Relative autonomy is a theory of
state power based on Marxist ideas. Relative autonomy perspective assumes that the state
can and does play a limited independent role in the maintenance and stabilization of capitalist society.
Relative autonomy differs from
pluralism in viewing state power as strongly constrained by the ideological and structural
characteristics of capitalist society.
On the Concept of
Relative Autonomy in Educational Theory
Christer Fritzell, British Journal of Sociology of Education, Vol. 8, No. 1 (1987), pp.
Abstract: In an effort to contribute to the further development of educational relative
autonomy theory, this article raises a few basic issues with regard to the relationships
between the internal structuring of schooling and educational functions of social
reproduction and change. The concepts of positive, negative and critical correspondence
are introduced in order to analyse different forms of structuring in schooling in relation
to the commodity form of economic production.
Commodity Form and Legal
Form: An Essay on the "Relative Autonomy" of the Law
Isaac D. Balbus, Law & Society Review, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Winter, 1977)
Abstract: After a good deal of thought I have decided not to respond directly to Professor
Trubek's exhaustive review of The Dialectics of Legal Repression, but will rather leave it
to readers of my book to determine for themselves the adequacy of his description,
analysis, and evaluation of the material contained therein. However, insofar as Professor
Trubek also refers briefly in his essay to my "more recent," and until now
unpublished, work, it seems appropriate to present a sample of this work, especially since
Trubek himself argues that it entails a "major refinement" which "allows
Balbus to explain what remains unexplained in The Dialectics." Indeed, in certain
respects the following essay constitutes an autocritique of the theoretical analysis in my
book, and a comparison of the two will thus permit the reader to assess indirectly the
extent of my agreement with Trubek's critique.
Reconstructed. Revised. - Reynolds, Jim
Abstract: The British school system has relative autonomy, and therefore, could be
potentially transformative--used to change existing economic and social relations. The
correspondence thesis, which states that the schools perpetuate existing capitalist
economic and social relations and serve as agents of reproduction, was the dominant
paradigm of the last decade within the British sociology of education. This thesis has
been bitterly contested, and, in recent years, substantially modified. Four developments
within British social science over the last decade suggest a form of relative autonomy
that grants considerable freedom to the educational system within British society to act
either in a reproductive or transformative fashion. The four developments are: (1) the
lack of fit between what the educational system produces and the needs of the British
economic structure, (2) recent findings in social policy studies, (3) the partial
penetration of capitalism in Britain, and (4) the independence of the school. The relative
autonomy theory may be a helpful method by which Marxists may cope with the empirical
reality of the British educational system/economy relationship.
The Relative Autonomy of Schools and Educational Interventions for Substance Abuse
Prevention, Sex Education, and Gender Stereotyping. - Shamai, Shmuel;
Coambs, Robert B., Adolescence, v27 n108 p757-70 Win 1992
Abstract: Evaluates drug abuse prevention programs, sex education programs, and programs
to change gender stereotypes in schools using theoretical framework of critical sociology
of education. Notes that all types of programs had limited effectiveness.
Marxism and economic determination: clarification and defence of an
"old-fashioned" principle - Paul Wetherly, Leeds Metropolitan
University, Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol. 33, No. 3, 273-279 (2001)
This paper clarifies and defends economic determination as a defining principle of
explanation of Marxist political economy and state theory. Economic determination is a
principle of causation or explanation which involves the claim that "politics"
is "explained" by "economics" in a relevant sense of those three
terms. A defense is mounted on theoretical grounds by showing that Jessop's critique of
"reductionism" and related argument for "contingency" does not
succeed. Economic determination is defined as a strong tendency but consistent with a
notion of the relative autonomy of the state.
ldeology, determinism and relative autonomy - by Michael
Rosenthal - Extract From Jump Cut, no. 17, April 1978, copyright Jump Cut: A Review
of Contemporary Media, 1978, 2005
One of the key problems confronting Marxist film theory, as well as Marxist aesthetics in
general, is the status of ideology as a determined product of social, and specifically
economic, relations. It is a fundamental and unavoidable premise of any Marxist enquiry
that ideology, the "consciousness" of people in society and the material
cultural products in which this consciousness is embedded is, in fact, determined.
Drawing from Engel's letters, Althusser argues that the various superstructures, like law,
politics and ideology, are characterized by a "relative autonomy" from the
In consequence, our understanding of economic determination (which is a condition for an
understanding of autonomy) remains in essence the same as in "vulgar
determinism," while relative autonomy becomes a sort of ongoing exception. That is,
we continue to see the economic base as mission control, which beams out commands to
passive agents in the superstructures. With our magic protective shield of relative
autonomy, we are safe from these commands until they catch up with us in the dreaded last
instance. And, as Althusser somewhat cryptically assures us, "the lonely hour of the
last instance never arrives."
Thus, although we can describe films like GODFATHER II or CHINATOWN as "critiques of
capitalism" because of their relative autonomy, they remain determined by capitalist
economic relations, in the "last instance." The character of that determination,
piled onto the last instance, remains a mystery. We often present it as some kind of
antithesis of relative autonomy, as if it were a version of the antithesis of
"freedom" and "necessity."
RELATIVE AUTONOMY OF THE
Tobias M. C. Asser - imf.org/external/np/leg/sem/2002/cdmfl/eng/asser.pdf