Sociology Index


Instrumentalist Marxism is a view of the role of the state from a conflict perspective or Marxist perspective. The state is seen as an instrument of the dominant class of the society as in dominant ideology thesis of Karl Marx and is assumed to operate at its behest. Instrumentalist Marxism approach stresses the importance of the intimate connection of the capitalist class to the state power apparatus and argues that it is this interconnection that explains political and economic policies in capitalist societies. Instrumentalist Marxism can be salvaged by adoption of the concept of relative autonomy. Instrumentalist Marxism view has now been largely displaced by a the structuralist approach or structurally-focused analysis.

Instrumental Marxism is a theory which reasons that policy makers in government and positions of power tend to "share a common business or class background, and that their decisions will reflect their business or class interests." - Goldstein, Joshua S. (2004). International Relations. Toronto: Pearson Education.

"At the other end are more rigid theories (such as instrumentalist Marxist or dependency models), in which the state is understood as little more than a handmaiden to the interests of domestic and/or international capital" (Grindle and Thomas, 1991; Dunleavy, 1991).

"Reflecting some of these concerns, more recent studies of governance and development have tended to reject cruder models (such as pluralism or instrumentalist Marxism) in favour of a less rigid understanding of state-society interaction" (Evans, 1995; Grindle and Thomas, 1991; Kohli, 1987; Migdal, 1988; Putnam, 1993; Tendler, 1997; Jenkins, 1999).

Marx Myths and Legends. John Holloway - The Tradition of Scientific Marxism.
"The positivisation of the concept of science implies a positivisation of the concept of struggle. Struggle, from being struggle-against, is metamorphosed into being struggle-for. Struggle-for is struggle to create a communist society, but in the instrumentalist Marxism perspective which the positive-scientific approach implies, struggle comes to be conceived in a step-by-step manner, with the ‘conquest of power’ being seen as the decisive step, the fulcrum of revolution."

Structuralist Marxism and Its Critics
Summarize the main differences between instrumentalist Marxism and structuralist Marxism views of the state as expressed in the debate between Poulantzas and Miliband. Assess the relative merits of each view and pick the one theory that you find superior and defend it with reference to concrete issues of sociological explanation or political practice.

Extract from Critical Race Theory CRT: An Overview - Richard Nunan, College of Charleston.
"Critical Race Theory sensitivity to the practical influence of rights talk led Critical Race Theory scholars to put greater emphasis on the constitutive impact of legal ideology: law is not merely an epiphenomenal superstructur reflecting class interests which originated elsewhere, but actually has the power to create and modify the institutions of economic, social, and political power. In this respect Critical Race Theory scholars sought to distance themselves from straightforwardly instrumentalist Marxism, which does treat legal discourse and legal institutions as epiphenomenal.