State, context and correspondence. Contours of a historical-materialist policy analysis

Ulrich Brand


This paper outlines contours of a historical-materialist policy analysis through a double critique. First, historical-materialist approaches all too often conceptualize policies in a functionalist way as “outcomes” of predominant social relations, especially of class relations. The contingencies and own logics of policy processes are often downplayed. However, the (non-)correspondence between societal reproduction and policies needs to be conceptualized. It is proposed to understand the state as a “knowledge apparatus” which constantly organizes or even produces knowledge about objects of steering, societal and political problems, and the possibilities of how to deal with problems. Secondly, policy analysis has a simplified understanding of the state due to its state theoretical deficit. From a perspective of critical state and hegemony theory, the state is understood as a sectoralized social relation with power-shaped selectivities and is embedded in more or less hegemonic societal relations.


Policy analysis, historical materialism, critical state theory, Gramscian hegemony theory, selectivities of the state, knowledge


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