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New Left Review I/119, January-February 1980


Stuart Hall

Nicos Poulantzas: State, Power, Socialism

The unexpected and tragic death of Nicos Poulantzas, in Paris, in October of this year has robbed Marxist theory and the socialist movement of one of its most distinguished comrades. Though only 43 at his death, he had already established for himself a just reputation as a theoretician of exceptional and original stature. He was also, to those privileged to know him, a person who commanded respect and affection, above all for the depth of his commitment to practical and theoretical struggle. Born in Greece, he was active in the Greek student movement in the 1950’s, when he joined the Greek Democratic Alliance (eda) a broad, legal form of the then proscribed Communist Party. After his law studies, he came to France, and at that time joined the Greek Communist Party. In 1968, after the internal split, in the wake of the Colonel’s coup, he joined, and remained, a member of the Greek Communist Party of the Interior. In an interview which Alan Hunt and I conducted with him shortly before his death, he told us that it was virtually impossible in the early days even to acquire the classicals texts of Marx and Engels, and he came to Marxism largely through French philosophy, especially Sartre. [1] An edited version of this interview was published in Marxism Today, July 1979. His doctoral thesis in the philosophy of law attempted to develop a conception of Law drawing on Goldmann and Lukács. It was published in 1964: but he was already beginning to feel the limitations of this orientation within Marxism. He encountered and read Gramsci seriously for the first time then. An early article published in Les Temps Modernes attracted the attention of Althusser, and he then became one of that remarkable company of young Marxists—including Balibar, Macherey, Rancière, Debray—which constituted the core of the ‘Althusser’ group.

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