Stаtе, sосiеty аnd individuаls in the social theories of Miliband, Crosland and Colin

A comparison of "The State in Capitalist Society", "The Future of Socialism" and "The Strange Non-death of Neoliberalism"

Essay, 2013

16 Pages, Grade: A





Themes and approaches of the three books

The Nature and the composition of the state

The relationship of the state with the individual

What constitutes the proper range of state activities?

Engage with the intellectual and theoretical debate




The social theorist has taken different approaches to analyzing the nature of the state and the relationship between the state, society, and individual. The essay will look at the different approaches they use. In particular, the essay will critically analyze the nature and composition of the state, the relationship between the state and the individual and what constitutes the proper range of the state activities. The essay will heavily rely on three books that discuss social theory in depth. Miliband (1969) book, The State in Capitalist Society: The analysis of the Western System of Power will be critical to understanding both state theory and Marxist political thought. Miliband (1969) is concerned with the nature and the role of the state in developed societies. The second book will be the classic work of Crosland (1956); The Future of Socialism. In this book, Crosland (1956) gives the distinction between ‘means’ and ‘ends’, argues about the unjustified attack on inequalities, discuss the nature of capitalism and gives a liberal vision of the good society. Lastly, Colin (2011), in The Strange Non-death of Neoliberalism presents a critical analysis of the financial crisis and economic developments, arguing that there is no neat distinction between the state and the market.

A state can be defined as a political organization that has sovereign jurisdiction within a set out territory and exercise its power through a set of permanent institutions. The permanent institution in liberal democracies includes Head of state, judiciaries, legislature, local government, the armed forces and the police. On the other hand, a society is a group of people who shares a defined territory and a culture. Furthermore, a society can be seen as the social structure and the interaction within a certain group of people. The essay will demonstrate that the nature of the state аnd thе rеlаtiоnshiр bеtwееn stаtе, sосiеty аnd individuаls аrе mаttеrs оf рrоfоund signifiсаnсе for sосiаl thеоrists’ and cannot be ignored.

Themes and approaches of the three books.

Miliband’s (1969) book the state in capitalist society was a major contribution to state theory and Marxist political thought. The book was published in 1969 and offers a fresh look at the nature of the state and role of the state in advanced capitalist societies. Miliband (1969) first gives a survey of the major economic and social attributes of advanced capitalist societies. Secondly, there is an examination of the patterns of economic power in this advanced state. And thirdly, the book gives the main institutions of the state system and their social composition. In the book, Miliband (1969) contends that the society lives in the shadow of the state and more than ever relies on it for support. Miliband (1969) continues to argue that the state in the today’s advanced capitalist society is more powerful than post-war period. And contends, it is not possible to live in such a society without being affected by the state.

Miliband (1969) asserts that the pluralist democratic idea of the state, society, and the political power is wrong especially in the advanced capitalist societies. The view of liberals/pluralists in advanced capitalist society of power to be competitive, fragmented and diffused is wrong. The pluralist argues that in advanced capitalist societies, there is a plurality of interest, and hence no class can emerge as dominant or have excessive power to influence the state. The liberals/pluralists do agree on the existence of the elite in political, economic, social, administrative and professional pyramids of power. However, they argue there is the lack of common interest among them, required to turn them into a dominant class. Moreover, the elite pluralist has competing interests that enable balance and diffusion of power in these societies. The pluralist believes that the notion of a dominant class is irrelevant and advanced capitalist societies are already democratic.

In contrast, Miliband (1969) views these assertions as orthodoxy and mere claims. Miliband (1969) argues, despite the elaborate pluralist theories of the power, Marxist theory remains the major alternative. Miliband (1969) notes that the theory of the state and political power has been neglected and seeks to make a contribution to the remedy of this problem.

To achieve the aim, Miliband (1969) takes a group of advanced capitalist countries for the analysis of the nature and the role of the state in these societies. The countries include; Britain, France, Germany, the United States, Japan, amongst others. The main distinguishing features of these societies are; they are highly industrialized, and the largest percentage of economic activities is under private ownership and control. In advanced capitalist societies, there is less degree of agricultural activities and more increased industrial activities as compared to less developed countries like India.

Miliband (1969) continues to argue that state intervention is nothing new in the history of capitalism. Miliband (1969) discard the idea that recently there have been increased state interventions in different areas of economic life. Miliband (1969) argues that this is not new and, in fact, such interventions are essential for capitalism to work even in the freest markets. Therefore, despite the increase in state-owned means of production, most of the economic activities in advanced capitalist societies remain in the hands of private ownership and control. Hence, Miliband (1969) shapes the capitalism views in the advanced capitalist societies and shows that these states remain authentically capitalistic in nature.

On the contrast, Crosland (1956) in the future of socialism, present a different view of the society. In the future of socialism, the main theme is Crosland (1956) distinction between the means and the ends. Crosland (1956) presents various socialist views and argues the definition of socialism on the basis of nationalization and public ownership, and control is wrong. The definition is wrong since, nationalization and public ownership are just one possible mean to an end. The defining goal should be social equality.

Crosland (1956) defined ends as basic values and aspirations while means as the policies and institutional methods required to promote these values. Crosland (1956) believed that ends were constant but means required continued revisions. The work of revisionist was to look for the means to achieve the ends in the light of the changing condition. Some policies though very relevant in some situation may be very irrelevant in others.

Anthony Crosland’s (1956) The Future of Socialism was published in 1956 and has been argued to be the most important revisionist book in the post-war period. Crosland was an academic before entering parliament but will be most remember because of his book The Future of Socialism. Crosland held a very different view of capitalist to Miliband. Crosland (1956) argued that due to the many changes that occurred in 1930’s, the means of production was irrelevant in defining capitalism. Crosland (1956) believed it was more important to defined societies in terms of equality or class relationships or their political systems rather than in terms of ownership. The view was a direct opposite to Miliband (1969), who believed state intervention in the advanced societies did not nullify the society to be capitalist. Moreover, Miliband (1969) define societies in terms ownership of means of production while Crosland (1956) disregards such definition.

According to Crosland (1956), modern socialism was concerned with social equality and welfare rather than public ownership. Crosland (1956) continues to argue that the socialist aim is to distribute rewards, status, and privileges in a way that reduces the social resentment. Moreover, the socialist also aims to secure justice between individuals, equalize opportunities and weaken the existing class stratification.

Colin (2011) approaches neo-liberalism and claims that though there has a massive failure in some of their policies, it has still emerged stronger. The idea that market forces of demand and supply should be left to determine the prices and allocate resources without interference by government or other forces has failed in some cases. But most of the countries still rely on this system. Colin (2011) argues that neoliberalism is devoted to dominance of the public by the large corporations.


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Stаtе, sосiеty аnd individuаls in the social theories of Miliband, Crosland and Colin
A comparison of "The State in Capitalist Society", "The Future of Socialism" and "The Strange Non-death of Neoliberalism"
University of the People  (Main)
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stаtе, miliband, crosland, colin, state, capitalist, society, future, socialism, strange, non-death, neoliberalism
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John Mburu (Author), 2013, Stаtе, sосiеty аnd individuаls in the social theories of Miliband, Crosland and Colin, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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