By Jean L. Cohen
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Extra info for Class and Civil Society: The Limits of Marxian Critical Theory
According to Marcuse's interpretation of this text, automation abolishes (potentially) the need for alienated labor, and freedom is conceived in the nonpolitical terms of the extension of free time. Marcuse's idea of happiness as a free play of faculties, a reconciliation of man and nature, subject and objectto the exclusion of a concern with institutional forms and political freedomderives from his concept of alienated labor. The theory of radical needs is thus disassociated from the proletariat gone reformist and attached to new revolutionary subjects without occasioning a reorientation toward issues of political alienation and domination.
Poulantzas's structuralist class theory occasioned a major reply from his American counterpart, Eric Olin Wright. 24 It seems that Poulantzas's argument has defeated its own purpose. 25 Since Wright wants to defend the idea of a revolutionary proletariat, along with workers' control, while avoiding the Leninist implications of the above analysis, he subjects Poulantzas's work to a critique. 26 This daunting array of categories allegedly allows one to create a model of determination of the relations among economic structures, state structures, state intervention, and class struggle.
The question as to which Marxian categories might continue to inform such a project can be answered only after an immanent critique of the theory as a whole. Indeed, it should be apparent that neo-Marxist attempts to develop a new class theory of contemporary capitalism are biased from the outset. They presuppose, by definition, that the analysis of production relations, socioeconomic groups, capitalist reproduction mechanisms, and class struggles is the key to the logic of contemporary civil society and potential radical social movements.