The main contribution to the Regulation Approach (RA) in the UK has come from B. Jessop[[There is no distinctive British regulation school. in Britain, the only theoretical contribution to the RA has come from Bob Jessop. A popularisation of post-fordist ideas could be found in the pages of Marxism Today (see the collection of articles edited by Hall/Jaques 1989).. His contribution bas focused on the ‘reformulation of state theory’. This reformulation aims at a conceptualisation of an ‘intermediate’ concept of ‘state’: the fordist or post-fordist states as distinctively different modes of capitalist regulation. The reformulation of state theory bas been criticized by various authors[[See the collection of articles edited by Bonefeld/Holloway 1991.. The reformulation was criticized for its disarticulation of structure and struggle. ln this paper, it will be argued that Jessop’s adaptation of the RA entails a destruction of the Marxian notion of ‘social relations’ in favour of a combination of system theory and conflict theory. Reformulating Marxism in this way involves a theoretical acceptance of the conceptual and practical horizons of a social given world. This acceptance involves a causalist and/or teleological determinism.
Jessop’s reformulation of state theory is aIl too ready to endorse existing reality and its ideological projections. For Jessop so-called ‘Thatcherism’ came to signify a broadranging and distinctive programme aimed at promoting a new accumulation regime and restoring the authority of the state. By restricting his horizon to this version of existing reality, Jessop’s analysis became blinkered. The movement of class struggle was dismissed in favour of apparently more fitting concepts like Post-Fordism. Within this restricted field of vision, the analysis of ‘Thatcherism’ entailed the acceptance of the inevitability of a presumed thatcherite project. The acceptance of the conceptual and practical horizon of a given reality as ifs own theory was based upon a reformulation of Marxist theory in terms of regulation theory and Poulantzarian state theory. This reformulation entailed a fundamental revision of erstwhile positions, embracing enthusiastically the crass ideology of neoliberalism.
This paper introduces Jessop’s notion of the dialectic between structure and strategy and discusses the application of this dialectic to the analysis of Thatcherism. The presentation is restricted to arguments relevant to the ‘dialectic between structure and strategy’. The following is the order of presentation: A brief introduction of Jessop’s own understanding of his work is followed by a short introduction of Jessop’s notion of ‘accumulation strategy’. The dialectic between structure and strategy will be discussed in the third part. There then follows a section on Jessop’s approach to ‘Thatcherism’. The theoretical and political implications of Jessop’s approach will be examined in the paper’s final part. The conclusion is written in more general terms. This is so because it would be wrong to see his contribution as somehow unique. Jessop works within the framework of a particular school of thought. The differences within this school become of secondary importance when discussed in general terms.
II. Jessop’s Understanding of his Work
Jessop understands his own work as a combination of regulation theory with a strategic-relational account of the state inspired by Poulantzas and a discourse-theoretical approach to hegemony most influenced by Gramsci and Laclau (Jessop 1988). The distinctive features of his approach are the emphasis on the dialectic between structure and strategy. This emphasis appears in the use of concepts such as accumulation regime, forms of state, and historical bloc. These concepts are complemented by others such as accumulation strategy, state projects and hegemonic projects (ibid.). The dialectic between structure and strategy is explored in terms of ‘strategie selectivity’ of structures and the structurally transforming role of strategies (ibid.). Jessop’s emphasis is a typical structuralist response to the problem of integrating class struggle iota the analysis. Within the framework of the RA, Jessop elaborates Aglietta’s methodological assumption that the class struggle produces norms and laws ; that these norms and laws form the object of a theory of social regulation; that the class struggle itself is beyond any law (Aglietta 1979, p. 67).
III. The Notion of Accumulation Strategy
Jessop’s[[See Jessop 1983, 1985, 1986a, 1988, 1988/1991 contribution to the ‘dialectic between structure and strategy’ attempts to build on, and to develop, Poulantzas’s approach in response to its critics. Jessop argues for a ‘conjunctural’ (or ‘relational’) approach to the relation between the political and the economic, equating, in its most extreme version, not only struggle with strategy, but, as argued by Holloway (1988/1991), class struggle with capital strategies. The constitution of social reality, in Jessop, follows the ‘independent logics of political and ideological domains’, forcing the scientific mind to follow, in descriptive terms, the strategic line of capital in the face of ‘various dilemmas, risks, uncertainties and complexities’, emergent strategies, trial and error techniques etc. (Jessop et al. 1988, p. 8). As a consequence, complex historical phenomena ‘are best analysed as a complex resultant of multiple determinations’ (ibid., p. 53). Jessop claims that the interplay of objective laws of capitalist development and the hegemonic struggle of different capital ‘logics’ provide mechanisms that melt different social systems together, so permitting a corresponding social cohesion of ideological, political and economic patterns. These patterns are, as argued by Bonefeld (1987/1991) and Clarke (1983), of a systematic kind, objectively unfolding and framed in a voluntarist fashion. As indicated by Psychopeds (1991) Jessop derives different ‘logics’ of capital from distinct allocation interests which exist independently from class. The class struggle is separated from its mode of motion and degenerates into a factor of a historical development which is bath contingent and relative. The term ‘accumulation strategy’ is used as a means of articulating the contingent unit y between the economic and the political. Since there ‘is no substantive unity to the circuit of capital nor any predetermined pattern of accumulation’ (Jessop 1983, p. 91), sustained accumulation requires an extra power in order to impose regulative mechanisms. This power is the state. The pattern of accumulation is determined by the accumulation regime adopted by the state.
Jessop advocates the Poulantzarian distinction between a theory of the capitalist mode of production and the theory of the capitalist state ‘region’. Such an approach to the capitalist state denies an internaI relation between the political and the economic on the basis of the labour theory of value (as in Jessop 1982). Responding to his critics, Jessop sought to make this good by supplying a link between the economic and the political[[The following part is heavily dependent on Clarke (1991) and. especially, Psychopedis (1991).. The link is the concept of ‘accumulation strategy’ (Jessop 1983). However, Jessop’s approach becomes eclectic since his specification of different accumulation strategies ranges from Hitler’s Grossraum-wirtschaft to Japan’s ‘rich country and strong army’ and to Germany’s ‘Modell Deutschland’ (ibid., p. 94). Further, the arbitrariness of choice is intensified by the failure to integrate a list of social phenomena iota a theoretical concept. The analysis becomes non-binding and, thereby, relativist. Jessop’s theorising is part of a tradition which takes for granted the fragmented character of social existence. The classical example of this tradition is the work of Max Weber, aIthough Jessop fails ‘to approach the theoretical profundity and reflection which are characteristic of Weber’s analysis’ (Psychopedis 1991, p. 182). Jessop’s attempt to incorporate the labour theory of value iota his argument is conspicuous for its eclecticism. An accumulation strategy ‘is understood as a “subject'” which, in Jessop’s [1983 own words, “must take account” of the circuit of capital, international conjunctures, the balance of powers and which “must consider” the relation between the classes, etc. In other words, we have here a reappearance of the Hegelian idealistic subject so disliked by the structuralists.’ (Psychopedis 1991, p. 189). A successful accumulation strategy stands above class relations because it takes into account different modes of calculation and gives a particular coherence and political direction to the multiplicity of forces operating in the real world of competing subjects. An accumulation strategy articulates multiple determinations of the real world into a specific mode of regulation.
However, no unique accumulation strategy is available to the state, but rather a range of alternative strategies, expressing different classes and fractional interests and alliances. Any viable accumulation strategy bas to reconcile the pursuit of sectional interests with the sustained accumulation of capital. The determination of which accumulation strategy will be adopted by the state requires an analysis of political conflicts through which strategic issues are resolved (Jessop 1983). Jessop’s theory of conflict is based on the relative autonomy of the economic, political and ideological. The state is, following Poulantzas and Aglietta, seen as being formally determined as a vehicle for social cohesion. The task is thus to show the unfolding of the state’s formaI character in specific historical conjunctures. Jessop’s politicist understanding of capitalist reproduction is based on the notion that the state stands above a plurality of competitive and class struggles and provides the functional integration of a ‘regime of accumulation’. The ‘real movement’ of capitalism is thus construed in terms of an articulation between different social systems which stand above the social conflict. Jessop offers his ‘dialectic of structure and strategy’ as a means of integrating social relations into the analysis.
IV. The Dialectic between Structure and Strategy
a) The Dualism of Structure and Strategy
Jessop’s approach is predicated on ‘causal mechanisms’ and ‘multiple determinations’. It is predicated also on the presupposition of an ideal subject against which he officially proclaims. This subject is created ex nihilo. Jessop’s contribution to regulation theory emphasises capital as an ‘übergreifendes Subjekt’.
For Jessop, Marxist theorising is not predicated on the real movement of class antagonism and the constituting movement of class struggle but, rather, on the contention that the real world is a world of contingently realised natural necessities (Jessop 1988, p. 8). The notion of ‘contingency’ is of vital importance for Jessop’s attempted Marxist reformulation of neo-liberalism. It allows him to define a structurally complex world of systems and institutions within which atomized social subjects pursue their interests. Fundamentally, class antagonism is understood in terms of competing social groups. Each of these groups occupies a particular class position vis-a-vis ‘structure’. The dual ‘perspective of structural determination and class position’ (Jessop 1985) fails to recognise ‘structures’ as implicit in the form of class relations. For Jessop, structures connote a system of causal mechanisms which provide social spaces for human activities. While these activities are vital for the reproduction of structures, the structural framework is seen as existing independently from human relations. Human relations appear merely as attendant upon structural laws.
The world of structures is said to be complex because of its division into different regions, each having its own causal power and liabilities. Further, these regions are said to involve hierarchies, with some regions emergent from others but reacting back on them. Each region is itself stratified, comprising not only a level of real causal mechanisms and liabilities but also the levels on which such powers are actualised and/or- can be empirically examined (Jessop 1988). Jessop’s reformulation of the base-superstructure metaphor and of descriptive sociology associated with Poulantzas takes for granted the separation of social relations into distinctive structural systems. It also seeks to proliferate these structures by dividing ‘basic structures’ into ‘stratified’ subsystems. These subsystems, as will be shown below, are said to have their own distinct ‘determinations’, ‘logics’ and ‘laws’, subduing and undermining resistance to capitalist reproduction.
How does Jessop conceptualise, or better, reformulate the Marxian idea of the ‘enchanted and perverted world of capitalism’ (Marx)? Jessop does not deny that there is an inner relation between different ‘social systems’. However, and in contradistinction to approaches predicated on the notion of an antagonistic constitution of social relations, Jessop thematises this unity in terms of a positivist social theory. The unity between different ‘systems’ is founded on the notion of natural necessities. The sui generis operation of social ‘systems’ is understood as contingently realising the natural necessities of capitalism. Jessop avoids providing any answers to the question as to the constitution of these ‘necessities’. The necessities are assumed to be ‘naturaI’ necessities. The determination of ‘natural’ remains unexplained. And yet, the notion of ‘natural necessities’ is of crucial importance for what Jessop describes as bis ‘realist ontological approach’ (see Jessop 1988)[[The notion of ‘realist ontology’ is taken from R Bhaskar. Bhaskar insists to reassert the basic Marxist principle according to which the world is materialist and subject to change through the operation of economic, political and social structures which are dependent upon, but not limited to, human agency. Bhaskar’s jumble sale of ideas has been criticized by R. Gunn (1989, 1991).. As will be argued below, Jessop’s ‘realist ontology’ is predicated on the notion that the real defies analysis. Before explaining this further, Jessop’s dialectic between structure and strategy needs to be clarified in more detail. Jessop has to account for the fact that the capitalist system moves. This leads him to introduce, on an empirical level. the notion of many subjects. We are thus confronted with the notions of, on the one band, a sui generis operation of different regions, and, on the other, of a plurality of empirically observable subjects. The dualism between structural determination and many subjects destroys the Marxian notion of a contradictory constitution of social relations since human relations are understood as external from structural determination. The notion of ‘many subjects’ is incomprehensible because it is premised on the concept of natural necessities which exist independently from, and whose development is not limited to, human existence. The positivist concept of ‘natural necessities’ connotes a thing-like structure which determines social relations. As a consequence, the concept of class dissolves into the pluralist notion of interest-groups, each of which relates to emergent structural ensembles in its own way. Jessop’s pluralist reformulation of the Marxist notion of ‘class’ is not uncommon in the Marxist tradition. In the days of the DIAMA T-style Marxism of the Stalin years, social development was seen as being determined by technological development. The irony of Jessop’s approach is that his updating of ‘Marxism’ reintroduces an understanding of history in terms of an adaptation of social relations to the functional requirements of the productive forces[[On the connection between technological determinism and the post-fordist debate see Palaez/Holloway 1990/1991 and Clarke 1990.. While Jessop proclaims against such an interpretation of his views, his dualism between natural necessity and many subjects is complicit in the reintroduction of old-style orthodoxy.
b) Causal Mechanisms and Social Conflict
If one were to follow Jessop’s notion of the sui generis operation of different systems founded on ‘natural necessities’, how would one be able to understand the ‘contingent’ realisation of capitalist reproduction ? The first answer to this question is that this realisation cannot be conceptualised because the notion of ‘contingency’ prohibits any grasp on the real movement of capitalist development. However, according to Jessop, the scientific mind can, nevertheless, reveal tendential causal mechanisms whose outcome depends on specific initial conditions as well as on the contingent interaction among tendencies and countertendencies (Jessop 1988, p. 9). Tendencies, such as the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, and countertendencies, such as the countertendencies to the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, comprise different, substantially unconnected mechanisms of the abstract structure of capitalism. These mechanisms operate within the economic domain. Tendencies and countertendencies, although externally related to each other, stand to each other in a relation of interdependency, thus reciprocally transforming their sui generis operation. The articulation as between tendencies and countertendencies establish the ‘laws of motion’ of capitalism. The unfolding of these laws provide causal mechanisms. These mechanisms establish the ‘natural necessities’ of capitalist reproduction in terms of ‘structural moments’ which define the framework of social actions. Structural moments are both constraining and facilitating in regard to the interests of social subjects. The laws themselves are understood to be underdetermined. The results of capitalist reproduction do not follow the unfolding of these laws because these laws need to be activated in specific conjunctural conditions. Thus, while there are causal mechanisms, the actual results of these mechanisms depend on empirical conditions which, as was reported above, defy conceptualisation. Jessop denies that there is a ‘single objective logic of capitalist development which transcends all particularities’ (Jessop 1988/1991). He deduces from this denial the separation of abstract theory from real results, that is, from empirical data. He insists that ‘the development of capitalism is always mediated through historically specific institutional forms, regulatory institutions and norms of conduct, such as the wage relations, forms of competition, monetary emission, the state, the international commercial and financial system and the norms of conduct and modes of calculation which correspond to these institutional forms, etc.’ (Jessop 1988/1991, p. 151). Jessop fails to show how this list can be integrated conceptually and how it can be applied to ‘concrete analysis’. Further, the mediating elements of historical development are dependent on human agency at the same time as they stand above, and are thus not limited to, human agency. The upshot is a system of natural structures which define the structural framework within which social conflict unfolds. The social conflict is construed in terms of its functionality, that is, as a means of reinforcing the status quo. Conflict is understood as a creative means of balancing and hence maintaining a society. It helps to create and modify norms, and assures the continuance of the system of natural necessities under changed conditions. Thus, the theory of regulation is, for Jessop, concerned with the modus vivendi of a complex process of mutual adjustment and accomodation within and among different institutions in empiricaIly observable conjunctures.
c) Rack to the Closure and Positivism of determinist Sociology
Jessop’s conjunctural reformulation of the notion of the relative autonomy dwells on the idea of ‘intermediate concepts'[[The following section is taken from the introduction to Bonefeld/Gunn/Psychopedis (eds.) 1992a.. These are seen as being necessary if the gap between generic and specific analysis is to be bridged. What is taken for granted, here, is a dualistic separation of the generic from the specific, since, otherwise, there would be no ‘gap’ to ‘bridge’. However, the net resuIt of this ‘reformulation’ is not sufficient because it merely reproduces the problems of the base-superstructure metaphor in sociological terms. This is so because the conjuncturaI approach has to identify key variables, such as technological development from mass assembly lines to ‘new technology’ or shifting articulations of the ‘economy’ and ‘politics’, which make everything clear. The identification of key variables abuts on to a determinism and by doing so marginalises class from the analysis. The conjunctural analysis makes a methodological principle out of the notion of multiple determinations. so permitting a sociological analysis in terms of the separation of social life into different distinct economic and political features. For example, the state-system can adopt specifically ‘fascist’ or ‘authoritarian’ or ‘bourgeois-liberal’ or ‘fordist’ or ‘post-fordist’ forms. The idea of ‘form’ as a species of something more generic has underpinned both DIAMA T-style conceptions of general laws which have to be applied to specific social instances and the conjunctional approach which focuses on intermediate concepts to bridge the gap between the abstract level of general laws and their concrete application. The concrete is not seen as a mode of existence of social relations but, rather, as a specific articulation of more general laws of natural necessity. The consequence of this understanding is that the approach can identify static structures only because human relations appear merely attendent upon structural laws. Further, the identification of key variables not only reinforces the idea of structural laws but provides, also, a sociology of interconnected features without being able to specify the theoretical relationships between the various elements of the supposed concrete articulation of structures is, for example, the form of Post-Fordism. Theory becomes non-binding and arbitrary. This is so because the dualist separations of a fetishised world – the separations of struggle from structure and of one ‘region’ of society from another are not called into question but taken for granted, as the principle of social thought. The separation between structure and struggle entails a deterministic conceptualisation of capital in that capital becomes a structure of inescapable lines of development, subordinating social practice to predetermined ‘laws’.
In response to his critics, Jessop reasserts that his approach includes the class struggle and that proper attention is given to its movement. And at the same rime, he insists emphatically that capital is not class struggle (Jessop 1991). How can one understand these conflicting statements ? For Jessop, the structure-strategy dialectic does not separate struggle form structure but shows their complex forms of interaction. The dialectics between structure and struggle is construed in terms of system theory’s conflict theory, so making the disarticulation of structure and struggle the methodological principle of his approach. For Jessop, the real world of capitalism is subject to change through the sui generis operation of different regions whose articulation is dependent on, but not limited to, the action of social subjects. Jessop’s conception of social development indicates a degree of voluntarism which, however. is limited by the dualist conception of structure and struggle : that is. it is restricted by the existence of objective laws and thus by an objectively given range of options. The term strategy is based upon the recognition of structurally-given conditions. Jessop uses the term ‘strategy’ as a concept with which to grasp the subjective notion of decision-taking and the importance of subjective action within history. Jessop’s voluntarist approach is a product of his disarticulation between structure and class struggle. This disarticulation leads to a deterministic understanding of social development in which obeisance may be paid to class struggle, but what really counts is the inescapable lines of tendency and logic of direction established by the objective laws of capitalist development. The activation of these laws depends on human subjects operating within a structurally defined environment. Jessop’s failure to understand the contradictory unity of structure and struggle leads him to separate ‘human agency’ from ‘structure’, and conversely, ‘structure’ from ‘human agency’. This dualism underlies his voluntarist approach to subjective action within history : voluntarism and determinism have always been happy enough to sec structures as constraining action and action as, complementarily, the limit of the effectivity of social structures. As a consequence, there is, in Jessop, a dichotomy between a determinist conception of capitalist development and a voluntarist conception of social action. Jessop attempts to resolve this dichotomy by declaring the real results of capitalist development to be contingent[[‘Voluntarism and determinism are theoretically complementary, bath expressions of the separation between class struggle and capital’ (Holloway 1991, p. 170/1 ; see also Bonefeld 1987/1991, 1992; Clarke 1983.1991).. The positivism, structuralism and voluntarism of Jessop’s approach is characterized by an understanding of ‘class struggle’ as a means of reproducing the structures[[See Clarke’s (1991) critique of Jessop..
Jessop maintains that the transition from one ‘form’, such as Fordism, to another ‘form’, such as Post-Fordism, depends on class struggle. He emphasises, however, there there is no ‘objective developmental logic of capital that inevitably and painlessly ensures passage from one regime to another’ (Jessop 1983). The class struggle seems thus to be separated from its mode of existence and becomes merely one factor amongst others in the contingent and relative historical development[[See Psychopedis 1991.. This is so because the ‘real’ is understood to be indeterminable since the ‘real’ is the outcome of an infinite number of empirical factors, so making capitalist development contingent and relative. This, however, means that the real world of social conflict cannot be conceptualised because of its contingent character and its infinite plurality of determinations. As a consequence, capitalist exploitation of labour in the ‘real world’ of empirically observable facts defies analysis. While the analysis is said to focus on the concrete, the latter’s movement cannot be conceptualized. This contradiction that is, the contradiction between determinism and voluntarism – is resolved by Jessop in an irrational and romantic fashion. The concrete is seen as being determined by capital as a transhistorical subject. Before dwelling on this romantic and irrational conception of capital in more detail, attention is focused on Jessop’s destruction of the Marxian notion of class antagonism.
d) Pluralism, Determinism and Sociologism
Jessop understands the Marxian notion of capitalist social relations as a means of articulating different systems and, on a lower level of abstraction, of articulating different laws of motion. The distinction between different systems and laws is already problematic since it destroys the notion of the inner relationship between different phenomena. The inner nature is abstractly conceived in terms of the obscure concept of natural necessities. The concrete is construed in terms of a combination of ‘causal mechanisms’ and ‘natural necessities’. Conceptually ‘mechanisms’ and ‘natural necessities’ are not connected with each other. The concrete is the result of contingent developments based upon a pluralist diversity of social conflicts which are merely constrained and/or facilitated by the structural selectivity inscribed in structures. The conditions of the realisation of a mode of articulation remain indeterminate and contingent. As a consequence, the articulation of different regions cannot be conceptualised because its realization is a ‘chance discovery’ (Fundsache). The empiricism of Jessop’s approach goes hand-in-hand with its formalism.
Jessop’s approach is characterized by the attempt to derive social conflict from pre-formed categories, so subordinating history to structural laws. The historical constitution of these laws is presupposed in terms of a logical construct.
It is clear that Jessop’s approach entails a systematic attempt to destroy the conceptual links which permit an analysis of the mode of existence of class antagonism. The ‘laws’ of capitalist accumulation are not conceived of as a mode of existence of class antagonism but, rather, as a structural framework which determines the empirically observable class conflict in the real world. However, class conflict is seen as playing an important part in the reproduction of capitalist development insofar as the activation of the causal mechanisms of capitalist reproduction requires active human agents.
Jessop argues that capitalist domination is realised through an emergent and impersonal and quasi-natural network of social connections. This network is reproduced by human agents and, according to Jessop, could never be understood without referring to their actions. He insists, however, that it would be wrong to conceive of class struggle as the starting point because class struggle is one of the mechanisms in and through which capital accumulation is analysed. The understanding of the class struggle as a mechanism of capitalist reproduction calls for objective sociological criteria with which to establish the class relevance of social antagonism (Jessop 1991). The class character of social subjects is defined in terms of their relation to the value form. For Jessop, the key to deciphering the structural framework of class antagonism is the concept of surplus value (ibid., p. 148). It is the dominance of the value form in a system of generalized commodity production which is seen as determining the conceptual identity of classes, the nature of class relations, the forms of class struggle and the totalizing dynamic of class struggle and competition within the capitalist mode of production (ibid.).
For Jessop, the value forrn is better understood as a meta-form (ibid.). This notion is founded on Jessop’s genus – species distinction. The value meta-form describes the structural framework within which different forms of value, such as productive, financial, commercial capital, compete with each other. They compete with each other within the circuit of capital whose structure is abstractly defined by the value meta-form. Within the circuit of capital we find, according to Jessop, different logics of capital. These logics connote different accumulation strategies of competing capital fractions. The value meta-form does not fully determine the course of accumulation but only the institutional logic and directional dynamic of capitalism, in itself indeterminate. The value form thus in Jessop’s view needs to be determined at more concrete levels of analysis, those of the competitive relation between different capital logics and class struggle. The value form needs to be overdetermined by an ‘economic class struggle in which the balance of class forces is moulded by many factors beyond the value form itself (Jessop 1983, p. 90).
The value form is understood not as a process in and through which ‘social relations appear in the form of relations between things, but as a thing-like structure which determines social relations. This inversion underlies the empiricism of Jessop’s approach, according to which it is contingent institutional forms and political conflicts which determine the development of value relations and the course of accumulation’ (Clarke 1991, p. 49 fn 24). The value meta-form defines the coherence of the capitalist mode of production, a coherence which is achieved, in practice, through the contingent forces of social conflict in the real world.
The value meta-form is seen merely as constraining, externally, the room for manoeuvre of different capital logics. The conception of the value form as a value metaform is tautological. This is so because the determination of the value meta-form in the real world of contesting social forces presupposes the practical existence of the value meta-form, and vice versa. However, according to Jessop, the value meta-form is seen as external to its own determination. This destruction of the Marxian notion of the inner nature of capital is complemented by the empiricisrn of Jessop’s approach. For Jessop what realy counts is the observable pluralism of the contest over income resources. The category of labour is conceived of in terms of the wage relation which is founded on nothing but itself. Capitalist exploitative relations are understood in terms of a pluralist distribution struggle over income between the working class and different capital logics. However, the understanding of social conflict in terms of empirically observable facts of distributive struggles destroys an understanding of capital as an exploitative social relation. Jessop’s empiricism is complemented by his technicist reading of the law of value. This law is understood as governing the allocation of labour-time among different productive activities. The law of value is understood as standing above the class struggle.
Jessop destroys an understanding of the capital-labour relation as an exploitative relation because he construes class antagonism as external to the ‘trajectory dynamic of capitalism’. Both capital and labour are conceived as human bearers of structural laws which stand above the social conflict. By putting his argument in this way, Jessop treats capital and labour as both victims of structural laws and as creative powers transforming structural forms within the framework of natural necessity. However, this is not to say that the notion of the ‘real power’ of competitive struggle and class conflict is conceived of in terms merely of an equilibrium between the social contestants. The combination of structural laws and sites of contest reintroduces ‘capital’ as a transhistorical subject whose dynamic logic is theoretically presupposed and whose realisation is empirically observable. Within the relation of capital and labour, the class struggle is subordinated to the basic forms and dynamics of capital as the dominant force (übergreifende Subjekt) (Jessop 1991. p. 165). What this, however, means is that the social conflict is understood merely in terms of a theory of capital regulation. As Jessop puts it, the ‘multification of institutional forms and regulative mechanisms … actually create significant barriers to a general attack on the capital relation by fragmenting and disorganizing opposition and resistance and/or channelling it along particular paths where it threatens legs harm to the core institutions of capitalism’ (Jessop 1988, p. 43). In sum, class conflict is merely an essential moment in the expanded reproduction of capital. ‘The class conflict does not as such create the totality of nor does it give rise to [capitalism’s dynamic trajectory’ (Jessop 1991, p. 154). This is because the ‘conceptual identity of classes is given by the capital relation itself rather than being constrained by classes which shape the capital relation’ (ibid.). The capital relation stands above class relations. For Jessop, ‘it would be more accurate to conclude that class antagonism arises because of the inherent quality of the capital-labour relation than that this relation is antagonistic because of the contingent occurence of class struggle and/or competition’ (Jessop 1991, pp. 1501). Jessop thus insists that ‘capital’ is not an antagonistic social relation and that the antagonism of classes arises only in the real world of multiple determination. The Marxist notion of class antagonism is thus destroyed in favour of a sociological conception of empirically observable modalities of social conflict. What sense can be made of Jessop’s concept ‘capital-labour relation’ ? The capital relation defines the natural necessity of capitalism in terms of abstract structures, causal mechanisms and capital as an ideal subject. While proclaiming against the notion of class subjectivity, Jessop reintroduces capital as an ideal subject. The understanding of capital as an übergreifendes Subjekt means, fundamentally, that the articulation of causal mechanisms in the real world of multiple determinations is achieved by the subjectivity of capital. While the world is conceived as a world of contingently realized natural necessities (Jessop 1988), the notion of ‘contingency’ relates only to the ability of capital to achieve a sustained reproduction on the basis of a successful accumulation strategy. Jessop’s structuralist and posivist approach finds it difficuIt to explain how social conflict and structures interrelate. His equation of class struggle with capitalist strategies is a characteristic response to this problem.
e) Many Subjects and the Return of Idealism
For Jessop, the real world comprises a complex synthesis of multiple determinations. The synthesis is seen as being achieved through a process without a subject (Jessop 1985,1988/1991). However, for Jessop, this does not mean that there are no active subjects. On the contrary, the actualization of the natural necessity of capitalism is achieved through a plurality of contesting forces : ‘any natural necessity of capitalism must be reproduced through social practices which are always (and inevitably) definite social practices, articulated more or less closely as moments in specific modes of regulation’ (Jessop 1988. p. 34). Jessop seeks to resolve the contradiction between the notion of a process without a subject and the subjectivity of capital (‘capital is the subject’ : Jessop 1991, p. 150)) by differentiating capital, as mentioned above, into a series of ‘logics’ which are defined in terms of different allocation interests. Different social subjects pursue different interests, the realisation of which depends on the facilitating framework of structural moments. Each of these logics is in competition with each other, so permitting a pluralist struggle between different capital interests. There is ‘no logic’ of capital but a ‘series of logics with a family resemblance, corresponding to different modes of regulation and accumulation regimes’ (ibid.). The family resemblance mentioned by Jessop connotes the notion of capital as an Übergreifendes Subjekt. ‘Alternative accumulation strategies’ connote the activities of different capital subjects seeking to establish a specific regime of accumulation within the limits of the value form. The term ‘accumulation strategy’ indicates a degree of voluntarism which, however, is limited by the dualist conception of structure and struggle : that is, it is restricted by the existence of objective laws (or : abstract tendencies) and thus by an objectively given range of options. The term ‘strategy’ is based upon the recognition of structurally-given conditions. The ‘dual perspective of structural determination and class position’ (Jessop 1985, p. 344) connotes the power of social subjects to modify the abstract tendencies of capitalism ‘in and through a stable articulation between the invariant elements of capitalism and the variant elements’ emergent in different specific forms such as Fordism and/or Post-Fordism (see Jessop 1988, p. 34). The thing-like structure of the value form plays the role of an external economic structure which passively defines the limits within which pluralist social subjects and historical contingency can determine the course of accumulation.
f) Conflict Theory and Empiricism
How does an accumulation strategy succeed ? The term ‘accumulation strategy’ is founded on the notion that the social ‘body’ is incoherent. The segmented parts of this body have no unit y until they are coordinated into a strategy by a somehow hidden agency of condensation. This agency cannot be theorized because the result of the dualist movement between ‘structural determination and class position’ is said to be contingent. The only indicator as to the character of this agency is contained in Jessop’s pluralist conception of social conflict based on the relative autonomy of the economic, political and ideological domains. For Jessop, the realization of capitalist development is dependent on the action of different social subjects whose class positions comprise distinct modes of calculation, patterns of strategic conduct and forms of struggle. This means that the transition to, for example, Post-Fordism is a resuIt of interactions on many different terrains and among many different forces. The relative success or failure of a strategy is seen as depending on unrecognized structural conditions of action[[As in Rational Choice Marxism (see Elster 1987, esp. ch. 1), subjects operate and calculate rationally and individually within a framework of unreeogniszed rules which they seek to transform through strategic conduct so as to maximize their fortunes..
In order to gain purchase on the systemic conditions of ‘action’, Jessop distinguishes between broadly four structural levels. These levels are, first, the empirically observable regularities in social relations ; second, the basic forms of social relations which together comprise a social formation ; third, the network of institutions and organisations comprising a social order ; and. lastly, the structural constraints and conjuncturaI opportunities provided by structural development for social actors (Jessop 1988, p. 38). According to Jessop, the first level, i.e. the empirically observable regularities in social relations, does not offer much purchase on the systemic conditions of action. This is so because it does not provide direct evidence concerning the basic structures as they resuIt from changing combinations of real mechanisms and contingent circumstances. The second level, i.e. the basic forms of social relations is too abstract to give much purchase on strategic conduct. The third level, i.e. the network of institutions, gives purchase on strategic conduct but it needs to be specified further so as to bring out its strategic relevance. It is the fourth level which is crucial. Structures need to be examined relationally, that is, in terms of their structural constraints and conjuncturaI opportunities which emerge from the strategic orientation of social forces (ibid.).
The mutual conditioning of strategies and variant structures implies that regulation theory has to analyse the correspondence between the strategic selectivity inscribed in a given mode of regulation, including the modes of calculation of strategic conduct adopted by social forces to sustain and/or to transform a given mode of regulation. The notion of structural selectivity connotes the objectively given range of options available for acting social subjects seeking to impose some sort of institutional coherence and direction upon a confusing myriad of competing interests. This is a pluralist conception of social conflict based upon structurally defined conjunctural moments. These moments involve such elements which can be altered by a given agent (or set of agents) following their strategic line. Structural ensembles and conjunctural moments are seen as complex and changeable. The boundaries and activities of structural ensembles are defined as unstable and the world of strategies is seen as pluralistic and conjunctural (Jessop 1988). In order to get a hold on the contingent realization of capitalist development, Jessop advises us to analyse the complex relationship between structural selectivity inscribed in structures and the structural transformations produced through strategic interactions of human agents.
How can one understand the emergence of definite social practices which articulate the structural selectivity in strategic terms ? According to Jessop, ‘the same structural clement can operate as a structural constraint for some agent(s) at the same rime as it presents itself to other agent(s) as a “conjunctural opportunity'” (Jessop 1988. p. 38). For Jessop, this means that a scientist has to concentrate on the ‘need’ of capital in order to be able to assess the strategic relevance of atomized social agents or groups of agents. However, the ‘need of capital bas to be assessed strategically in relation to complex conjonctures rather than formally in terms of an abstract, purely economic, circuit of capital’ (Jessop 1988/1991, p. 155). How can one define the need of capital in conjunctural terms ? Since the concrete cannot be theorized (see above), the ‘need of capital’ can only be assessed in terms of a pre-formed and functionalist conception of the natural necessities of the capitalist system. As already discussed, Jessop sees different social structures as merely constraining and facilitating. This notion is bound up with an endorsement of the natural necessity of capitalism in terms of structural laws. These laws stand above the class struggle and entail the existence of capital as an übergreifendes Subjekt. Jessop’s attempt to gain purchase on the structure-transforming actions of social subjects reintroduces the notion of capital as an übergreifendes Subjekt. This notion destroys the concept of ‘pluralist social subjects’ which was introduced in order to avoid an approach predicated on the notion of a transhistorical subject. For Jessop, structures are explicit reference points for strategic calculations and comprise partly recognised and partially unacknowledged sets of structural constraints and conjunctural opportunities. In order to understand the realisation of capital reproduction in the real world, Jessop urges us to focus on the need of capital, a need which is already presupposed abstractly. As a consequence, Jessop’s notion of the action of social subjects is not only predicated on a sort of individualistic reformulation of the Marxian notion of class struggle but also, and as a mater of entirely distinct theorising, on a sort of idealist reformulation of capital as a transhistorical subject. All social subjects are seen as mere participants in the global capitalist subject. Social conflicts are thus seen as facilitating forces which reproduce the capitalist system in the real world of opportunity. Social conflict is thus construed as a creative force. The structurally transforming action of social subjects is creative in that it articulates structural opportunities in practical terms, so realizing the dynamic direction and institutional logic of capital in the real world.
g) Theory : An End in itself
However, even if one were to accept Jessop’s reformulation of Marxism, it remains still unclear how the incoherent body of pluralist struggles can be transformed into a definite strategy. In order to understand how capitalism is reproduced ‘we must examine the structural selectivity inscribed in structures’ (Jessop 1988/1991. p. 159). How can one understand ‘structural selectivity’ ? Jessop tackles this problem by stressing that it would be wrong to reduce a structural category to, and/or derive it from, a strategic category, and to derive a single strategy from a given structure (Jessop 1988, p. 41). This is so because structural categories belong to the realm of the system which is disconnected from the concrete realm of social practices and because there are always competing strategies. Further, the relationship between different structural elements have only a relative unity. Lastly, the outcome of the dialectic between structure and strategy is always contingent. Still, what constitutes selectivity ? It seems there is no answer to this question and to the question of how the reciprocal transformation of structures and strategies is realised in the real world of capitalism. This, however, means that theory loses its truth criteria. Jessop insists that structural constraints and conjunctural opportunities emerge from the strategic orientation of social forces (Jessop 1988, p. 38). In turn, however, this means that ‘structural selectivity’ is defined by and remains at the mercy of – the contingently emerging transformation of social reality. This, further, implies that the notion of ‘structural selectivity’ defies conceptualization and that it can be observed only empirically. As in Critical Realism (see Gunn 1991a,b), Jessop’s argument comprises a vicious circularity of presuppositions. He presupposes structural selectivity as conditioning the action of social subjects and then he presupposes that structural constraints emerge from the strategic conduct of social subjects. Each is supposed to make sense of the other. In other words, the real world lies outside theory’s grasp. Jessop’s ‘realist ontology’ turns against itself as much as, therefore, it offers no concept of the real. The upshot of Jessop’s attempt to reformulate Marxism is a ‘nominalist and normative theory’. Jessop’s (1986a, 1990) flirtation with Luhmann is logically conclusive as it ‘faciliates’ the destruction of Marxist theory in favour of a descriptive sociology concerned with system maintenance.
If one were to follow Jessop, all theory would be able to achieve is to say that the real world is changing within a framework of structurally defined parameters whose concrete implications defy conceptualisation. According to Jessop we know that there are different subjects who se activities are more or less coordinated, whose activities meet more or less resistance from other forces, and whose strategies are pursued within a structural context which is both constraining and facilitating (Jessop 1988, p. 43). We know also that there are signifiant barriers to a general attack on the capital relation (ibid.), that there is a real scope for class struggle and that the success of the ‘nth’ strategy depends on its complementarity to all other relevant strategies within the overall structural ensemble (ibid. pp. 42,43). This body of knowledge, however, is insubstantial because of the complex web of contingencies. Any conceptualisation of the ‘real’ is doomed to failure because the real world is a world of discovery and of contingently emergent realities. ‘Regulation’ is, consequently, defined as a study of the ‘complex process of mutual adjustment and accomodation within and among different institutions’ (Jessop 1988/1991, p. 152). The research project of regulation theory degenerates iota a merely empirical study of institutional intersections; and a research project lacking a conceptual framework is a contradiction in terms.
h) The Retum of the State
On the assomption that the only purchase on the ‘real world’ is some sort of empiricist descriptive sociology, how is it possible to comprehend, despite the complex jungle of multiple social forces, a definite accumulation strategy ? Jessop insists that there are a number of alternative accumulation strategies expressing different fractional interests and alliances. There is thus a need for an external power to impose regulative mechanisms upon the plurality of contesting capital ‘logics’. This power is the state. Jessop brings the state back in as the totalizing regulative institution. For Jessop (1983), the pattern of accumulation is uItmately determined by the ‘accumulation strategy’ adopted by the state. However, there is no unique accumulation strategy available to the state but, rather, a range of alternative strategies. Does the state therefore simply take an arbitrary decision? To understand which accumulation strategy is adopted by the state requires an analysis of political conflicts through which strategic issues are resolved (see Jessop 1983). The political conflicts between different accumulation strategies is discussed in terms of different hegemonic projects (Jessop 1983,1985). Jessop claims that the interplay between structural development and hegemonic strategies provide mechanisms that melt different social systems together, so permitting a corresponding social cohesion of ideological, political and economic patterns.
V. Multiple Determinations and Thatcherism
Jessop understood ‘Thatcherism’ as a hegomonic project which breaks with the past by developing towards Post-Fordism (see Jessop 1986b). ‘Thatcherism ‘was seen as an interplay of ‘trial-and-error policies which coïncide with relative autonomous forces of the market’ (ibid., p. 8). Jessop’s approach replays the determinist-voluntarist dichotomy so typical of structuralist approaches. Social reality is, in Jessop, constituted by the ‘independent logics of political and ideological domains’, forcing the scientific mind to follow, in descriptive terms, the strategic line of capital in the face of ‘various dilemmas, risks, uncertainties and complexities’, emergent strategies, trial and error techniques etc. (Jessop et al. 1988, p. 8). The articulation between different complex determinations was achieved by Thatcherism. As a consequence “Thatcherism” was reified as a subject which stands above class relations. This is, given the insistence that complex historical phenomena ‘are best analysed as a complex resultant of multiple determinations’ (ibid., p. 53), a surprising move. Thatcherism was said ‘to have known instinctively that there could be no way back to the old Keynesian welfare state’ (Jessop 1986b, p. 8). How did Thatcherism “know” ?
Jessop (et al. 1988) emphasized the development and specifity of the emergent strategic line pursued by Thatcher (p. 8). His work focused on actual strategies and policies and their ad hoc emergent character (p. 8). Since Thatcherism was a strategic line (p. 9) and since there is no ‘single causal mechanism’ determining social development (p. 53), political events need to be seen as a complex product of many different causes and circumstances (p. 29). In order to understand what happens, an adequate account which searches for deeper significances of historical development must establish the mediations between underlying and more immediate causes (p. 29). What needs to be done ? Since the theory is deemed to be correct, Jessop asserted that there are many Thatcherisms (p. 9). This deeper knowledge derived both from a priori theoretical arguments and from our post hoc reflections on changes in the strategic line adopted by Thatcherism (p. 9). The notion of Thatcherism was thus based on the idea that the ‘real’ cannot be determined since there are many causes and an infinite number of factors. However, Jessop destroys the interesting notion of ‘many Thatcherisms’ by declaring that Thatcherism has adopted a strategic line. If there were many Thatcherisms, how, then, could one depict Thatcherism’s strategic line ? A strategic line evolved from the strategic vision of Thatcherism (p. 11). This vision had given direction and coherence to policies in the face of structural dilemmas, political failures, emerging contradictions and resistance. The notion of a multiplicity of diverse factors was further undermined by Jessop’s economic determinism. He argued that Thatcherism’s vision was determined economically. This is so because one needs to have an understanding of the decisive economic nucleus of hegemony in order to sec the structural source of power (p. 16). Did Thatcherism “know” because it expressed the functionally presupposed ‘need’ of capital ?
Jessop supplies a theoretical maze. On the one band, there is no single cause, whilst, on the other, the economic is determining. On the one band, Jessop isolates different phenomena from the social whole, and, on the other, he seeks to reconnect phenomena in an external way. On the one hand, Jessop proposes the separation of social existence into different structural regions, and, on the other, he seeks to articulate the specific interconnections of these regions. On the one band, Jessop claims that there are underlying laws of motion, and, on the other, he introduces subjective mechanisms for these laws’ actualization. Jessop urges that the real is indeterminable since it is mediated by an infinite number of factors. At the same time, he introduces a subject (Thatcherism) which leads the UK towards Post-Fordism. Jessop’s assessment of the ‘need’ of capital is not only based upon a theoretical maze but also on a tautological description of social reality. First of all the outward appearance of reality is taken for granted (multiple causes), and then it is in the light of this outward appearance of reality that social development is assessed. By attempting to grasp the development of the British state in this way, his analysis of Thatcherism proliferates structures which are not only static and fetishized but who se theoretical status remains unclear.
Given this, what sense can be attached to the notion of a left alternative to the (thatcherist) transition to Post-Fordism ? In general terms, an alternative strategy must take into account the constraining and facilitating selectivity of structures. Different calculating subjects are differently located in relation to structural constraint and opportunity and they calculate their strategies over different time horizons and/or spatial boundaries (Jessop 1988, p. 42). A left alternative must learn from Thatcherism because it must take into account current changes and adapt its strategy to them (Jessop 1988/1991, p. 163). Further, the viability of alternative strategies depends on their strategic conduct over a more or legs extensive social terrain, embracing various fields of action. Any viable alternative strategy has to enter into different types of alliances with other social forces (Jessop 1988, p. 42). The upshot is a left hegemonic project, installating an accumulation regime based on ‘party spirit’ (ibid., p. 50). The party is the place in which social forces acquire consciousness, thereby transcending individualism and the corporate interests of specific groups. It is through the parties that classes become the state[[Jessop (1988) refers affirmatively to the work of Migliaro and Misuraca (1982) and Sasson (1987).. He affirms the view of Haeusler/Hirsch (1987), according to which the ‘party system plays a key role in mediating between the state and individuals and institutions in society’ (Jessop 1988, pp. 50-1). However, the aggregation of ‘man y pluralistic, antagonistic interests in society and pressures of electoral competition involves that the parties of government both facilitate and legitimate relatively coherent state actions concerned with societal reproduction’ (ibid. p. 51). What needs to be done? In the absence of a revolutionary party, revolution has to be postponed sine dei (see Holloway 1991,1992). By implication, Marxist theory has to accommodate to the conjuncturaI opportunities created by structural selectivity. Marxist theory has to become a more sophisticated theory of capitalist regulation so as to effect a leftist ‘refashioning’ of the real world of capitalism. Unfortunately, given the complexities and contingencies of the real world and the systemic constraints on action, Jessop and his co-authors refrain from providing detailed recommendations for the Labour Party or the Left. Their concern is rather to outline the broad issues that any successful left strategy must confront (Jessop et al. 1987). Altogether this outline is restricted to the parameters of existing reality. The Left has to confront the existing post-fordist realities in order to articulate a viable hegemonic project and to ensure its popular appeal so as to reform the institutions of social administration in a fair and just way. In sum, the political implications of Jessop’s reformulation of regulation theory are that Marxism has to refrain from the scholarly work of negation[[Scholarly work is seen here, following Agnoli (1990), as a negative task. in favour of advising political groups as to the development of norms, modes of ca1culation and procedures which could gain popular support Marxism has to supply sociological knowledge concerning the conjunctural opportunities already inscribed in structural development. Marxism needs to assume the role of a political adviser. The political implication of Jessop’s approach is that of an opportunist politics of the conjuncture, aiming at effecting a leftist activation of natural necessities.
Approaches such as Jessop’s, which are predicated on the disarticulation of structure and struggle, involve no internal connection between the political and the economic on the basis of the constitutive power of labour. The central methodological misunderstanding of such approaches is the separation of the social whole into different regions each of which is seen as having its formaI structure, its own laws and logic. Such approaches cannot take account of fundamental historical developments in and through the constitutive power of labour because labour plays no role in the internal logic of the different regions. Labour is separated from capital and is reduced to merely an empirical factor of a historical development which is both contingent and relative. Instead of investigating the constitution and forms of social materiality, such approaches raise the formal aspect of social existence (i.e. the fragmented character of society) to the level of an methodological principle. At the same time, these approaches are forced to introduce subjective notions, such as ‘accumulation strategy’ or ‘hegemonic project’, so as to provide a link between perceived modalities of the state’s concrete existence (e.g. the fordist state) and its formal structure. These subjective notions are, in turn, constrained by the systemic rules and “natural necessities” of capitalism.
Jessop’s approach is a typical response to the methodological misunderstanding of structuralism. He aims at giving greater weight to historical analysis by combining abstract theory with a theory of historical developments. The combination of the ‘concrete’ with an abstract theoretical structure implies the modelling of social phenomena on to pre-formed concepts which for their part are placed at the mercy of the historical contingency they seek to render intelligible. In other words the concepts stand above historical developments. An analysis which takes the fragmented character of bourgeois society for granted and which seeks to trace the causal interconnections of such fragments can not grasp their historical development because it refuses to risk the methodic assertion of ‘the real’ in and through abstraction.
An approach such as Jessop’s, turning as it does upon structural integration, is an approach which is complicit in the fetishisation of human relations as relations of things. Further, such an approach runs the risk of conceptual collapse. This is so because such an approach can not justify its concepts. For example, the assumption that the real world is divided into different regions raises the question of the interdependence, that is, the structural adequacy of different regions such as the political. Firstly, to what is the political adequate ; secondly, what determines the adequacy of the political ; thirdly, what is the criterion with which to define adequacy ? Only three solutions are possible. Firstly, the adequacy of the political is measured in terms of its output concerning the requirements of the economic. Such a solution opens the way for an economistic Marxism, the political superstructure arising from it however sophisticated a fashion the economic base. Such a view concentrates on the economic as the determining structure, thug making the political merely attendant upon the inescapable lines of economic development. The second solution is to introduce a new set of concepts with which to justify the first level of concepts. However, the new set of concepts needs to be justified itself, leading to the introduction of new concepts and so on. This solution reproduces the problem it claims to resolve through an infinite regress of metatheories (see Gunn 1989). The third solution is to abnegate a conceptual understanding in favour of a descriptive sociology of corresponding features among different subsystems. Such a solution sees the economic and the political as ‘autonomous’ systems which generate causal interrelations through a sui generis operation of their internal laws. As a consequence, theory must identify reciprocal elements which exist in different subsystems (e.g. mass production and demand management and the ideology of social consensus). No explanation can be given of how a reciprocal matrix of mutually supporting elements develops. The only possible explanation is to declare such a matrix to be a contingent articulation among different autonomous systems. This solution interprets historical development in terms of its more or legs close approximation to a model whose elements are not conceptualised but, rather, presupposed. The problem of justifying concepts is thereby avoided only because the historical development is understood to be contingent, thus allowing the concepts to be contingent and arbitrary themselves. Further the concepts can be readily justified on the basis of the ‘real’ : it is what it is. Since, for example, we can observe the hegemonic project of ‘Thatcherism’, the articulation between the political and the economic can be seen as a contingent articulation because it is real in practice. In the event. the ‘real’ is explained by what exists, hence tautology. It is tautological because, first of all, a model or norm (e.g. “Thatcherism”) is abstracted from disparate historical tendencies, and then it is in the light of this model that the significance of these same tendencies is assessed. The ‘reality’ of alleged historical tendencies – e.g. Post-Fordism finishes up by being evaluated according to the model which was supposed to be derived from them. Jessop in other words presupposes what he intended to show. The fundamental weakness of theories which aim at understanding the structural adequacy of social forms is that they see contradictions only in terms of functional inadequacy. Such an approach destroys the Marxian understanding according to which structure and struggle, and concept and history, stand or fall together. The class struggle does not simply take place within the forms ; the forms are themselves a moment of the class struggle and are at issue in class struggle, as capital and the working class confront them as issues at stake in social reproduction. The development of forms can be understood only on the basis of an internal relation between structure and struggle[[See the contributions to the collection of articles edited by Bonefeld/Gunn/Psychopedis Open Marxism Vol 1: History and Dialectics and Open Marxism Vol II : Theory and Practice. Pluto Press : London 1992..
The political charge against Jessop is that he fetishises social relations. The conceptual charge against him is that he does so through a distinction between structure and struggle – each of which, however, is supposed to render its contrasting term coherent. Structure is seen as escaping determinism because it is qualified by agency and agency is seen as escaping voluntarism because it is qualified by ‘structural constraint’. However the intelligibility of structure is seen as deriving from agency and vice versa. Jessop’s dualism is thus sustained only through a tautological movement of thought. Adding together, eclectically, two fallacious positions hardly amount to a theorisation where either one of them can be redeemed.
During the 1980s, Marxism succumbed to precisely the danger of scientism inherent in sociological approaches, as in the equation of ‘new limes’ with the scenarios dubbed post-fordist. In the foretelling of a naval historical stage just-around-the-corner, the ancient themes of a determinist conception of social change broke out. What used to be known as the critical dimension of Marxism was, in all of this, the main casualty. Jessop’s reformulation of Marxism on neo-liberalism’s soil is complicit in the attempt to destroy the critical dimension of Marxism in favour of a theory of capitalist regulation.
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