Friday, April 15, 2005

Poulantzas and Jessop - Could do Better

Have just gone back to some work after having left it to one side for the moment. I'm trying to write a chapter on capitalist state power, incorporating the theories of Nicos Poulantzas, the British 'Capital Logic' school, Bob Jessop, Fred Block and Ralph Miliband (stop me if I'm boring you).

Unfortunately, I've realised that I don't understand what the fuck some of them are going on about. This is a problem, since the stuff on Poulantzas in particular was supposed to form the centrepiece (nay, the pivot, if you will) of my thesis. I cannot begin to describe the horror.

Now, Block and Miliband are nice and easy. They present simple(ish) theories and they write in plain, straight-forward English - I like it, I like it. The Capital Logic school have been giving me a bit of jip, but I can deal with that because I'm arguing that their position is based on an almost metaphysical ultra-subjectivism and voluntarism (fetishism this, fetishisation that, everything's fetishised don't you know, so all we have to do is 'refuse capital', or something) so I can simply point out that their style of writing - over-written gobbledegook- is entirely in keeping with the mystical obscurantism of the content [oooh, get me]. Jessop and Poulantzas, however, are driving me up the wall. I thought I understood them, I really did. It appears, however, that I don't. I'm starting to wonder if Poulantzas shot himself because he re-read State, Power, Socialism on a dreary, drizzley Friday afternoon, realised that he didn't know what on earth he was banging on about and simply lost the will to live.

I think this is called a 'PhD crisis'.

I'll be all right on Monday. My plan, at the moment, is to carry on regardless and just pretend that I fully understand what Jessop and Poulantzas mean should anyone ask. What's that? What does Jessop mean by 'strategic selectivity' in the final chapter of The Capitalist State? Oh that's easy, what he means, essentially, is that ... [mumbles something indistinct, thrusts hands in pockets, whistles nonchalantly, points to something behind questioner's back and while questioner turns to look, seizes opportunity to run away]. It's OK, students of Derrida and Foucault have made whole careers out of this kind of pretence, I'm sure of it. That, and talking out of their arse. Hur, hur.

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