Marxism and Power
"A science only progresses, i.e. lives by the extreme attention it • pays to the points where it is theoretically fragile ... it depends less for life on what it knows than on what it does not know." Louis Althusser
fs the domain of power autonomous of the domain production? Are politics and power only a function of economic and production relations? In the history of Marxism and the innumerable theoretical disputes therein, these have been perennial questions. Marxism's received wisdom has answered them in predictable ways: the problems of power (and therefore of democracy) would resolve of their own accord following the socialization of property, of means of production. One need only recall here the Leninist argument that the soviet republic was a "million times more democratic" because the means of production were socialized. The experience of 'actually existing socialism' revealed that it was possible to have the most oppressive relations of domination and subjugation, a complete elimination of civil society, alongside socialized production relations.
The argument of this paper is based on the assumption that the devalorization that the domain of power has suffered in the received wisdom of Marxism is, in crucial ways, responsible for its inability to take on the problem of democracy, power, franchise, representation, etc. in socialism.
With this view, this paper seeks to explore the phenomenon of power and its theoretical status in Marxist theory, in the light of recent historical experience.
The experience of 'actually existing socialism' offers an excellent opportunity to look at the disjunction between the domain of power and that of production. Here, for the first time, power is. exercised in a society where there is no private ownership of the means of production,
Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi.
Social Scientist, Vol. 24, Nos. 4-6, ApriMune 1996