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Theories Of The New Class

Intellectuals And Power

Lawrence Peter King

Publication Year: 2004

Old as the notion of the “New Class” is (the term was coined by anarchist Mikhail Bakunin around 1870), the idea of the ascendancy of an intellectual elite continues to engage, and perplex, social theorists. In Theories of the New Class, Iván Szelényi, one of the most incisive and respected analysts of the intellectual class, and his colleague Lawrence King put New Class theories into a broad historical framework for the first time. Addressing the intellectual history of Marxism and socialism, theories of the increasing role of the state and technocratic elites in capitalism, and theories of contemporary social change, King and Szelényi’s work clearly links the centrality of thinking about intellectual class formation to a variety of theoretical and political projects that have shaped social theory and influenced political realities over the past century. King and Szelényi show that the idea of the New Class has stubbornly entered and reentered the agenda of critical social theorizing throughout the last century. Indeed, they interpret that the last century as a history of projects by different groups of the highly educated—factions of intellectuals, bureaucrats, technocrats, managers, and the left-wing humanistic intelligentsia—to gain ultimate power. A rare empirical discussion of theory, Theories of the New Class invigorates class theories by grounding them in contemporary issues; at the same time, it uses modern polemics to revitalize historical debates on the origins of capitalism.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Series: Contradictions of Modernity

Title Page, About the Series, Copyright

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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

The purpose of this book is to tell the history of the idea of the “New Class” as a history of—so far always unsuccessful, but while pursued not necessarily unviable—“power plays” or even “class projects” by various fractions of intellectuals. The term “New Class” was coined by the anarchist Bakunin around 1870. Bakunin accused Marx of advancing a theory that was actually a project by the intelligentsia to exploit the working-class movement. By pretending...

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Introduction: Intellectuals and the End of History

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pp. ix-xxxiv

The collapse of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe was a moment of such obvious historical importance that Francis Fukuyama (1989) was able to advance his now-famous thesis that this change was inevitable, given the existence of a world-historical, evolutionary trend toward liberal capitalism. In this view, liberal capitalism is the “end of history,” the most rational and enlightened way of organizing society. With the death of...

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1. Proto-Theories of the New Class: Hegel, Saint-Simon, and Marx

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pp. 1-18

In the introduction we called Bakunin the first New Class theorist. This is only correct if we understand New Class theories as critical assessments of Marxist forecast concerning the class character of postcapitalism. From Bakunin to Gouldner the social analysts whom we call New Class theorists all agreed with Marx that a postcapitalist future was inevitable, though...

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2. The Vanguard Project

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pp. 19-44

As the Marxist scenario of socialism was gradually turning from intellectual speculation into a political force, with the establishment of the International and, even more, with launching of the Second International and of social democratic parties, the relationship between intellectual theorists and the working class gained new importance. In the Marxist-inspired working-class movement, intellectuals, usually from bourgeois...

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3. A Bureaucratic Class in Soviet-Type Society

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pp. 45-65

Ever since Russia declared itself to be on the road to socialism, there have been skeptics, usually on the political left, who would argue that this experiment could not be considered genuinely socialist. Over the decades, the number of skeptics increased. Many of these skeptics celebrated the fall of the Soviet empire, arguing that these countries were an embarrassment to socialist politics. We are not obsessed...

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4. Beyond Bureaucratic Power: Humanistic Intellectuals and Technocrats under State Socialism

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pp. 66-98

A new way of thinking about the structure of actually existing socialist societies began to emerge from the mid-1960s onward. A new generation of theorists focused its attention on the relations between the bureaucracy and intellectuals, in a new way. The earlier common wisdom—shared by theorists of state capitalism, bureaucratic collectivism, and the New Class theory of Milovan Djilas—that, under state socialism, the power of the...

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5. The Fall of the Class Project of the Socialist Reform Intelligentsia

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pp. 99-122

If there ever was a class project of intellectuals under East European state socialism, it certainly did not last very long, and by the time it was possible to identify this process, the transformation of the bureaucratic ruling estate into a dominant class was already in the process of disintegration. The Counteroffensive of the Bureaucratic Ruling Estate We associate the intellectual class project with the policies of Nikita Khrushchev. But Khrushchev...

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6. Intellectuals under Postcommunism

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pp. 123-143

1989: A Successful Revolution of Socialist Technocrats? In retrospect, it appears that 1989 can be seen as a successful revolution by the socialist technocrats and managers. After two decades of intra-elite struggles, the technocrats were finally able to defeat the bureaucratic fraction of the elite. This happened first in Hungary and Poland, and two years later in the Soviet Union. In the other state socialist...

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7. Bourgeois and Post-Marxist Theories of the New Class in the West

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pp. 144-173

The most significant contributions to New Class theory came in the East, where the weakness of capitalism and the success of communism gave these theoretical debates far more gravity than in the West. They were developed in response to the hegemony of a party guided by Marxism, and thus struck at the very heart of the legitimacy of the existing order, the notion that the “vanguard” ruled for the people. Further, the state socialist...

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8. The Neo-Marxist Response to Bourgeois Theories of the New Class

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pp. 174-191

Marxist class theory was slow in responding to the challenge (to the Marxist scenario for the transition to socialism) provided by the bourgeois theories of the New Class discussed in the last chapter. There were several possible lines of defense. The first was to expand the definition of the working class to include intellectuals, or at least the possessors of technical...

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9. The Limits of the New Class Project in the West

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pp. 192-218

The waves of New Class theorizing in the West, while influenced by events in the socialist world, have corresponded to real class projects that paralleled real changes in the structure of the economy and the political systems of advanced capitalist economies. New Class theorists, however, have tended to overemphasize the importance of these changes and to see them as the cause of the rise of a new dominant class capable of bringing...

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Conclusion: The "Third Way" as the Fourth Wave of New Class Projects?

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pp. 219-244

In this book we have offered a review and critique of the history of New Class theories. We have sought to sustain two major arguments concerning this body of ideas. First, we have argued that these theories serve as the ideological accompaniment to failed “collective mobility projects” in which various types of intellectuals have sought to advance their own interests by claiming to represent the interests of others...


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pp. 245-252

Works Cited

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pp. 253-262


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pp. 263-268

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About the Author

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p. 269-269

Lawrence Peter King is associate professor of sociology at Yale University...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816695911
E-ISBN-10: 0816695911
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816643448

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2004

Edition: First edition
Series Title: Contradictions of Modernity