Nicos Poulantzas


Related Overviews

Louis Althusser (1918—1990) French philosopher

Antonio Gramsci (1891—1937) Italian political theorist and activist, co-founder and leader of the Italian Communist Party

relative autonomy


See all related overviews in Oxford Index » »


More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Social Sciences
  • Literary Theory and Cultural Studies


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference


Paris-based Greek*Marxist philosopher and sociologist. Born and educated in Greece, Poulantzas was active in the student movement in the 1950s. He was a member of the Greek Democratic Alliance, which was the euphemism used by the outlawed Greek Communist Party. After completing his law degree in the late 1950s, he moved to Paris to undertake a PhD in the philosophy of law. There he met and was influenced by Louis Althusser. But although Poulantzas came to be considered an ‘Althusserian’, his work maintained its own distinctive character and edge. He came into prominence as a theorist of the state—he engaged the doyen of the British New Left, historian Ralph Miliband in a long-running debate on the theory of the state in the pages of the New Left Review. Poulantzas argued that the state serves the interests of capital by providing the minimum level of social order needed to enable business to flourish. It solicits the legitimation of this social order by cultural means, particularly through the imagery and rhetoric of nation, but also (and more insidiously) through tokenistic concessions to organized labour. In so doing, Poulantzas borrowed from and reinterpreted Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci's concept of hegemony, giving ideology an affirmative rather than purely manipulative role to play in the formation and reproduction of the state. He was particularly interested in examining the reasons behind the failure of dictatorships to endure in spite of their powerful repressive measures. His main works were: Political Power and Social Classes (1973); Fascism and Dictatorship (1974); The Crisis of Dictatorships (1976); and State, Power, Socialism (1978).

Further Reading:

B. Jessop Nicos Poulantzas: Theory and Political Strategy (1985).

Subjects: Social Sciences — Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.