Nicos Poulantzas on political economy, political ecology, and democratic socialism



This article presents the inaugural memorial lecture at the Nicos Poulantzas Institute in Athens. It examines and extends the work of the eponymous Greek legal and political theorist, political economist, and communist intellectual, Nicos Poulantzas, who radically transformed Marxist state theory, made major contributions to the critique of political economy for the era of Atlantic Fordism and post-war American imperialism, and called for a judicious balance between representative and direct democracy to secure a democratic transition to democratic socialism. It first offers some general reflections on the originality, legacy and actuality of Poulantzas's work in these respects and then reconstructs his later views on the critique of political economy before his death in 1979. Noting his neglect of the environment and issues of political ecology, which was typical of the French and Greek left in the 1970s and also rooted in more general features of Marxist theorizing on nature and the environment, the article elaborates a Poulantzasian view of political ecology based on key arguments from his work. The article concludes by reasserting the validity of his vision of democratic socialism, indicating that it would have become a critique of political ecology, and suggests that he would have approached this in the same spirit of romantic public irony that was advocated by one of his major theoretical and political influences – Antonio Gramsci.

Keywords: capitalist states, class analysis, democracy, ecology, imperialist rivalries, Nicos Poulantzas, productivism, state theory, the strategic-relational approach

How to Cite: Jessop, B. (2017) “Nicos Poulantzas on political economy, political ecology, and democratic socialism”, Journal of Political Ecology. 24(1). doi: