Sunday, November 22, 2009

theoretical models of state and society bleg

I let the blog cool down for two weeks mainly for work-related reasons. In my attempts to hone in on some area of interest concerning U.S. economic history in the early 19th century, I've struggled with some overwhelming questions and I'm now working on finding a theoretical framework in which to give some semblance of an answer to at least one of them. The process has consumed much of my time and thoughts for these past two weeks and since you, the reader, are familiar with most of these issues, I thought it would be redundant to explain my problems again. See, for past examples of my struggles, my posts here (moral economy of competition) and here (understanding the legal dimensions of proletarianization). This gives you a flavor of the central ideas I was presenting to my advisor.

My main question wrestles with something that I've stressed all semester in Econ 362: giving a narrative of early economic development which stresses the lack of freedom in property and contract. Here, my advisor has directed me toward the theoretical Marxist literature on the relationship between the state and society in capitalism, toward people such as Miliband and Poulantzas. In addition, for my own intellectual curiosity I picked up a book of selections from Gierke's Community in Historical Perspective. While I haven't completed Miliband's book, it deals, on a theoretical level, with defining the term "ruling class" (a popular term to throw around that is by no means easy to pin down analytically) and exploring how to demonstrate that such a class exists in society, and finally, the social effects of this established class. Poulantzas and Gierke I have yet to crack open.

If you have any suggestions for books on this topic I will be very appreciative. Specifically, I would be looking for any evolutionary theories of the relationship between the state and society in capitalism. Readings which characterize the modern state in advanced capitalism are good and certainly helpful but they aren't exactly what I'm looking for. Thinking out loud, is it possible that the development of such an evolutionary theory could be a new addition to the literature, historically/theoretically speaking? I conjecture that studying how it exists today is helpful to a certain extent for forming a history but to avoid falling into the teleological trap I definitely need a more thorough treatment of how the state developed and its effects, along the way, on society (and materialism is just not an answer...sorry!).

At any rate, I do have a bunch of articles and things I've accumulated over the last two weeks that I will be sharing with you all quite soon.

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