Althusser, Poulantzas, Buci-Glucksmann: Elaborations of Gramsci’s Concept of the integral State

This on-line version is the pre-copyedited, preprint, English version. The published version can be found here:

‘Althusser, Poulantzas, Buci-Glucksmann: Weiterentwicklung von Gramscis Konzept des integralen Staats’, in S. Buckel and A. Fischer-Lescano, eds, Hegemonie gepanzert mit Zwang. Zivilgesellschaft und Politik im Staats-verständnis Antonio Gramscis, Baden-Baden, Nomos, 43-65, 2007.

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This chapter explores some ways in which Gramsci’s analyses of the integral state and hegemony in the Prison Notebooks (1929-35) were interpreted, critiqued and developed during the 1960s and 1970s by two French Marxists and a Greek Marxist based in France: Louis Althusser, Christine Buci-Glucksmann, and Nicos Poulantzas. Although all three have been read as essentially structural Marxists, their appropriations of Gramsci were markedly different and, indeed, mutually antagonistic. There is no space to present Gramsci’s work as a reference point for this exercise, even were an innocent reading possible. Thus I begin with Althusser’s generally critical reception of Gramsci’s philosophy of praxis and his alternative account of ideology and the ideological state apparatuses. I then review three steps in Poulantzas’s far more positive reception of Gramsci, notably regarding the historical specificity of the bourgeois struggle for national-popular hegemony and the capitalist state’s role in securing bourgeois class domination. I end with Buci-Glucksmann’s philosophical re-reading of Gramsci’s notes on hegemony and the integral State (stato integrale) in terms of her new concept of expanded State (stato allargato).

From Ideological State Apparatuses to Aleatory Materialism

Althusser returned regularly to the theme of the state and politics from his first book, Politics and History. Montesquieu, Rousseau, Marx (1959/1972), and, at various times, developed his account of the state in dialogue with Machiavelli, Rousseau, Marx, Lenin, and Gramsci. His most distinctive contributions concern contradiction and overdetermination in revolutionary conjunctures; the state’s role in the reproduction of class domination, with special reference to the roles of the repressive state apparatus and ideological state apparatuses; ideology and subjectivation (assujetissement); the state as an apparatus, machine, and body of armed men; and the conditions making for a durable form of government. Although Althusser occasionally praised Gramsci’s historical materialist approach to the state in these contexts, he did not undertake a symptomatic reading of the Sardinian’s work on this topic. At best, he cited Gramsci’s distinction between civil society and political society and the importance of civil institutions and organizations for the reproduction of economic, political, and ideological class domination. At worst, Althusser accused him of ‘absolute historicism’ and, on one notable occasion, rejected the entire Gramscian problematic of hegemony and its postwar reception (see below). This suggests that, rather than reading Althusser’s arguments about the state as if they were directly drawn from Gramsci, it might be better to read them as a direct, critical alternative thereto. For, while there are some superficial and insignificant similarities, their differences are profound and fundamental.

Althusser’s most positive comment on Gramsci for our purposes occurs in For Marx, which claimed that Marxism still lacked an adequate theory of the specificity and efficacy of the superstructures and that, after Marx and Lenin, only Gramsci had really worked on this before Althusser himself (1977/1968: 114). He also commented favorably on Gramsci’s expanded concept of intellectuals (105n; cf. Althusser and Balibar 1968/1970: 128) and argued that, to fully understand the overdetermination of economic factors, it was necessary to develop ‘the theory of the specific effectivity of the superstructures and other “circumstances”, based on an ‘elaboration of the theory of the particular essence of the specific elements of the superstructure (1977/1968: 113, 114, italics in original). A research note on ideology and ISAs written in 1969 as part of his longer work on reproduction expands this: ‘Gramsci is, to our knowledge, the only person who advanced on the route we have taken. He had had the “singular” idea that the state was not reducible to the (repressive) state apparatus, but comprised, as he said, a certain number of institutions of ‘civil society’: the church, schools, unions, etc. Unfortunately Gramsci has not systematized his intuitions, which have remained in the form of acute, but partial, notes’ (1970/1995: 281n, my translation; cf. 1976/1990: 257; 1978/2006: 138-9). Elsewhere Althusser included Gramsci among the few Marxists who, like himself, recognized that the working class needs philosophy in the class struggle (1974/1976: 37). And, in two later essays on Machiavelli, he noted that Gramsci had correctly interpreted the Florentine’s call for ‘a new prince in a new principality’ to unify Italy under a republican national state (1972-1986/1999).

Despite such praise for Gramsci’s contributions on historical materialism and the class struggle in philosophy, Althusser draw on them only gesturally when developing his own account of the state apparatuses, ideology, and class struggle. This is probably because of his dismissal of Gramsci as someone who played a very important part from the left in the development of revolutionary humanism and historicism and was therefore a principal antagonist in Althusser’s claim that Marxism should be anti-humanist and anti-historicist (Althusser and Balibar 1968/1970: 119-20). Although careful to distinguish between criticism of Gramsci’s failings in regard to dialectical materialism and acknowledgment of his great contributions to historical materialism (op. cit.: 126), Althusser nonetheless concludes that Gramsci ‘tends to make the theory of history and dialectical materialism coincide within historical materialism alone, although they form two distinct disciplines’ (op cit.: 130). He therefore confuses the development of philosophy and real history, fails to distinguish between ideology and science (thereby treating Marxist theory as just another worldview), treats Marxism as a direct expression of a particular historical period and hence as part of the superstructure, and dissolves theoretical practice into practice in general (op. cit. 130-7). This wild, inaccurate charge is typical of Althusser’s cavalier rejection of most schools of Marxism that differ from his own authorized version, whatever it might have been from time to time (cf. Elliott 1987: 41-5, 131; for a spirited rebuttal of the charge of historicism against Gramsci, see Buci-Glucksmann: 1975/1980: 15-16, 49, and passim). It nonetheless meant that Althusser needed to locate any theory of the state, ideology, and ideological state apparatuses in his own dialectical materialist framework rather than risk theoretical contamination from the ‘absolute historicism’ he discerned in Gramsci (for an alternative reading of his historicism, see Morera 1990). Thus, commenting on apparent similarities between Gramsci’s account of hegemony and his own analysis of ISAs, he wrote:

‘it seemed [sc. to my critics] that what I was suggesting had already been said, and said much better, by Gramsci (who did indeed raise the question of the material infrastructure of the ideologies’, but provided a rather mechanistic and economistic answer to it). The general assumption was that I was discussing the same thing in the same register. It seems to me that Gramsci’s work does not, in fact, have the same object in view … Gramsci never talks about Ideological State Apparatuses; his term is “hegemonic apparatuses”. This leaves a question hanging in midair: what produces, in Gramsci’s apparatuses, Gramsci’s hegemony-effect? Gramsci, in sum, defines his apparatuses in terms of their effect or result, hegemony, which is also poorly conceived. I, for my part, was attempting to define the ISAs in terms of their “motor cause”: ideology. Furthermore, Gramsci affirms that the hegemonic apparatuses are part of “civil society” (which is nothing but the whole set of them, unlike traditional civil society, which is all of society minus the state), on the pretext that they are “private”’ (1978/2006: 138-9, italics in original).

Althusser’s alternative theorization of the state (1970/1977) starts out from inadequacies of the base-superstructure metaphor. Gramsci had also been strongly critical of economism, in both its theoretical and political forms; but Althusser proposed another solution that appropriated structuralism against humanism as well as economism (cf. Elliott 1987: 60-3). He identified three relatively autonomous regions of the capitalist mode of production – economic, political, and ideological – and argued that their respective roles and asymmetrical interaction were ‘determined in the last instance’ by the economic. The political and ideological regions thereby acquired a distinct effectiveness both in relation to the economic region and the capitalist social formation as a whole. Indeed, precisely because the economy cannot determine everything else as a cause without cause, the overall reproduction of the relations of production in capitalist social formations depends on intervention from the superstructural ensemble formed by the repressive state apparatus (RSA) and diverse ‘relatively autonomous’ ideological state apparatuses (ISAs). The scope and importance of ISAs indicates that the entire society is saturated by class relations, submitted to a class power that is exercised through an ensemble of institutions, including private entities such as the church, parties, unions, the family, and cultural associations. These play crucial roles in securing bourgeois domination and must therefore be treated as part of the state and not, as with Gramsci, part of ‘civil society’. The latter notion is rejected on the grounds that the distinction between ‘public’ and ‘private’ is internal to bourgeois law and, supplemented by its reflection in juridico-political ideology, helps to maintain bourgeois class dictatorship (cf. 1968/1970: 162fn; 1970/1977: 142fn, 144; Bidet 1995: 11).

The coherence of this combination of relatively autonomous regions depends on:

‘a certain political configuration … imposed and maintained by means of material force (that of the State) and of moral power (that of the ideologies)’ (Althusser 1968). Accordingly, economic class struggle obeys the logic of the supplement: the relations of production/exploitation that determine, in the last instance, the complex unity of the state depend for their survival on the state that derives from them, that is, on the supplementary political and ideological relations of domination that ensure their reproduction. Both Sur la reproduction and ‘Marx in his limits’ call this the “paradox” of the capitalist state. To end exploitation, it is first necessary to dismantle the state which, engendered by it, presides over it – the lynchpin of the dictatorship that sustains the capitalist economic regime’ (Goshgarian 2006: xxxvii, italics in original).

Building on these ideas, Althusser argued that, while Marxism had developed, through Marx, Lenin, and, perhaps, Gramsci, a valuable descriptive account of the state as an instrument of class rule, this had remained at an essentially pre-theoretical stage of development. Althusser’s self-appointed intellectual task was to give it theoretical shape. He therefore advanced the following theses: (1) the core of the state is its repressive apparatus; (2) the state also includes a variety of ideological state apparatuses; (3) each of these ISAs has its own particular ideology and apparatus logic; (4) the state plays a vital role in the reproduction of the relations of production and intervenes in all areas that bear on their reproduction; and (5) while economic class exploitation is foundational, the state must be changed before the economic base can be radically reorganized. He develops these basic theses in various rather formalistic ways (e.g., in terms of the secondary ideological functions of the RSA, the secondary repressive functions of ISAs, and the possibilities of reversals in the primary functions of specific institutions) but says little about particular ideologies or the mechanisms of hegemony, let alone about specific historical situations where hegemony was secured or entered crisis. Instead he offers a formal, institutionalist analysis with functionalist overtones that gives no sense of how different political and ideological fields are articulated, let alone unified, apart from the equally formal claim that one of the ISAs will be dominant (currently the school system – though Debray [1979/1981] and Poulantzas [1978] later claimed that it is now the mass media).

Althusser says little about ideology in general or particular ideologies and focuses instead on their realization through the ideological mechanism of interpellation and on their materialization in ISAs (cf. Ricoeur 1986). Indeed his comments on ideology remain mostly descriptive, noting that, ‘[i]n a class society, ideology serves not only to help people their own conditions of existence, to perform their assigned tasks, but also to “bear” their condition – either the poverty of the exploitation of which they are the victims, or the exorbitant privilege of the power and wealth of which they are the beneficiaries’ (1965/1990: 25). Or, again, that while ideology is situated in the superstructure and has its own effectivity vis-à-vis law and the State, it must also ‘be thought of as sliding into all the parts of the edifice, and considered as a distinctive kind of cement that assures the adjustment and cohesion of men in their roles, their functions and their social relations’ (ibid.). What seems to unify the ISAs is their common mode of functioning. There is no sense that form may problematize function, that the ISAs may be riven by class struggle and contradictions, that there is a specific role for intellectuals, political forces, etc., in class struggle, or, indeed, that ideology may also be secreted in the organization of production (cf. the critiques by Buci-Glucksmann, 1975/1980: 64-7; and Poulantzas 1970/1974: 300-1n, 304, 305n). Nor do we get any account of the discursive-material mediation of the consolidation of particular ideologies as different ideological elements are selected and retained in specific ideological formations (cf. Jessop 2004; Nonhoff 2006). In a subsequent post-script to his famous ISAs essay, Althusser tried to correct its functionalist tenor by insisting on the primacy of class struggle over institutions (1978/2006: 138, citing 1970/1977: 170-172). But this disavowal is bound to remain gestural without serious effort to produce the concepts needed to explore the forms and modalities of class struggle in and across different fields – a task that Gramsci set himself and that has since been followed by theorists such as Poulantzas (see below).

Althusser’s subsequent critique of the theoretical limits and crisis of Marxism, especially regarding the state, ideology, and the organization of class struggle offers important insights into his ambivalent relationship to Gramsci (1978/2006). Arguing that Marx and Lenin had failed to develop an adequate theory of the capitalist type of state, he presented a symptomatic reading of their work. He elaborated the character of the state as a special apparatus of class dictatorship with its own specificity as a special machine that transforms violence into legal power and disguises its class nature behind the (illusory) framework of popular rule and public service. In this context the class struggle is primary and the energy driving the state machine is force and violence. Moreover, while the state’s unity is precarious and its reproduction requires serious political work, Althusser denies that the state is thoroughly penetrated by class struggle. This comment is a critique of contemporary interpretations and strategies relying on the intensification of contradictions and conflicts inside the state to bring about a democratic revolution (cf. the contributions to Poulantzas 1976). Althusser followed this with a vitriolic attack on Gramsci’s analysis of hegemony and, indirectly, on neo-Gramscian Eurocommunist currents, Poulantzas, and Buci-Glucksmann. In particular, endorsing Perry Anderson’s critique of the antinomies of Gramsci (Anderson 1976) and adding his own criticisms, he argued that Gramsci was blithely self-contradictory in his account of the state and tried to explain everything about politics in terms of the permutation of just four concepts: hegemony, force, political society, and civil society. Worse still, hegemony figured three times in this analysis, namely, as hegemony, as the hegemonic apparatus, and as the hegemony-effect of political society plus civil society. Furthermore, Gramsci treated the economic infrastructure and the state as neutral, reduced ideology to culture, and hid ‘the question of the material nature of the state-machine behind a hyper-allusive invocation of Hegemony’ (Althusser 1978/2006: 148). The overall result is a confusing, contradictory analysis that indiscriminately lumps together the concrete realities of economic, political, and ideological class struggles and empties hegemony of any theoretical or political leverage (Althusser 1978/2006: 139-150).

Such reflections prompted a return to another classical political theorist. Althusser’s analysis of Machiavel et nous (1972-86) attempted to theorize the state and politics without resort to the deterministic base-superstructure schema of historical materialism developed by Marx and, he alleged, Gramsci. His proposed replacement is an aleatory materialism that focuses on historical becoming based on the primacy of events or contingent encounters that excludes in principle the ontological reality of every structural law or necessary progression in history (Vatter 2004). Althusser claims that Machiavelli raises the crucial question of how a durable political state emerges ex nihilo and provides an interpretation of the role of the prince that differs radically from Gramsci’s account of the ‘modern prince’. He argues that, while the prince founds the modern state, it can only be stabilized through a shift from a despotic principality to a republic based on the rule of law as the adequate form of the modern state. Only this form of political rule can secure the reproduction of reproduction as a whole. This approach marks a radical epistemological break with the functionalist analysis of the reproduction of the relations of production in his ISA texts and grounds such reproduction in the contingent, aleatory historical development and succession of state forms as opposed to the necessary, overdetermined, eternal nature of reproduction in the ISA essay (cf. Vatter 2004). Moreover, while the people were passive subjects to be interpellated and mobilized by the ISAs in the ISA essay, now “the people” becomes the prime source of resistance and refusal vis-à-vis the reproductive powers of political repression and ideological subjectivation. Despite these theoretical shifts, however, and putting aside his one brutal attack, Gramsci still has a limited, walk-on role in Althusser’s theorization of the state.

From Historicism to the Centrality of Hegemonic Struggles

Poulantzas came to Gramsci through his more general interest in Italian Marxism – including the epistemology of the Della Volpean School and work on civil society. This was part of a transition period as he moved from a Sartrean existentialo-marxiste analysis of law and legal philosophy towards a structural Marxist analysis of the political region of capitalist social formations – a period when Poulantzas wrote not only on the philosophy of law and the juridico-political aspects of the state but also on Althusser’s structuralist Marxism, Gramsci’s notion of hegemony, and the historicist Marxism of British state theorists such as Anderson and Nairn. During this transition, Althusser provided him with the philosophical means to break with the ‘sur-ontologisme’ of Sartrean existentialism and thereby go beyond a humanist and historicist account of the capitalist state; and Gramsci, in turn, provided the substantive concepts that enabled Poulantzas to situate his ideas about law and the state in the wider context of capitalist societies.

Poulantzas was rather hesitant about the merits of Gramsci’s work when he first encountered it in 1964-68. For Gramsci was often seen in Italy and France as a Western Marxist who emphasized political class struggle to the exclusion of material circumstances and structural constraints. Echoing this opinion (especially as articulated by Althusser), Poulantzas noted that Gramsci’s political analyses are often tainted by the historicism of Croce and Labriola and must be handled with care (1968/1973: 39, 138-9, 194, 197, 200-1; cf. 1966/1967: 68). Thus, while praising his contributions to the analysis of hegemony, Poulantzas tried to distance himself from historicism by stressing the structural foundations of class power and the different modalities and possible disjunctions among levels of class struggle (see especially 1968/1973: passim). He continued to maintain a healthy distance from Gramsci thereafter – although his reasons differed as Poulantzas changed his own theoretical and political positions.

Nonetheless, from his first encounter with Gramsci’s writings onwards, he was attracted to their approach to ideology and to hegemony as the exercise of political, intellectual, and moral leadership. Poulantzas suggested that hegemonic leadership was the defining feature of class power in advanced capitalist democracies, which he saw as based economically on possessive individualism and politically on individual citizenship in a national state. He also highlighted Gramsci’s emphasis on the crucial role of the state (understood in broad terms) in mediating and organizing the hegemony of a power bloc as well as in disorganizing the subaltern classes. He first presented these ideas in some ‘Preliminary Remarks on the Concept of Hegemony’ (1965). A second step was inaugurated with his integration of these ideas into his more structural Marxist analysis in Pouvoir politique et classes sociales (1968/1974). They were still influential theoretically in a third stage of his development, when his work on the capitalist state took a relational turn, but they played an even smaller role in his ideas about revolutionary political strategy.

Poulantzas’s ‘preliminary remarks’ used Gramsci to critique the intrumentalist-voluntarist approach of orthodox Marxism. He insisted that the state must be treated as a specific structural ensemble with its own effects on the reproduction of a society-divided-into-classes and that classes have no abstract, unifying consciousness but are constituted as political forces through the state itself (1965: 866-9). While capitalist relations of production create the institutional space for a different kind of state and politics from those characteristic of feudalism, it is the historically unique role of hegemony as the organizing principle of the capitalist state that determines its precise form and function. Whereas pre-capitalist social relations lacked a clear separation between the economic, political, or social spheres, capitalism rests on an institutional separation between the private sphere of civil society (the realm of economic exchange) and the public sphere of the political. This creates an opposition between the particular private interests of individual producers in the economic sphere and their common political interests in an orderly framework for exchange relations. The organization of economic life in terms of surplus value production and market-mediated exchange permits a distinctive, sui generis mode of political class domination that does not rest on a formal class monopoly of political power. The ‘economic-corporate’ states of slave-holding or feudal societies were based on the monarchical principle or divine right and openly excluded the exploited classes from full participation in the political sphere. They relied – as do bourgeois states in exceptional periods – on force to impose the immediate private economic interests of the dominant class. In contrast, the normal capitalist state is compatible with popular sovereignty and can institute the secular responsibility of the state to its ‘people’. The ‘people’ participate in politics as formally free and equal citizens through universal suffrage rather than in their capacities as producers. The ‘hegemonic’ bourgeois state must therefore guarantee (at least in a formal and abstract manner) the universal, general interest of all its citizens as a condition of its legitimacy. It does so by mediating the competing ‘private’ interests of its citizens and linking them to their general, ‘public’ interest (1965: 870-6). Political struggle is oriented to control of this universalizing instance and requires the dominant class to portray its specific interests as those of the nation as a whole. Thus politics is constituted as the field of national-popular hegemony rather than class confrontation (880-2).

For Poulantzas, following Gramsci, the modern state cannot unequivocally serve the immediate economic interests of the dominant class(es). While the conflicting class interests in the pre-modern state were subject at best to marginal, mechanical compromise and political power was fragmented, the capitalist state must have a certain apparatus unity and autonomy in order to organize hegemony. Only then can it impose short-term economic sacrifices on the dominant class(es) to secure their long-term political domination. Intellectuals and ideological class struggle are crucial here because all social relations in capitalist societies appear as relations of consent underpinned as necessary by resort to constitutionalized, legitimate violence (1965: 882-93). This holds not only for political relations between dominant and dominated classes but also for those among different fractions of the dominant class(es). The diversity of their interests requires that they become unified into a power bloc (Block an der Macht) through the hegemony of a specific fraction of capital. The capitalist type of state has a key role in organizing this power bloc as well as securing the active consent of subaltern dominated classes (1965: 1061-66).

Poulantzas’s analysis of ideology is indebted to both Gramsci and Althusser. He criticized three prevalent views: first, state power is the immediate expression of the class consciousness of the politically dominant class qua subject of history; second, the unity of a social formation is an effect of the imposition of the distinctive world view of a hegemonic class subject; and, third, the ‘ruling ideas of any age are the ideas of the ruling class’, whose unity is taken for granted (1965: 864, 868, 870-1; 1966/1967: 62-4; cf. Althusser 1978/2006: 136-7). Such arguments must be rejected because they deny any intrinsic autonomy to the political superstructure as a specific level of the social formation (1968/1973: 42, 199-200). As noted above, Poulantzas’s alternative was to highlight the significance of the ‘power bloc’ as a contradictory unity of various classes and fractions and to stress the crucial institutional and organisational mediations that are involved in securing the cohesion and hegemony of this Block an der Macht. He also emphasises the possibilities of disjunctions among different forms of class domination (economic, political and ideological) and/or between the apparent class content of the dominant ideology and its objective role in realising ideological class domination (1966/1967: 65; cf. 1968/1973: 41, 89-91, 155, 171, 203). Disjunction and correspondence among different levels must alike be related to their articulation in a complex ‘structure in dominance’ as analysed by Althusser and to the role of the dominant ideology in ‘cementing’ together the social formation as indicated by Gramsci and, in a different context, Althusser (see above).

These summaries show that key themes of Poulantzas’s account of the state stem directly from Gramsci and pre-date his adoption of certain structural Marxist positions directly inspired by Althusser’s symptomatic re-reading of the economic, political, and philosophical texts of Marx, Lenin, and Gramsci. Nonetheless Poulantzas’s encounter with Althusser did lead him to reject two themes from his initial Gramscian problematic. First, in a shift that actually brought him closer to Gramsci’s own position, he rejected his earlier distinction between ‘civil society’ and the state as the basis for theorizing the distinction between particular and universal interests because it grounded the former in exchange and circulation rather than production. And, second, Poulantzas became more ambivalent about Gramsci’s concept of hegemony because of its alleged contamination by historicism and sought to purify it by grounding its necessity even more firmly in the historical specificity of the capitalist mode of production and its distinctive state form.

This shift is reflected in the organization of Poulantzas’s first book-length contribution to state theory, Pouvoir politique et classes sociales (1968/1973). Inspired by Althusser’s structural Marxism, he argued that a scientific study of the capitalist type of state requires three interrelated theoretical developments: (a) a general theory of modes of production, class-divided societies, states, and politics – all viewed in isolation from specific modes of production; (b) a particular theory of the capitalist mode of production that determines the exact place and function of the state and politics in its overall structural matrix; and, because the state is institutionally distinct within capitalism, (c) a regional theory of the capitalist state and politics (1968/1973: 12, 16-18, 142). Althusser provided the concepts of dialectical and historical materialism for the first step and the initial rationale for the relative autonomy of the capitalist state and politics in the second step. In turn juridico-political theory (especially Pashukanis) provided key concepts for identifying the distinctive institutional matrix of the capitalist type of state that were needed to complete the second step and provide a bridge to the third step. Thus Poulantzas defined the normal form of the capitalist type of state as a sovereign territorial state based on the rule of law in which the dominant class(es) enjoyed no formal monopoly of class power. Law and juridico-political ideology thereby duplicate the ‘fracturing’ of the ‘private’ economic sphere in constituting the public as mutually isolated, individual ‘citizens’ and/or political categories. Given this, the state’s role is to produce a ‘unifying effect’ to counteract this ‘isolation effect’ in economic and political relations. So the state is presented as the strictly political (i.e., non-economic), public unity of the people-nation considered as the abstract sum of formally free and equal legal subjects (1968/1973: 125, 133-4, 188-9, 213-6, 223-4, 276-9, 288, 291, 310, 348-50).

It is in analyzing the substantive form of this cohesion and unity that Poulantzas draws once again on Gramsci and indicates how it reproduces class domination. For the capitalist state performs two contrasting but complementary functions. First, it must prevent any political organization of the dominated classes that might end their economic isolation and/or social fracturing and enable them to struggle as a united force. And, second, it must work on the dominant class fractions and/or classes to cancel their economic isolation and secure the unity of the power bloc and its hegemony over the dominated classes (1968/1973: 136-7, 140-1, 188-9, 284-9). This occurs under the leadership of a specific class (fraction) that manages to present its global political interests as those of the people-nation as a whole. This involves a continual, conflictual negotiation of interests in an ‘unstable equilibrium of compromise’ (citing Gramsci) and requires real (albeit limited) material concessions to the ‘economic-corporate’ interests of subordinate classes (1968/1973: 137, 190-1). This dual role is possible because the formal separation of the sovereign territorial state from the capitalist market economy enables short-term economic concessions and long-term political manoeuvre; and because its form as a democratic constitutional state encourages the main political forces to link their interests to the ‘national-popular’ (or universal) (1968/1973: 190). Concessions to maintain social cohesion in a class-divided society also help disorganize the dominated classes and reinforce the appearance that the democratic state promotes the general interest. In short, state power must be seen in relational terms, i.e., as founded on an unstable equilibrium of compromise among class forces rather than as the monopoly of one class (fraction) (1968/1973: 191-3).

In arguments strongly reminiscent of Gramsci’s earlier remarks, Poulantzas examines how the capitalist type of state functions as the political party of the dominant classes and helps in the organization-direction of the power bloc in the face of its internal divisions. A power bloc is a long-term, organic relation that extends across the economic, political, and ideological fields and its durability depends on the capacity of one class fraction to transform its economic interests into a political project that advances the shared interest of all dominant classes and fractions in continued economic exploitation and political domination (1968/1973: 239). The clearest account of hegemonic class leadership can be found in Fascism and Dictatorship (1970/1974). This showed how fascist parties and/or states established the structural preconditions for the hegemony of big capital; and how fascist ideology helped to secure its political, intellectual, and moral leadership. But Poulantzas did not explain how specific programmes and policies consolidated support and neutralized resistance during the various stages of the fascist period. Nonetheless, this would become a major theme in his work on authoritarian statism in the 1970s (cf. Poulantzas 1978)

Poulantzas also suggests that national-popular hegemony and hegemony within the power bloc are generally concentrated in the same class or fraction. However, whereas hegemony over the power bloc depends on the political place occupied by the hegemonic class (fraction) in the circuit of capital, popular hegemony depends on the ideological capacity to define the general interest of the people-nation (1968/1973: 240). But he also recognizes that these two forms of hegemony can be dislocated or unevenly developed. But, in all cases, it is the general form of the state or regime that is crucial. For the specific ties between classes and parties in particular conjunctures can vary considerably without changing the fundamental political relations within the power bloc and their determination through the state’s general institutional matrix (1968/1973: 314-21). Here and in earlier analyses, Poulantzas draws heavily on Gramsci as well as Marx, Engels, and Lenin for the wide range of concepts mobilized in his analysis of concrete political struggles at the level of the ‘political scene’ as well as its underlying structural patterns of class domination. Compared to Gramsci’s own writings, however, little real attention is paid to the role of intellectuals in this regard.

Poulantzas wrote his first major state-theoretical work before Althusser had introduced the concept of repressive and ideological state apparatuses. He first referred to them in his critique of Miliband (Poulantzas 1969) and then integrated them into his own state theory in his analysis of fascism (1970/1974) and later theoretical and empirical studies (1974/1975; 1978). Following Althusser, he defines the ISAs in terms of their principal function – ideological inculcation and transmission as opposed to repression – and also insists that they are part of the state system. This is because they help to maintain social cohesion (which is the generic function of the state) and because their operation depends on the indirect support of the RSA. He also concedes, with Althusser, that the ISAs have a greater degree of autonomy from each other and from the RSA than do the different branches of the RSA. Even so, every important modification of the state affects not only the RSA but also the relations among the ISAs and between the ISAs and the RSA. Thus a transition to socialism must not only break the RSA but also transform the ISAs (1969, 76-9; cf. Althusser 1995: 179-86).

Poulantzas’s account of fascism both elaborates and criticizes these views. He argued that the only ideologies are class ideologies and that the concept of ISA must be rigorously related to class struggle and, in this context, criticized Althusser’s approach to ISAs as abstract and formal. He argued that Althusser derived the ‘unity’ of the ISAs from their alleged permeation with the ruling ideology produced by the class that holds state power. This is inadequate because it equates the ruling ideology with ‘the mechanism of ideology in general’. Hence it ignores the intense ideological contradictions within the ISAs that stem from the struggle among ‘ideological spokesmen’ of different classes and ignores potential dislocations in state power between the RSA and the ISAs (1970/1974: 300-1n, 304, 305n). Poulantzas also suggests that Althusser cannot establish the relative autonomy of the ISAs – either one from another or from the RSA – and suggests himself that this is directly founded in the ideological class struggle that pervades them (1970/1974: 304). Poulantzas also notes that the failure of the working class to conquer the ISAs as well as the RSA could permit the bourgeoisie to reconstitute itself as the dominant class through bastions among the ISAs. This is supposed to have happened, for example, in the Soviet Union (1970/1974: 230-3). More generally Poulantzas argues that ISAs often constitute the favoured ‘refuges’ and favoured ‘spoils’ of non-hegemonic fractions and classes and can provide not only the last ramparts of power for declining fractions or classes but also the first strongholds for fractions or classes on the ascendant (1970/1974: 230-1, 308; cf. 1978). Finally he notes that the struggles of the popular masses are reflected in the ISAs and have a particularly marked influence upon those – such as trade unions and ‘social-democratic type’ parties – concerned with mass integration (1970/1974: 309). In short, once due account is taken of the class struggle and the resulting ‘game’ of class power played out between the RSA and the ISAs, one can neither postulate, as does Althusser, a mechanism of ideology in general to explain the operation of ISAs nor assume, as Althusser does, that the state apparatuses operate in a unified manner.

These ideas are further developed in Staatstheorie. This argues that the state has a key role in constituting social classes because it resorts to organized physical repression and also intervenes in the organization of ideological relations and the dominant ideology. Indeed, the ruling ideology is embodied in the state apparatuses and constitutes an essential power of the ruling class. While the ISAs have a key role in elaborating, inculcating, and reproducing that ideology, this is also performed by the RSA and the Economic State Apparatus – which, it is now conceded, is distinct from both the RSA and the ISAs (1978: 28). In elaborating these arguments, however, Poulantzas concedes that the ISA/RSA couplet is at best descriptive and nominalist and also misses the importance of ESA in the contemporary state, which is the site where the power of the hegemonic fraction of the bourgeoisie is essentially concentrated’ (1978: 33).

Poulantzas also extended the idea of the integral state from political and ideological class analysis to economic relations. For he studied social classes in terms of their “extended reproduction” rather than from the “narrow” economic perspective of their place in production, distribution, and consumption. The former encompasses economic, political, and ideological relations and involves the state and the mental-manual division as well as the circuit of capital and non-capitalist relations of production. Indeed, Poulantzas always placed the social relations of production in this expanded, or integral, sense at the heart of his analysis of class struggle. And he also came to analyze social reproduction in terms of the reproduction of the inter-related economic, political, and ideological conditions bearing on accumulation (1968/1973, 1974/1975, and, especially, 1978). This can be seen as a creative and important extension of Gramsci’s ideas, reminiscent in part of his reinterpretation of Ricardo’s concept of mercato determinato as well as his notes on Americanism and Fordism and the problems of transferring this new mode of growth and societalization to Europe (for further discussion, Boothman 1991 and Jessop and Sum 2006).

Notwithstanding these many borrowings and affinities, Poulantzas’s state theory cannot be reduced to its Gramscian moment. From his first encounter onwards, he criticized Gramsci and sought to remedy his alleged failings by integrating his work into a more comprehensive theoretical framework. For example, he argued that the Italian had failed to locate the specificity of the various regions of capitalist society in terms of its particular institutional matrix. Instead of establishing the distinctive articulation of the economic, political and ideological regions in capitalism, he operated with a simple contrast between the hybrid character of politics grafted onto economics in feudal societies and the separation of ‘civil society’ and state under capitalism (1968/1973: 139-40). This criticism is rather brazen because Poulantzas adopted the same position in his own preliminary comments on hegemony and the state (1965: see above). More generally, while Poulantzas agreed that the state is actively involved in helping to constitute and modify the unstable equilibrium of compromise, he was far more sensitive than Gramsci to how this occurs through the specific institutional materiality of the capitalist type of state and its different forms at different stages and in different conjunctures. In contrast, Gramsci was more attuned to the many and varied modalities through which social forces sought to maintain class domination and social cohesion from inclusive hegemony through passive revolution to force-fraud-corruption and direct, open class war.

Thus Poulantzas interpreted state power as a form-determined condensation of the balance of forces in political and politically-relevant struggle. This requires attention to two aspects of the state system: (a) the state form as a complex institutional ensemble characterized by a specific pattern of ‘strategic selectivity’ that reflects and modifies the balance of class forces; and (b) the constitution of these class forces and their strategies themselves, including their capacity to reflect on and respond to the strategic selectivities inscribed within the state apparatus as a whole. Gramsci had little to say about this in concrete terms, partly perhaps because of the fluidity of the Italian case and partly because of his more general interest in the social bases of state power rather than the details of institutional design.

State, Power, Socialism seems to mark a partial retreat from Gramsci under the influence of his emerging relational approach and Foucauldian ideas. Thus Poulantzas’s focus shifts from hegemonic class leadership towards two other topics: (a) the prodigious incoherence of the micro-policies pursued by the state; and (b) the state’s role in strategically codifying these micro-relations. He also argued that there is typically no rationally formulated, global political strategy and that the general line of political class domination (or hegemony?) more often emerges post hoc from a plethora of micro-strategies and tactics mediated through the strategically selective terrain of the state. This seems to call the concept of hegemonic class leadership into doubt and to dissolve it in favour of a more Foucauldian than Gramscian perspective. Poulantzas also argued that Gramsci had failed to appreciate the importance of representative democracy, pluripartism, and the rule of law for a transition to democratic socialism. This is supposedly associated with a certain ‘panpoliticism’ in Gramsci that is reflected in his treatment of the whole of civil society as intrinsically political and his view of the communist party as the centre through which all the various ‘private’ spheres are coordinated and subordinated to a global political strategy. In contrast Poulantzas sees the state as an institutional ensemble that crystallises class contradictions and conflicts within itself and can therefore be undermined from within). The same concern emerges in Poulantzas’s claim that Gramsci’s war of position strategy is still Leninist because it treats the state as a monolithic entity to be encircled. In opposition to these alleged problems in Gramsci, Poulantzas calls for a Copernican revolution in socialist political thought.

From the Critique of Economism to the Expanded State

Buci-Glucksmann’s magnum opus on Gramsci and the State is an original reconstruction of Gramsci’s analysis of the state in terms of a novel concept: the expanded state (1975/1980). There is some confusion about the meaning of this new term both for Gramsci and Buci-Glucksmann. As Guido Liguori notes, Gramsci himself writes of lo stato integrale, the state in its inclusive sense, rather than of lo stato allargato (or expanded state) (Liguori 2004: 208). But he adds that Quaderno 4, which is the crucial first text in this regard, does talk famously of the state as comprising ‘political society + civil society’, of „hegemony armoured by coercion“, and so forth in ways that could well justify this new concept (Liguori 2004: 209, 213-15, 220-221). My own view, however, is that, while it would be wrong to conflate Gramsci’s account of lo stato integrale with the idea of lo stato allargato, the latter is useful in understanding the historical specificity of the state in a particular period. In other words, while the concept of stato integrale (the state in its inclusive sense) has a general methodological value in treating the state as an ensemble of social relations that is always, albeit differentially, embedded within a wider set of social relations, the concept of stato allargato has a specific historical value linked to specific stages of capitalist development and/or varieties of capitalism.

Buci-Glucksmann herself seems to indicate this in the preface to the English translation of Gramsci et l’État (1975/1980). For she notes that, for Gramsci, the expanded state refers both to a reorientation in the general Marxist theory of the state and to the expansion of the capitalist state in a particular period of capitalist development (1980: x-xi; cf. Liguori 209-10). Consistent with this, the main text refers both to ‚the Gramscian expansion of the state concept’ as ‚political society + civil society’ (68, 70, 72, 91-2, 111, 273) and to the expansion of the hegemonic apparatus in the era of Americanism and Fordism deep into the organization of production and consumption relations as well as various fields of the superstructure (83-6). A possible bridge between these positions is her suggestion that the ‚integral state’ is a distinctive form of capitalist state that has superseded the ‚economic-corporate’ phase of state building and is able to rule through ‚hegemony protected by the armour of coercion’ (90-1, 274-5, 280-1, 283-5). There could be several forms of such an integral state, however, and not just that typical of Americanism and Fordism (cf. 280, 310-24). Thus it seems valid to distinguish (a) the state in its inclusive sense (political society + civil society) as a theoretical concept for the analysis of the capitalist state that enables Gramsci to contrast the state in its narrow sense (of government tout court) and its broad or integral sense and, thereby, to identify the theoretical and political limits to instrumentalism and voluntarism as well as the empirical variabilities and complexities of state intervention during crises (92-3, 100-110); and (b) the historical concept of the expanded state as a particular articulation of the state in its inclusive sense. This second meaning is certainly the one deployed in Buci-Glucksmann’s and Therborn’s later discussion of the social democratic Keynesian welfare state in the thirty years of postwar economic expansion (1982; cf. McEarchen 1990). The importance of this distinction is reinforced by the recent neo-liberal ‚rollback’ of the expanded state in ways that have significantly transformed the articulation between ‚political society + civil society’ and also produced a new form of capitalist state (cf. Poulantzas 1978, on authoritarian statism; Hirsch 1995 on the nationale Wettbewerbsstaat; and Jessop 2002 on Schumpeterian workfare postnational regimes).

None of this should detract from the importance of Buci-Glucksmann’s careful reconstruction and contextualization of Gramsci’s theoretically and politically sophisticated analysis of state power. Whereas Althusser regarded him as irredeemably idealist in a tradition shaped by Hegel, Croce, Gentile, etc., and Poulantzas attempted to rescue him from his contamination by historicism, Buci-Glucksmann read Gramsci as a theorist who was seeking a new revolutionary strategy appropriate to the West in an era of mass politics that was marked by a crisis of the workers’ movement in the face of its defeat by fascism and by the historical turning point of Americanism and Fordism and its emerging state form. We might describe this as the period when the integral state began to be enlarged, becoming thereby an expanded state. In any case, from 1924 onwards, Gramsci is said to have devoted all his political reflections to the concept of hegemony and its theoretical and political implications. According to Buci-Glucksmann, he argued that this crisis was also the crisis of a certain form of Marxism, of a false and unilateral analysis of the state. He was therefore the first Marxist to challenge an instrumentalist conception of the state based on the mechanistic and economistic distinction between “infra-structure” and “superstructures”’ (1980: x) and he did so by developing the idea of the expansion of the state (die Erweiterung des Staates) and exploring its implications for revolutionary strategy. In particular, he introduced (a) the interrelated concepts of hegemony, organic intellectuals, organic ideology, apparatus of hegemony, historical bloc, and ‘expanded state’ (sic) to address the aporia of the superstructures; and (b) a new revolutionary strategy based on the maximum development of the superstructural moment of class power in order to create political, intellectual, and moral leadership before the final military resolution of class struggle (1975/1980: 260, 263, 268-70).

I will address these two innovations in turn but should first note that this section cannot possibly summarize the important philological work in and through which Buci-Glucksmann reconstructs Gramsci’s intellectual and political development. It is concerned, instead, with her own use of his ideas (as she reconstructs and interprets them) about the integral and expanded states. First, then, regarding the nature of hegemony, Buci-Glucksmann draws, like Poulantzas (1965, 1968/1973), on Gramsci’s familiar distinction in Quaderno 3 between the medieval and capitalist states:

In the ancient and medieval state, both politico-territorial and social centralization were minimal (the former being a function of the latter). In a certain sense, the state was a mechanical bloc of social groups, often of different races. Under the constraint and military-political pressure that bore on them, and could at certain moments assume an acute form, the subaltern groups maintained a life of their own, with specific institutions (Q3§18, cited 274).

Still citing Gramsci, she continues that the modern state replaces this mechanical bloc of social forces with the subordination of subaltern groups to the active hegemony of the leading and dominant group. It abolishes certain forms of autonomy, which are reborn in other forms: parties, trade unions, cultural organizations. This transition from a mechanical bloc to an organic bloc is precisely the ‘historic bloc’ in power. Consequently, ‘the history of states is the history of leading classes’ (274). The historic bloc involves more than class alliances or a fusion of workers and intellectuals into an undifferentiated ‘class front’. For it presupposes a leading class that can exercise hegemony and a social group that can ensure the homogeneity of the historic bloc (i.e., organic intellectuals) (275-9; cf. Portelli 1972). It also presupposes a hegemonic apparatus, i.e., a ‘complex set of institutions, ideologies, practices and agents (including the “intellectuals”), [which] … only finds its unity when the expansion of a class is under analysis’ (48). In this respect, it should be noted, a hegemonic apparatus involves far more than ISAs à la Althusser: for it not only encompasses the role of intellectuals but is also used to analyse different forms of political transformation from Jacobinism to passive revolution (48-60).

In proposing this new approach and, in particular, the concept of historic bloc, ‘Gramsci intended … to maintain, in the new conditions of the war of position, two fundamental theses of Marxism and Leninism: (1) Economics is determinant in the last instance; (2) Politics cannot but have primacy over economics: it is “in command”. But these two theses call for new discoveries, a new investigation of the state in its relations to the historic bloc’ (Buci-Glucksmann 1975/1980: 277; cf. Althusser 1995: 112, on the relation between economics and politics). In other words, ‘the historical bloc neither escapes the determining role in the last instance of the economy, nor class antagonisms, nor again the state, which forms part of the superstructures’ (278). In developing this concept, he could also resist economist and spontaneist arguments that one-sidedly emphasized economic determinism or political action. In addition, Gramsci emphasized the material reality of ideologies and their location in a hegemonic apparatus that formed an integral part of the state (277-9; cf. Althusser 1970/1977). For the Gramscian historic bloc ‘is cultural and political as much as economic, and requires an organic relationship between people and intellectuals, governors and governed, leaders and led’ (286).

Second, regarding revolutionary strategy, in contrast to Poulantzas, who appropriated Gramscian concepts primarily to understand the constitution of bourgeois hegemony in the capitalist type of state and who continued to rely for some time on a Leninist vanguard conception of proletarian revolutionary strategy, Buci-Glucksmann not only emphasizes the nature of the integral state for bourgeois hegemony but also its implications for revolutionary strategy. Thus, whereas neither Althusser nor Poulantzas utilize the distinction between ‘East’ and ‘West’ or that between ‘war of position’ and ‘war of manoeuvre’, Buci-Glucksmann considers them essential to a full understanding of the ‘integral state’ in its guise as the expanded state and, a fortiori, for revolutionary strategy. Thus, commenting on the New Economic Policy, she writes that:

 the particular insistence that Gramsci placed on a mass hegemonic political leadership, the place he ascribed to the superstructures in the building of socialism, and the organic relations he saw as necessary between leaders and led, suggest that for him, as for Lenin in 1922, what was involved was above all a political alliance, based on the organization of consent, the struggle for an “integral” state with a permanent fit between culture and practice. Gramsci’s concept of hegemony in the socialist historic bloc is wider than Bukharin’s economistic conception’ (Buci-Glucksmann 1975/1980: 263).

The proletariat had to construct socialism based on an organic rather than mechanical unity of the workers’ movement (270). Thus Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks emphasized that the revolutionary process in the West can only be a mass process, in the course of which the ‘modern Prince’, the vanguard party, must struggle to win the masses and combat the roots of reformism and corporatism, i.e., engage in ‘war of position’ before moving to a final politico-military resolution through a ‘war of manoeuvre’. This strategic objective is diametrically opposed to the strategy of permanent revolution. Indeed, a strategy of frontal attack in the conditions of the developed capitalist societies would reproduce economism and was bound to lead to defeat (270-1). In short, Gramsci established close links between the strategy of war of position and the struggle for a new historic bloc, whereby the revolutionary movement should aim to win state power in an integral sense rather than just obtain a share in the exercise of existing government powers. This depended in turn on a political gnoseology of superstructures (281-2).

Buci-Glucksmann and Therborn developed these ideas about the historical transformation of the capitalist state in an important analysis of various forms of socialism and social democracy in Europe and elsewhere in their book Le Défi Social-Démocrate (1981). Following some general remarks on different socialist traditions, they apply the notion of ‘expanded state’ to the institutionalized compromise and state form of post-war Atlantic Fordism. In this regard their analysis seems to owe much, directly or indirectly, to the analyses of the Parisian regulation school (see Aglietta 1976/1979; Lipietz 1987; and Demirović et al., 1992).

Specifically, they argue that the Keynesian welfare state that corresponds to the Fordist accumulation regime enlarges (erweitert) the field of politics and the state and, a fortiori, also enlarges the field for struggles over hegemony (1981: 118-19). The state is not situated outside the economy and does not intervene from outside but has a crucial constitutive role in the expanded reproduction of the economy. Moreover, in place of a state that secured political class domination through the atomization of the masses in civil society, the state now organises them by accepting their presence more or less direct, more or less corporatist, inside the state. In short, rather than remaining outside the state, the dominated classes are now represented inside it (128-30). For politics inserts itself directly into the field of economic development, penetrating into reproduction, medical care, education, family life, etc. In this context, the crucial site for the enlargement of the state is the welfare state, which is reorganized along Fordist-Taylorist lines and also generalizes norms of mass consumption and social welfare from organized labour to the population as a whole (121-5). This produces a radical shift in relations between the working class (once anathematized as a “dangerous class”) and the state based on Fordism-Taylorism-Keynesianism, collective bargaining based on responsible unionism, a tripartite institutionalized political compromise, an expanded welfare state, and urbanization (120). In this context social democratic parties become more and more clientelist, corporatist, interclassist, and technocratic (131). The boundaries between public and private are also modified with the result that the enlarged state becomes a site of permanent alliances and compromises. As such, the Keynesian welfare state must be studied not just in terms of state/economy but also in terms of state/mass. This involves a necessary connection between state/capital and state/mass through the state’s role in articulating a model of economic development and a hegemonic model (130).

In short, the four key features of the enlarged state are: (1) the Fordist wage relation based on tripartite collective bargaining; (2) a political relation based on concertation rather than individual citizenship; (3) the superstructural institutions of Keynesian welfare statism; and (4) resort to rational indicative planning rather than a liberal market or command economy (130-6). The crisis of this enlarged state emerged from 1965 onwards, was politically and culturally accelerated in 1968-70, and became economically acute from 1974, thereby casting doubt on its continued organizational viability and its legitimacy. The authors identify two possible exit routes from this organic crisis: a turn to liberal corporatism (Sweden) or the growth of authoritarian statism (Germany) (Buci-Glucksmann and Therborn: 149ff). Needless to say, the crisis of the enlarged state has intensified since Buci-Glucksmann and Therborn finished their book and developed events and, while the trend towards authoritarian statism has certainly intensified (cf. Poulantzas 1978; Jessop 1996), there have been additional significant transformations in the nature of the capitalist state that affect its forms of economic and social intervention, its scale and scope of operations, and its forms of government and governance (cf. Hirsch et al., 2001; Jessop 2002).

Conclusions

The three authors considered here have interpreted Gramsci’s work on the state and hegemony in quite different ways. Althusser rejected Gramsci’s ‘philosophy of praxis’ as historicist but approved of certain ‘historical materialist’ insights about the ideological as well as repressive nature of the state apparatus. He then developed his own distinctive structural – and in part functionalist – analysis of the state apparatus as a special machine of class domination. Poulantzas followed Althusser in discerning some historicist tendencies in the Italian’s work but attempted to decontaminate it by integrating some of Gramsci’s key concepts into a more detailed regional (later, relational) theory of the capitalist type of state. He was most interested in this regard in how the bourgeois democratic state both disorganized the subaltern classes and organized a capitalist power bloc through enabling the development of national-popular hegemony. He showed little explicit interest in Gramsci’s analysis of the importance of wars of position and manoeuvre, adhering initially to a Marxist-Leninist vanguardist position and later developing his own revolutionary strategy based on a combination of struggles at a distance from the state, struggles within the state apparatus, and struggles to transform the state apparatus. Buci-Glucksmann showed the most detailed interest in, and familiarity with, Gramsci’s work and remains closest to it. She made a close ‘philological’ (or, in Althusserian terms, ‘symptomatic’) reading of his work before and after 1924, which marked, for her, a decisive turning point in his theoretical and political analyses. She also applied the arguments that developed after this break in general methodological terms by highlighting the real importance of the state in its inclusive sense (lo stato integrale) and its links to the ethico-political, to organic intellectuals, and to the historic bloc. In addition, drawing on some of Gramsci’s observations, she developed a distinctive reading of the ‘expanded state’ (lo stato allargato) as the product of a specific transformation of the capitalist state that had followed the crisis of liberal capitalism and the rise of American and Fordism. In their different ways, then, these texts show that Gramsci’s work remains ‘classic’ in the sense that, while the answers it provides to the theoretical and political problems it had identified in the interwar period may no longer be regarded as valid, these problems are still pertinent and provocative and merit continuing serious engagement and elaboration in the search for better answers.

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