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Marx’s Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism
Peter HUDIS — Historical Materialism Books — n° 36
[2 July 2013] : by eric

Editor’s note :

In contrast to the traditional view that Marx’s work is restricted to a critique of capitalism and does not contain a detailed or coherent conception of its alternative, this book shows, through an analysis of his published and unpublished writings, that Marx was committed to a specific concept of a post-capitalist society that informed his critique of value production, alienated labor and capitalist accumulation. Instead of focusing on the present with only a passing reference to the future, Marx’s emphasis on capitalism’s tendency towards dissolution is rooted in a specific conception of what should replace it. In critically re-examining that conception, this book addresses the quest for an alternative to capitalism that has taken on increased importance today.

The author :

Peter Hudis, Ph.D. (2011) in Philosophy, Loyola University Chicago, is Professor of Humanities and Philosophy, Oakton Community College. He has published extensively on Marxist theory and is General Editor of The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg.

Table of contents :

-  Acknowledgements

-  Introduction: Why Explore Marx’s Concept of the Transcendence of Value Production? Why Now?

  • The object and purpose of this study
  • Objectivist and subjectivist approaches to Marx’s philosophical contribution

-  1. The Transcendence of Alienation in the Writings of the Young Marx

  • Marx’s beginnings, 1837-41
  • Marx’s critique of politics and philosophy, 1842-3
  • Marx’s critique of economics and philosophy, 1843-4
  • Discerning the ideal within the real, 1845-8
  • Evaluating the young Marx’s concept of a postcapitalist society

-  2. The Conception of a Postcapitalist Society in the Drafts of Capital

  • The ‘first draft’ of Capital: The Poverty of Philosophy (1847)
  • The ‘second draft’ of Capital: the Grundrisse (1858)
  • The ‘third draft’ of Capital: the manuscript of 1861-3

-  3. The Vision o the New Society in Marx’s Capital

  • Volume I of Capital
  • Volumes II and III of Capital

-  4. Marx’s Late Writings on Postcapitalist Society

  • The impact of the Paris Commune on Marx
  • The Critique of the Gotha Programme and ‘Notes on Wagner’

-  Conclusion: Evaluating Marx’s Concept of a Postcapitalist Society

-  Appendix

  • Translation of Marx’s Excerpt-Notes on the Chapter ’Absolute Knowledge’ in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit

-  References
-  Index

Introduction (extracts):

Two decades after the collapse of statist Communism in the USSR and East Europe, which many claimed had consigned Marx’s work to the dustbin of history, a new climate has emerged in which his ideas are subject to renewed philosophical discussion and re-examination. This change is due, in part, to the phenomenon of capitalist globalization, which has sparked interest in Marx’s analysis of the inherently expansionary and global nature of capital, which he defined as “self-expanding value.” It is also due to the emergence of a global justice movement over the past two decades, which has called attention to the economic inequality, social instability and environmental destruction that have accompanied the global expansion of capitalism. Most of all, the new climate of discussion on Marx’s work is due to the worldwide financial and economic crisis that began in 2008, the most serious to afflict the global economy in the past seventy years. The crisis has not only revealed the deep fault-lines that prevent capitalism from supplying the most basic of human needs for hundred of millions of people worldwide; it has also make it clear that the system has little to offer humanity except years and indeed decades of economic austerity, reductions in public services, and eroding living conditions. Capitalism has clearly exhausted its historic initiative and raison d’être when all it can offer the future of humanity are social and natural conditions that are bound to become worse that those afflicting us today.

As a result of these and related developments, a number of new works on Marx have appeared, many of which explore hitherto neglected aspects of his thought-such as his writings on the world market, economic crisis, race and gender, non-Western societies, and the philosophical underpinning of his analysis of the logic of capital. These studies have appeared while a new edition of Marx’s complete works, the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe (known as MEGA2), is being issued by an international team of scholars coordinated from Berlin. MEGA2 will make Marx’s entire body of work available for scholarly analysis, in 114 volumes. It provides us with a new vantage-point for exploring Marx’s work unencumbered by the partisan affiliations and polemical battles that have governed generations of earlier discussions of Marx’s philosophical contribution.


Despite the voluminous literature on Marx, there have been surprisingly few attemps to examine his body of thought as a whole in terms of what it suggests about a future, postcapitalist society. It does not seem possible to fully evaluate the contributions or limitations of Marx’s legacy in the absence of such an investigation. I will seek to fill this gap by exploring Marx’s concept of the transcendence of value production through an examination of his body of work, as found in his major published as well as unpublished ones that are now being compiled as part of the MEGA2 project.

This does not pretend to be a comprehensive study of Marx. Nor does it attempt to put forwards a specific model of a post-capitalist society. Although I consider efforts to produce the latter to be of great importance, I have a more modest aim: to survey Marx’s work with one aim: to see what implicit or explicit indications it contains about a future, non alienating-society.

(p. 1-2, 5)

242 pages. Two editions available :

-  Hardback: Brill Academic Publishers, The Netherlands, Leiden-Boston, 2012, ISBN: 978-9004167711 ;

-  Paperback: Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2013, ISBN: 978-1-60846-275-9 ;