• Conference report
  • Nicos Poulantzas, a Marxism for the 21st century

  • By Alexis Cukier | 03 Mar 15
  • An international conference gathered philosophers, historians, sociologists and geographers around the question of the actuality of Nicos Poulantzas thought.

    The conference was organized by Marxismes au XXIe siècle, in partnership with Espaces Marx, Fondation Gabriel Péri, and the magazines Actuel Marx and Contretemps. It took place from 16 to 17 February 2015 at the University Paris-Sorbonne.

    Short report

    The work of Nicos Poulantzas (1936-1979) fuels today’s most innovating marxist researches on the State, crisis, social classes, globalization, Europe, fascism, social transformation, etc.  On these topics, Poulantzas has provided new paths in marxist theory by exploring anew the works of classics (Rosa Luxembourg and Gramsci among others) and by opening marxism to new influences, for example the theory of power of Michel Foucault. But on the contrary of the lively tradition of poulantzian research in Great Britain, Germany, Greece or Latin America, his works have paradoxically enough been less discussed in France in the past three decades. Yet new generations of searchers discover his thought and seek to use it in order to understand the contemporary evolutions of capitalism. The conference « Nicos Poulantzas. Un marxisme pour le XXIe siècle » followed on from this rediscovery of marxism in France, and particularly of the work of Nicos Poulantzas.

    The conference gathered philosophers, historians, sociologists and geographers around the question of the actuality of Nicos Poulantzas thought. The first and keynote speaker was Alvaro Garcia Linera, Vice-president of Bolivia and one of the leading marxists in Latin America, who delivered a reading of Poulantzas theory of the State from the perspective of recent processes of social and political transformation in Bolivia. The economists Cédric Durand and Tristan Auvray also proposed to put Poulantzas theory at work grounding on the Poulantzas/Mandel debate in the 1970ies in order to question the relevance of an analysis of « European capitalism » today. In the light of their researches in contemporary history, Ludivine Bantigny then addressed the question of the reception of poulantzian thesis in the « revolutionary Left » in France, and Marco Di Maggio analyzed Poulantzas’ complex position in the political but also theorical current of eurocommunism. Costis Hadjmichalis showed how Poulantzas analysis of the State did actually inspire contemporary radical geography and could feed new paths for future researches on the geographies of the State. James Martin addressed the question of the evolution of Poulantzas from his early works until State, Power and Socialism in regards to the question of the function of law in political domination and social transformation. Stathis Kouvelakis delivered a reconstruction of Poulantzas’ theory of fascism and then the authoritarian State and proposed some arguments for its actuality in Europe. Alex Demirovic, grounding on his monography on Poulantzas’ theory of the State, analyzed some difficulties in Poulantzas’ theory of the capital State as a social relation and the relevance of his thoughts on the democratic transformation to socialism. Finally, Isabelle Garo analyzed the originality of poulantzian theory of the State and of his thoughts on political strategy in the broader context of contemporary marxism.

    There has been an audience of approximately 200 persons during the two days of the conference, among them many young students and scholars. A large part of the discussions addressed the question of the actuality of the theory of Poulantzas in regards to contemporary social and political processes in Europe, specially in France and Greece. A collective book based on the conference will be published by a leading academic publishing house in 2016.

    For the conference programme and further details click here