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Karl Marx penned his CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAM 125 years ago. This anniversary, however, is not the main reason to study this document. Rather, the need to seriously grapple with it today is occasioned by our desire to work out an alternative to capital. The question to be posed here is: how can we be convinced, and in turn convince others, that a new society based on a conscious collective effort to reevaluate and satisfy human needs can prevail over the current trampling of humanity and the environment at the service of the self-expansion of value?
This article argues that while the limitations of Hegel’s political reconciliation with existing reality has long been evident, the depth of Marx’s challenge to capital cannot be fully comprehended, let alone restated for today, without a re-encounter with Marx’s rootedness in and transcendence of Hegel’s concept of absolute negativity. The need to go beyond critiques of private property and the market by projecting ground for the negation of capital creates a compulsion to return to Hegel at his most ‘abstract’ level — the Absolute.
This article originally appeared in Capital & Class, No. 70, Spring 2000
This critique of Istvan Meszaros’s Beyond Capital (1995) interrogates Meszaros’s relationship to Lukács and to Hegel and Marx, while discussing the possibility of an emancipatory alternative to capitalism.