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Productive materialism

Poulantzas calls the state “the material condensation of…a relationship among classes and class fractions.” What I think he means by this is something rather complicated and interesting. Poulantzas’s point, as I understand it, is not simply that the state is necessitated by class divisions (which would be functionalism, which he rejects) or that class divisions cause the state (which would require a causal relationship between the base and the superstructure, which he also rejects). Rather, I think Poulantzas sees the state as a real abstraction. Class divisions are reflected at an ideological level, and this ideological reflection itself has a material form: the state.

I’ve been trying to pin down more precisely the logic of this position, because it strikes me as an extremely powerful form of materialism. I’m reminded of Damasio’s attempt to understand the mind as a physical reflection of the state of the body. The advantage of Marxism, though, is that the physical instantiations of the mental are no longer arbitrarily limited to the individual human brain. Here Marxism is also light-years ahead of eliminative materialism, as eliminative materialism is cartesianism in scientistic drag, still looking for mental phenomena somewhere inside the pineal gland. But thought doesn’t happen in brains, it happens in hands and throats, and pots of curry and flywheels.