PCMP is far from being entirely consistent in its conceptualisation of relations between discourse and the objects of discourse, but at many points, most especially in the Introduction, it advances the rationalist position that the theoretical elaboration of certain general concepts, the concepts of modes of production and relations of production, etc., provides the means of analysis of ‘concrete’ social formations and that this is the principal justification for abstract theoretical work in Marxist theory. In effect, it suggests that the concept of social formation is a means of appropriation of ‘concrete’ social formations conceived as existing independently of their appropriation in thought. It is a rationalist position in that it maintains that questions concerning Marxist concepts pertinent to the analysis of ‘concrete’ conditions existing independently of theoretical discourse may nevertheless be settled at the level of abstract theoretical argument. In this respect PCMP does not depart significantly from traditional Marxist modes of conceptualising social formations in relation to other objects of Marxist theory. The classical concept of social formation, developed and elaborated in Reading Capital, has the following crucial features: (i)It represents a definite existent combination of structural levels (economic, political, ideological) and modes of production that produces a determinate and distinctive ‘society effect’ and it has a mode of existence that makes it relatively autonomous from other existences.(ii)Modes of production represent sub-unities of this existence and they contribute to the ‘society effect’ with varying degrees of determination depending on their position of domination or of subordination.(iii)The ‘society effect’ of the social formation depends on the overall reproduction of its hierarchy of determinacy of modes of production and on the forms of the levels corresponding to that hierarchy. If the hierarchy is displaced it is replaced by a new hierarchy with a new ‘society effect’ and a new form of social formation emerges.(iv)However, that change of form and of ‘effect’ is not a change in all the elements of the social formation; subordinate modes become dominant or vice versa, ideological forms and state apparatuses persist with varying degrees of relative autonomy. At what point such changes of form and of ‘effect’ involve a change in the nature of the social formation is open to question.
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