Powers of Theory

Powers of Theory : Capitalism, the State, and Democracy

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Existing theories of the nature of the state in Western capitalist democracies have been mostly propounded from one of three major theoretical perspectives, each emphasising a particular aspect of the state: the 'pluralist', which emphasises its democratic aspect: the 'managerial', which emphasises its bureaucratic elements: and the 'class', which focuses on its capitalistic aspect. Each of these theoretical perspectives has contributed something to our understanding of the state, but each also has its limitations. In this book, Alford and Friedland evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each perspective and present a new, synthetic framework for a more comprehensive theory of the state. Impartially reviewing the major historical and empirical works within each theoretical tradition, they reveal how empirical study has been shaped by theoretical assumptions. They agree that each perspective has a distinctive 'power' to understand part of the reality of the modern state, although it is powerless to explain other parts. In each case, the part that can be explained is the perspective's 'home domain', or the aspect of the state that it emphasises, while other aspects are either rejected or reinterpreted. The authors argue that the state cannot be adequately understood unless full account is taken of each of these home domains, and they suggest how the contributions of each perspective to the explanation of its own domain can be integrated into a new, and more powerful, theory.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 1139239775
  • 9781139239776

Review quote

'An ambitious and sophisticated work of integration that brings together all the most important literature on modern democratic capitalist states within a single, overall, highly illuminating argument.' Steven Lukes, Balliol College, Oxford 'An original, provocative, and ambitious attempt to synthesise the major theoretical traditions of political sociology into a coherent general framework, the work is not only accessible to students, but will also be stimulating reading for seasoned academics interested in recent debates and new ideas.' Erik Olin, Wright University of Wisconsin-Madison 'Alford and Friedland succeed in characterising pluralist, managerial, and class perspectives on state and society under capitalism, in showing how each fails, and in sketching complementarities among them.' Charles Tilly, New School for Social Research
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Table of contents

Preface; Acknowledgements; Introduction: State and society in theoretical perspective; 1. Theoretical perspectives as modes of inquiry; Part I. The Pluralist Perspective: 2. State and society in pluralist perspective; 3. The democratic state and consensus; 4. The democratic state and participation; 5. The pluralist perspective on the bureaucratic state; 6. The pluralist perspective on the capitalist state; Part II. The Managerial Perspective: 7. State and society in managerial perspective; 8. The bureaucratic state and centralisation; 9. The bureaucratic state and fragmentation; 10. The managerial perspective on the capitalist state; 11. The managerial perspective on the democratic state; Part III. The Class Perspective: 12. State and society in class perspective; 13. The capitalist state and accumulation; 14. The capitalist state and class struggle; 15. The class perspective on the democratic state; 16. The class perspective on the bureaucratic state; Part IV. Theory, Politics, and Contradictions in the State: 17. The powers of theory; 18. The power of politics; 19. The power of contradictions.
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