state capitalism and state monopoly capitalism

state capitalism and state monopoly capitalism

(MARXISM) an interpretation of Soviet society and similar planned or COMMAND ECONOMIES, in which the state élite is seen as acting as a surrogate capitalist class. This class is seen as continuing the ‘historical role’ of the capitalist class in the accumulation of capital in a situation where the bourgeois class has been overthrown but where the development of the means of production is insufficient as the basis for the full transition to socialism. Analogously, these terms may also be used (as for example, by LENIN, 1915) to refer to western forms of ADVANCED CAPITALISM, in which monopolistic concentrations of capital and overall state direction of the economy has occurred.
  1. the apparatus of rule or government within a particular territory.
  2. the overall territory and social system which is subject to a particular rule or domination. In this second sense the terms 'state’ and 'SOCIETY’ may sometimes be used interchangeably.

For WEBER, the crucial defining feature of any state is that it successfully upholds a claim ‘to the monopoly of legitimate use of violence within its territory’. It should be stressed, however, that only in extreme circumstances do states depend mainly or entirely on the actual use of violence or physical coercion. These are normally used only in the last resort. The claims to political ‘legitimacy’ made by rulers usually provide a far more potent and effective basis for trouble-free political rule (see LEGITIMATE AUTHORITY). But the threat of force always remains in the background in the government of states, and, compared with those theories (e.g. NORMATIVE FUNCTIONALISM) which perhaps overemphasize the normative basis of state power, the importance of the threat of violence as an ever present factor in internal state power must not be neglected. Internationally, as a defensive and an offensive machine, sometimes resorting to WARFARE, the role of violence is again clearly evident.

The first states (see also PRISTINE STATES) appeared around 5,000 years ago, in the Middle East and elsewhere, probably as the outcome of the activity of REDISTRIBUTIVE CHIEFDOMS, or of warfare which led to conquest and class domination (see also ENGELS). Whatever their precise origins, however, there is agreement that the central appropriation of an economic surplus and SOCIAL STRATIFICATION are both an essential requirement and a consequence of the subsequent development of states.

Prior to the first states (see STATELESS SOCIETIES), the government of societies existed only as a set of functions diffused within the wider society among a number of institutions or organizations playing political roles, e.g. lineage groups, age groups, or general meetings. In contrast, modern states usually possess a set of clearly differentiated ‘political’ institutions, e.g. an executive, a legislature, a judiciary, armed forces, and police, etc. In comparison with modern NATION STATES, many earlier forms of the state (e.g. preindustrial empires), while possessing a differentiated state structure, can be characterized as having a far more fragmentary and contested domination over their territories. (See also CITY STATE, ORIENTAL DESPOTISM).

A further feature of modern states is that, whereas most forms of premodern state had only SUBJECTS, modern states have CITIZENS (i.e. full members of political communities increasingly enjoying the right to vote, the right to stand for office, freedom of expression, welfare rights; see CIVIL RIGHTS, WELFARE STATE). A related distinction is that between state and CIVIL SOCIETY. This is an important distinction, especially in Marxism, where it provides a vocabulary to distinguish between state and society, or state and individual citizens or groups of citizens.

The sub fields of sociology most concerned with study of the different kinds of state and POLITICAL SYSTEM and the implications of state power, are HISTORICAL SOCIOLOGY and POLITICAL SOCIOLOGY (see also POLITICAL SCIENCE, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS). One central issue is whether state power can be explained autonomously or only in terms of underlying economic forces; see RELATIVE AUTONOMY (OF THE STATE), RULING CLASS. See also POWER, DEMOCRACY, LIBERAL DEMOCRACY, ONE-PARTY STATES, TOTALITARIANISM, STATE SOCIALIST SOCIETIES.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
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