Poulantzas, N. (1969) 'The Problem of the Capitalist State' in New Left Review, 58.
Miliband offers a direct empirical attack on the concept of the state in bourgeois thought ( in his book The State in Capitalist Society) [roughly, he argues that the state cannot reform capitalism because it remains as an organ of class rule, captured and dominated by the ruling class]. However, because the attack is 'empirical' [with lots of data about the common social class origins of Cabinet ministers and the like], it lacks a theoretical attack on bourgeois thought. As an example, Miliband attacks pluralism by showing that there is in fact a unified elite running the state, but this offers no critique of the ideological notion of an elite and therefore misses a chance to understand a concrete reality of fractions and how they achieve unity in a power bloc. State apparatuses are required in such an analysis, but Miliband offers instead a humanist argument based on notions of coalitions of actual human subjects. Subjects simply vector social relations.
In more detail:
(a) Miliband attacks the idea of a managerial revolution by showing there is no split between owners and managers at the level of individuals, whose motivations are similar. However, it is not really a question of motivation, but more one of objective places in the system of production. The managerial revolution is a mistake because formal economic power is only superintended by managers. Miliband describes managers as an elite, but it is really a question of seeing how different fractions of capital relate to each other.
(b) Miliband says that State bureaucracy cannot restrain capital, because members of state bureaucracies and private enterprises have similar social origins reinforced by kinship ties and so on. Again, though, it is the objective relation that counts, the function of that state bureaucracy. If this function coincides with social interests, it is because of an underlying system, it is an effect rather than a cause. Miliband ignores the functions of the state, but these proceed no matter how members are actually recruited: sometimes functions work best when members of the state bureaucracy are not the same as members of the ruling class. The real problem of bureaucracy is that it is a state apparatus, a social category rather than a class, unified not by class origins of members but by its objective function. Bureaucracy is relatively autonomous.
(c) The different branches of the state and state apparatuses relates not through common social origins of members and the cohesiveness of elites. State apparatuses are relatively autonomous too, and achieve specific forms of unity through modes of the relations of production and the class system -- hence different types of state.
(d) The present form of the capitalist state arises because the social relations uniting the elites are now more rigid, according to Miliband. However, this is too descriptive, and too close to 'stamocap' versions [where the state literally merges with monopoly capital -- for some marxists, this lay behind the hope for a new kind of politics, uniting all those who found themselves outside this merger. The idea still lies behind a lot of the interest in 'new social movements' as the way forward].
(e) Ideology is very important, especially after the events of 1968, and there is a crucial role for ideological apparatuses, which Miliband ignores. Gramsci realised this, but Althusser was closer in his view that ideologies are embedded in institutions, which take on an extended meaning in the modern state. The state operates through Repressive State Apparatuses and Ideological State Apparatuses. Ideology is best understood as a state apparatus because: (1) it maintains the cohesion of the state; (2) the state acts to secure the conditions for other ideological apparatuses, which it both backs up and determines; (3) any change in the state needs to considerable changes in other ideological apparatuses; (4) any revolutionary hero or movement which managed to break with the state, necessarily also broke with its ideological apparatuses.
on to Miliband's reply