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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.

The failure of capitalism’s historical mission is most evident in the end of the project of “Third World modernization” so essential to the claims of U.S. global power to represent an advance on old-style imperialism. Mészáros develops an illuminating analysis of the roots and tensions of the politics of U.S. global power from the time of Roosevelt’s “Open Door” policy to the present. Against this historical background, he examines the dilemmas which will be faced in the making of U.S. foreign policy towards China—the largest and most rapidly-expanding national market in the global economy and newly-emerging rival to U.S. global dominance. Mészáros shows how this process is rooted in the historical logic of contemporary capitalism, and is neither accidental nor temporary. In the process, he gives new meaning and urgency to the alternatives posed by Rosa Luxemburg at the beginning of the twentieth century: socialism or barbarism.

Mészáros also explores the conditions for the emergence of a radical alternative to capitalism, arguing that a critical re-examination of earlier movements and struggles is an essential task for the emergence of such an alternative. As a sequel to his essay, an extended interview deals more reflectively with the main categories underlying his analysis and relates it to developments within modern society.


  • Foreword
  • Part I. Socialism or Barbarism: From the “American Century” to the Crossroads
    1. Capital: The Living Contradiction
    2. The Potentially Deadliest Phase of Imperialism
    3. Historical Challenges Facing the Socialist Movement
    4. Conclusion
  • Part II. An Interview with István Mészáros: Marxism, the Capital System and Social Revolution
  • Notes
  • Index

István Mészáros is one of the foremost Marxist intellectuals working today. He is professor emeritus at the University of Sussex, where he held the chair of Philosophy for fifteen years. His books include Marx’s Theory of Alienation for which he was awarded the Isaac Deutscher Prize, The Work of Sartre: Search for Freedom; The Power of Ideology; and Beyond Capital.

SKU: mrp0521 Categories: ,

Publication Date: May 2001

Number of Pages: 128

Paperback ISBN: 9781583670521