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The Magadhan State according to Kosambi was not such a State. 1 It was of course a class-State, but not of a separately formed and independently existing ruling class; it was a State in which the king and his subordinate State functionaries themselves could be said to have constituted the ruling class. It was not a prior class with pretensions to rule that brought about the Magadhan State, but the State itself that ipso facto defined the ruling class. The historical context for the emergence of such a State, the conditions for its dominance, and the methods employed by it to sustain itself in power (even as particular dynasties presiding over this State kept changing), are too well-known to need recounting here.
R. D. Kosambi’, Economic and Political Weekly, July 26, 2008. The Frontiers of Dialectical Materialism 15 53 The proposition that Marxism is necessarily ‘open-ended’ while various strands of bourgeois thought, including liberalism, are necessarily not ‘open-ended’ because of their inherent constraint in refusing to recognize the possibility of the transcendence of capitalism, and hence of having to find the resolution of all problems within the bourgeois system itself is developed at length in P.
His theory, in short, is completely sui generis not just with regard to the historical situation it depicts, but also with regard to its own total structure in depicting that situation. The question naturally arises: under what circumstances would the State bureaucracy be able to constitute itself as a ruling class? Or putting it differently, if it follows from Kosambi’s analysis that in certain historical situations, such as prevailed in the period between the 6th and the 3rd centuries BC in India, a State may come into being which does not reflect the hegemony of a pre-existing class that has been acquiring ascendancy, but whose personnel and bureaucracy itself largely constitute the ruling class, then what is the specificity of this historical situation?