Introduction to Political Theory

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missile technology (2002: 2), but the state’s mechanism for protecting ‘its’ subjects
has always been contradictory and paradoxical.

The problem of class

Williams argues that the ‘market state’ is ‘here to stay’ (2002: 5), but the nation-
state itself has been a market state as long as capitalism and the market have been
around. For these systems create divisions of interests that make the interventions
of the state necessary.
Hence an inclusive citizenship has to chart a path beyond both the state and
capitalism. Class divisions are, however, more complex than classical Marxism has
assumed, even though inequality is crucial to the existence of the state since the
challenge to the monopoly of the state comes from those who either have too much
or too little. Because interests conflict radically, force is necessary to try and sort
them out. This is the link between class and the state, and both act as barriers to
an inclusive citizenship. Although Marx argues that people are not simply
‘individuals’ but members of a class, workers also have a gender and national
identity, etc., and this materially affects how they relate to others. It is not that the
class identity is unimportant: it is merely that it fuses with other identities since
these other identities are also a crucial part of the process that organises individuals
into a class. If blacks or Catholic Irish in Northern Ireland or northerners in Britain
are more likely to be unemployed, their negatively perceived social identity is an
integral part of their class status.
It could be argued that membership of a class is a barrier to citizenship. Working-
class people often feel that they should not stand for parliament or take part in
politics because they lack the confidence, linguistic skills and education to make
decisions. Upper-class people may take it for granted that they and their offspring
are ‘natural’ rulers, and in this way display an insensitivity and lack of understanding
of the less well off. Whether class expresses itself in gender or national terms,
regional or sexual terms, etc., a society that does not recognise difference in a positive
way is a society with a restricted citizenship. By difference, we do not mean division.
Divisions prevent people from ‘changing places’ and having common interests.
Common interests make it possible to resolve conflicts in a way that relies upon
arbitration, negotiation and compromise, and avoids violence. But how is it possible
to overcome class division and capitalism? Marx argues that every historically
developed social form is ‘in fluid movement’ – it has a transient nature (1970: 20).
In the third volume of Capital, Marx refers to capitalism as a ‘self-dissolving
contradiction’ (1966: 437) in which each step forward is also a step beyond.
The struggle by women to achieve respect and autonomy; the demands by blacks
that they should be treated as people and not as a despised racial category; and the
insistence by gays that they should be recognised as a legitimate group in society,
etc. are as much a blow against the ‘free market’ as traditional trade union demands
for a fairer share of profits. For each time a challenge is successful, the concrete
human identities of supposedly abstract individuals are affirmed, and with this
challenge, the propensity of the market to deal with real people as abstractions is

134 Part 1 Classical ideas

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