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Impersonal Power
History and Theory of the Bourgeois State


The point of departure of Heide Gerstenberger’s path-breaking work is a critique of structural-functionalist theory of the state, in both its modernisation theory and materialist variants. Prof. Gerstenberger opposes to these a historical-theoretical explanation that proceeds from the long-term structuring effect of concrete social practice. This is elucidated by detailed investigation of the development of bourgeois state power in the two key examples of England and France. The different complexions that the bourgeois state assumed are presented as the results of processes of social and cultural formation, and thus irreducible to a simple function of capitalism. This approach culminates in the thesis that the bourgeois form of capitalist state power arose only where capitalist societies developed out of already rationalised structures of the Ancien Régime type.

About the Author
Heide Gerstenberger, Prof. Dr., has taught 'Theory of state and society' at the university of Bremen from 1974 to 2005. She has published extensively on state theory, social analysis as well as on the history and the present conditions of seafaring.



  • "Heide Gerstenberger's comparative study of the origins and emergence of the bourgeois state in France and England is an ambitious and provocative work."
    --David Parker, Historical Materialism

Other books by Heide Gerstenberger, translated by David Fernbach