An Interview with Heide Gerstenberger

Historical Materialism just published an interview with one of the greatest Marxist historical sociologists today:

‘While participants in the derivation debate assumed that this political form is produced by the necessities of the reproduction of capital, my own research into the historical constitution of bourgeois states led to the hypothesis that there is no direct causal relationship between the constitution of bourgeois political forms and capitalism becoming dominant. Today, I would insist that the class character of the state can (!) be present in the state form, but that capitalism can also function in societies where there is no formal neutrality of the state. I have since criticized the derivation debate on the capitalist state by pointing out that the theoretical concept of an institutionally neutral political form was a product of the historical situation in which it was formulated. Derivation theory is very much a child of the decades after World War II in Germany when and where it appeared as if equality before the law was actually a necessity for the reproduction of capitalism. It was the rejection of the historical analysis of capitalist state power which allowed its logical deduction from the general structures of capitalism, thereby condemning this theoretical concept to remain useless for the explanation of political forms which contradict the political forms of capitalism which had been deduced from Marx’ analyses.’