The Policy Road to Socialism

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In the standard formulation, the Marxist theory of the state implies that socialism requires revolution: Reformist social policy generates capital flight and capital flight undermines reform. I show that this mechanism, while plausible, turns out to have little empirical merit. State theory correctly points to an “accumulation” function whereby capitalist states depend on revenue and must therefore worry about the reforms that undermine profitability. But this accumulation function has been overwhelmed, historically, by a more powerful “legitimation” function: Popular social expenditures in rich capitalist democracies tend to grow and only rarely decline, even during the so-called neoliberal period. This article considers both sides of this debate. First, I propose (and predict) a path to socialism by way of mushrooming social policy. And second, I argue that if revolution is the only hope for socialism, then socialism is off the table; the revolution must be betrayed.




Calnitsky, D. (2022). The Policy Road to Socialism. Critical Sociology, 48(3), 397–422.

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