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Poulantzas, Nicos (1936–1979)

Wendy A. Wiedenhoft

Subject Law
Sociology » Sociological and Social Theory
Government, Politics, and Law » Political Sociology

Key-Topics state

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Nicos Poulantzas was born in Athens, Greece. He was active in the Greek student movement of the 1950s and participated in various communist and leftist organizations throughout his career. After completing a degree in law in Greece, Poulantzas moved to France, where he received a doctorate in the philosophy of law in 1965. His first major work, Political Power and Social Classes , was published in 1968. Poulantzas held a number of academic appointments in France, and at the time of his suicide was professor of sociology at the University of Vincennes. Poulantzas was a structural Marxist who attempted to advance Marxist theory by emphasizing the role of the state in constituting and reproducing class struggle. Poulantzas argues that the state mediates all class relations, specifically economic, political, and ideological relations. Class relations are determined at the economic level by whether or not one produces material goods that create surplus value. Thus, wages or ownership of the means of production do not define class. Poulantzas's emphasis on the production of material goods excludes many workers from the proletariat, including state employees and service workers. Workers engaged in “non-productive” labor constitute a class that Poulantzas calls the new petty bourgeoisie, which may or may not form a class alliance with the capitalist class. At the political level class ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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