the dominating class of the society and not every time. Like the previous model
this model also did not find its place in the writings of Marx and Engels though
the eighteen brumaire by Karl Marx between 1851-1852 contain several hints about
So far we have discussed two models. The conflict between them cannot be denied.
Subsequently the instrumental approach did not lose its importance as it was
quite valid. But only, under the second bonaparte does the state seem to be
completely independent. The question to which model should be accepted has no
definite answer to it. Mark and Engels haven�t started anything clearly.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Cass struggle is a characteristic of which philosophy?
- Only I
- Neither I nor II
- Both I and
- Only II
According to Karl Marx, which class of the society will end the capitalist
- White Collar Class
- Proletariat Class
- Elite Class
- Royal Class
Written by Divya ,a student of New Law College, Pune.