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Critically Assess The Pluralist And Marxist Views Of The State

1753 words - 7 pages

Whilst pluralism and Marxism are said to have developed from liberalism and socialism respectively (through criticising or expanding on those ideologies) thereby both appearing on the left of the left-right economic scale, a great part of their theories are indeed notably different, if not completely in contrast with each other. However, if we look closely at these theories, the one similarity, often overlooked by critics, is the fact that both offer a critique of the state despite the fact that their views are opposing. In order to understand these views of state, it is important to first understand the fundamental views of both pluralism and Marxism. Only then can these views be assessed and finally compared with each other, thereby ascertaining which view is more apt within modern society.

Pluralism is essentially a theory in favour of distributing power equally amongst individuals rather than having power remain within the hands of one individual (Heywood, 2003; Schwarzmantel, 1994; Dunleavy and O’Leary, 1987; Crowder, 1994). This theory is predominantly associated with Robert Dahl, who had researched how the state behaves and amongst whom power is exercised in New Haven (Heywood, 2007; Dahl, 1961). However, it has been argued that this theory is too idealistic, and that it is impossible for there to be an equal distribution of power because realistically power is likely to only be exercised by a minority, as in accordance with the elitist view (Heywood, 2007; Schwarzmantel, 1994).

Marxism tends to focus more on the rights of the working class as opposed to all of society in the way that pluralism does. After all, the ideas and theories of Karl Marx are most commonly interpreted as a critique of capitalism where the minority elite, or the bourgeoisie, control the working class, or the proletariat (Miliband, 1988; Schwarzmantel, 1994; Hay, 2006). However, Marxism had only developed after the death of Marx therefore the ideas which are attributed to him are bound to differ. All the same, there is one key issue from which Marxism developed that is said to be evident:
Marx himself believed that he had developed a new brand of socialism that was scientific in the sense that it was primarily concerned with disclosing the nature of social and historical development, rather than with advancing an essentially ethical critique of capitalism.
Heywood (2003:125)
So whilst Marxism is essentially a critique of capitalism, Marx initially criticised the Hegelian theory and so had developed his own views from there, where he had noticed that power was centralised and, furthermore, effectively abolished the chance of there ever being a classless society.

The pluralist view of the state came about as an objection to state sovereignty, out of fear that the state would remain totalitarian if power was only exercised within the state as opposed to distributed amongst society as a whole (Schwarzmantel, 1994; Smith, 2006). Pluralists ‘are said to have...

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