Discuss the Marxist Perspective of the Nature and Functions of the State.
The Marxist perspective of state rejects the liberal view of the state. The rejection is based upon the. Marxist view of society as a class society a society where the interests of different classes are fundamentally opposite and always at odds. The state in such a society, instead of being the common trustee of the whole society, becomes an essential means of class domination. The purpose of the state Marxism claims, is to safeguard the existing order and to suppress the resistance of other classes. In a society based upon private ownership of the means of production, the state is always an instrument of exploitation, a dictatorship of a special kind for the suppression of the exploited masses.
Marxism regards the state as an institution whose function is to maintain and defend class domination and exploitation. The task of Marxist theory of revolution, which Marx held to be the inevitable outcome of the class struggle, is to establish a new society based upon a new economic order.
Marx proclaimed that the state does not stand for the general interest but defends only the class interests of property. Since the state is an instrument of a class and serves the interests at the dominant class or classes in the society, the role and functions of the state also depend upon the nature and purpose of the ruling classes. The functions of the state in the capitalist society can never be the same as that of the socialist society Marxism wants to abolish the state altogether through the proletarian revolution Marxism talks about the functions of a state which has to come to an end one day.
Marxism makes use of the state for building a new socialist society. The state established after the revolution by the proletarient, will also be a class state but whose purpose will be to abolish classes and class conflict, and with the abolition of classes to wither away itself.
While classical Marxism focused on economic theory and politics of class struggle, postwar Marxism has been more concerned with the problems of superstructure, culture, art, aesthetics, ideology etc. Marxist writers have written extensively on the nature of capitalist society and state, the problem of socialist transformation, problems of bureaucracy and authoritarianism etc.
The Marxist perspective of state has also been revised by a number of western Marxist writers. The new theories of state represent a significant step towards revising the class perspective, social charge theory and political strategies.
The Marxist perspective believes that the state is neither a natural, moral divine institution nor it is the result of social contract. It is the product of specific circumstances at a particular juncture of history when society was divided into classes. The state is the result of class struggle and concerned with the exploitation of one class by another.
State is essentially an instrument in the hands of the ruling class. The state tries to keep the class struggle in check by resolving the conflict and bringing harmony among the classes but it cannot end the class struggle. State is not an eternal institution. Since the state is a class state, its role and , functions vary in the capitalist and the socialist societies.
To establish a classless society, it is essential to establish a working class state which can be brought about only by overthrowing the bourgeois state through revolution. Whereas the bourgeis state requires to be smashed, the socialist state will ‘wither away’. This is the basic difference between ‘abolition’ and ‘withering away’ of the state.