The Immanent Utopia: From Marxism on the State to the State of Marxism

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Princeton University Press, 1988 - Political Science - 580 pages

In recent years there has been a spectacular growth of Marxist literature on politics and the state in capitalist society. This literature has been widely hailed as cumulative proof of Marxism's ability to produce a successful theory of the political "superstructure," and as confirmation of the health and vigor of Marxist theory more generally. Axel van den Berg raises serious questions about both claims. Through a comprehensive analysis of Marxist thought on bourgeois politics and the state, from Marx himself to the present, van den Berg radically challenges the viability of a distinctly Marxist theory of the state and of recent Marxist theorizing in general.


In an exhaustive review of the literature, van den Berg shows that neo-Marxist theories are, for the most part, not empirically testable. To the extent that it is possible to draw any empirical implications from these theories at all, such implications are virtually indistinguishable from those of "bourgeois" theories. The author further demonstrates that the theories he discusses presuppose the viability and desirability of some ideal socialist society. Nevertheless, Marxism's "anti-utopian" insistence that all criticisms of capitalism must rest on foundations immanent in capitalism itself prohibits any open discussion of such a utopia.


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About the author (1988)

Axel van den Berg is professor of sociology at McGill University in Montreal.

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