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The Only Viable Economy

Once upon a time the capitalist mode of production represented a great advance over all of the preceding ones, however problematical and indeed destructive this historical advance in the end turned out-and had to turn out-to be. By breaking the long prevailing but constraining direct link between human use and production, and replacing it with the commodity relation, capital opened up the dynamically unfolding possibilities of apparently irresistible expansion to which — from the standpoint of the capital system and of its willing personifications — there could be no conceivable limits. For the paradoxical and ultimately quite untenable inner determination of capital’s productive system is that its commodified products “are non-use-values for their owners and use-values for their non-owners. Consequently they must all change hands. . . . Hence commodities must be realised as values before they can be realised as use-values.” | more…

Social Structure and Forms of Consciousness, Vol. II: The Dialectic of Structure and History

Social Structure and Forms of Consciousness, Vol. II: The Dialectic of Structure and History

In The Dialectic of Structure and History, Volume Two of Social Structure and Forms of Consciousness, István Mészáros brings the comprehension of our condition and the possibility of emancipatory social action beyond the highest point reached to date. Building on the indicatory flashes of conceptual lightning in the Grundrisse and other works of Karl Marx, Mészáros sets out the relations of structure and agency, individual and society, base and superstructure, nature and history, in a dialectical totality open to the future. | more…

The Structural Crisis of Politics

would like to begin with a brief survey of the very disquieting—indeed, I should say, of worldwide threatening—developments in the field of politics and the law. In this respect I wish to underline that it was no less than twenty-three years ago that I became personally acquainted in Paraiba, Brazil with the painful circumstances of explosive food riots. Twenty years later, at the time of President Lula’s electoral campaign, I read that he had announced that the most important part of his future strategy was his determination to put an end in the country to the grave social evil of famine. The two intervening decades from the time of those dramatic food riots in Paraiba were obviously not sufficient to solve this chronic problem. And even today, I am told, the improvements are still very modest in Brazil. Moreover, the somber statistics of the United Nations constantly underline that the same problem persists, with devastating consequences, in many parts of the world. This is so despite the fact that the productive powers at the disposal of humankind today could relegate forever to the past the now totally unforgivable social failure of famine and malnutrition | more…

The Structural Crisis of Capital

The Structural Crisis of Capital

In this collection of trenchant essays and interviews, István Mészáros, the world’s preeminent Marxist philosopher and winner of the Libertador Award for Critical Thought (the Bolivar Prize) for 2008, lays bare the exploitative structure of modern capitalism. He argues with great power that the world’s economies are on a social and ecological precipice, and unless decisive radical action is taken soon to totally transform our economic system—from one based upon the blind pursuit of profit to one controlled by the workers themselves to not just satisfy our basic needs but to help each of us to develop our full potential as human beings—we will find ourselves thrust headfirst into barbarism and environmental catastrophe. | more…

Social Structure and Forms of Consciousness, Volume 1

Social Structure and Forms of Consciousness, Vol. I: The Social Determination of Method

This new work by the leading Marxian philosopher of our day is a milestone in human self-understanding. It focuses on the location where action emerges from freedom and necessity, the foundation of all social science.…Today, as never before, the investigation of the close relationship between social structure — defined by Marx as “arising from the life-process of definite individuals” — and the various forms of consciousness is particularly important. We can only perceive what is possible by first identifying the historical process that constrains consciousness itself, and therefore social action. | more…

The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time: Socialism in the Twenty First Century

The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time: Socialism in the Twenty First Century

A breakthrough in the development of socialist thought, The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time is both a companion volume to Mészáros’s seminal Beyond Capital and a major theoretical contribution in its own right. Mészáros, one of the foremost Marxist thinkers of our age, focuses on the tyranny of capital’s time imperative and the necessity of a new socialist time accountancy, and provides a strong refutation of the popular view that there is no alternative to the current neoliberal order. | more…

Cuba: The Next Forty-Five Years?

This year Cuba will be celebrating the forty-fifth anniversary of its victorious revolution: a great historic achievement. And when we bear in mind that the Cuban revolution—the long sustained action of a nation of just eleven million people—survived for forty-five years against all odds, successfully confronting the declared enmity, the U.S.-dictated international political encirclement and economic blockade, as well as the ever renewed attempts to subvert and overthrow the post-revolutionary order by the world’s most preponderant economic and military power, even this simple fact puts forcefully into relief the magnitude and the lasting significance of the ongoing Cuban intervention in the historical process of our time. We are all contemporaries to an achievement whose reverberations reach well beyond the confines of the tendentiously propagandized “American Hemisphere,” offering its hopeful message to the rest of the world | more…

Militarism and the Coming Wars

It is not for the first time in history that militarism weighs on the consciousness of the people as a nightmare. To go into detail would take far too long. However, here it should be enough to go back in history only as far as the nineteenth century when militarism, as a major instrument of policy making, came into its own, with the unfolding of modern imperialism on a global scale, in contrast to its earlier—much more limited—varieties. By the last third of the nineteenth century the British and French Empires were not the only prominent rulers of vast territories. The United States, too, made its heavy imprint by directly or indirectly taking over the former colonies of the Spanish Empire in Latin America, adding to them the bloody repression of a great liberation struggle in the Philippines and installing themselves as rulers in that area in a way which still persists in one form or another. Nor should we forget the calamities caused by “Iron Chancellor” Bismarck’s imperialist ambitions and their aggravated pursuit later on by his successors, resulting in the eruption of the First World War and its deeply antagonistic aftermath, bringing with it Hitler’s Nazi revanchism and thereby very clearly foreshadowing the Second World War itself | more…

The Challenge of Sustainable Development and the Culture of Substantive Equality

Two closely connected propositions are at the center of this intervention: If development in the future is not sustainable development, there will be no significant development at all, no matter how badly needed; only frustrated attempts to square the circle, as in the last few decades, marked by ever more elusive “modernizing” theories and practices, condescendingly prescribed for the so-called Third World by the spokesmen of former colonial powers. The corollary to this is that the pursuit of sustainable development is inseparable from the progressive realization of substantive equality. It must also be stressed in this context that the obstacles to be overcome could hardly be greater. For up to our own days the culture of substantive inequality remains dominant, despite the usually half-hearted efforts to counter the damaging impact of social inequality by instituting some mechanism of strictly formal equality in the political sphere | more…

Socialism or Barbarism: From the "American Century" to the Crossroads

Socialism or Barbarism: From the “American Century” to the Crossroads

István Mészáros’s bold new study analyzes the historical choices facing us at the outset of the new millennium. Drawing on the theoretical arguments of his monumental and widely-acclaimed Beyond Capital, Mészáros shows that the economic boom of the 1990s was built not only on the foundation of new, digital technologies but also on a new social and ethical basis. In the global quest for profit, capitalism has abandoned its claims to serve a larger historical cause. Even in the wealthiest capitalist economies, unemployment has become structural and conditions of life have become more onerous for most of the population. | more…