Sociology Index


The structuralist approach is an approach to understanding the role of the state within a conflict perspective or Marxist perspective. In the structuralist approach, the state is seen as captured by the structure of capitalism and while having a degree of autonomy or freedom from the dominant class of society finds it must act so as to reproduce the economic and social structures of capitalism.

The Marxist philosopher Louis Pierre Althusser utilised the structuralist approach to distance himself from the Hegelian methodology he so resented in Karl Marx's work. 

Instead of Marx’s dialectical method of analysing the interconnections between social phenomena, and uncovering the underlying laws of development (contradictions) governing the origin and evolution of a given social formation, Althusser adopted the structuralist approach of analysing social phenomena in a purely synchronic and static manner. The structuralist approach typically sees the state doing this through attending to three functions: capital accumulation, legitimation and coercion.

Class analysis emphasizes the political power of wealthy capitalists. It split into two parts: one is the power structure or instrumentalist approach, another is the structuralist approach. The power structure approach focuses on Who Rules? and its most well-known representative is G. William Domhoff. 

The structuralist approach emphasizes how the very way a capitalist economy operates only allows and encourages the state to do some things but not others. Its best known representative was Nicos Poulantzas.

Analysis of the Singapore model points to a structuralist approach and leads away from a current neoclassical ascendancy in development economics, founded ‘empirically’ in part on the Republic's success as one of the four East Asian dragons. - W. G. Huff - "What is the Singapore model of economic development?"