Beyond Leviathan – Criticism of the State



Considerations on the posthumous book of István Mészáros, newly released

With Beyond the Leviathan, István Mészáros weaves together a trilogy that finds its first contours in Marx's Theory of Alienation, gains enormous density and development in In addition to the capital and it is completed now, in this new book.

Throughout his dense intellectual production, it fell to Mészáros to develop, among so many original points present in his extremely rich work, a concept that gained more and more relevance: “capital's sociometabolic reproduction system”. Its main inspiration goes back to the Marx of The capital, considering that in the Meszarian formulation it has become decisive and vital, especially when the intention is to impede capital, whose most harmful tendencies have been accentuated greatly since the outbreak of “structural crisis of capital” – pioneering formulation elaborated by Mészáros in the late 1960s.

Through these conceptualizations (and many others that this space does not even allow to indicate), the author was able to advance in this complex formulation: the sociometabolic reproduction system of capital is structured and maintained based on a tripod – work, capital and state – which turned it into a powerful system, totalizing really totalitarian.

The conclusion of his dense analysis is caustic: the elimination of this complex gear can only be achieved through the extinction of three elements that structure the capital system. This is because, being even more powerful than the capitalism, it is not enough to delete um or same two poles of this tripod, as the sociometabolic complex ends up recomposing itself. The case of the Soviet Union, widely discussed by the author, is emblematic, and the current Chinese example is an excellent laboratory to “test” its analytical leads.

in the awarded The theory of alienation in Marx, salaried work was understood in its basic elements, which do not result from a unalterable ontological determination, but as a historical-social creation of the capital system, whose hierarchical social division consolidates the heteronomy of work in relation to capital.

Em In addition to capital, his most potent work of “almost a life”, Mészáros tied the central points of his broad reflection, presenting the connections and interrelationships present in the capital's sociometabolic reproduction system, that ended up converting it into a gear whose procedurality is imposed expansionist, hopelessly destructive and, in the limit, uncontrollable.

The complete tragedy of today's world seems to be full proof of the strength of Meszar's work. the devastation of nature, work and humanity speaks for itself. The social production, which was born with the genesis of humanity in order to meet its vital needs, is completely engulfed by the imperatives and demands of life.self-reproduction of capital, secured by the indicated tripod. And it was precisely to better understand the third pillar – the State – that Mészáros dedicated his last intellectual enterprise. In addition to Leviathan, then, bundle this monumental trilogy.

I witnessed, in countless conversations, meetings, discussions and dialogues that I had with Mészáros over almost 35 years, his first elaborations, his hand-drawn drafts, the many revisions and expansions of what would be his “last book”, as he repeated. Project interrupted with his death in October 2017, when he was still finishing the first part of his endeavor. It is worth remembering another personal note here: this project was not only his last wish, but also Donatella's, as he confided to me so many times. His lifelong companion was always his first critical reader and who, once again, was central in convincing him of the importance of undertaking, nowadays, a dense study of the State.

In order to have a dimension of the original proposal, it contemplated three parts: “The historical challenge” (three chapters); “The harsh reality” (five chapters) and “The necessary alternative” (three chapters and conclusion). Beyond the Leviathan it is basically the first part, which also includes the original plan of the work, in addition to important appendices that indicate the lineages and paths that the project intended to follow. Therefore, it should be read as a posthumous, incomplete book, which unveils a pioneering work, never carried out within Marxism, after Marx and Engels, due to its projected scope.

Mészáros took as starting point the first materialist critique of Hegel, in which Marx demonstrated that the State would never be a political form capable of overcoming the contradictions arising within civil society, but, on the contrary, the perpetuating political entity of domination. From that point on, he began to work intensely on this last work., theme whose importance he summarized as follows: “[…] a radical critique of the State, in the Marxian spirit, with its far-reaching implications for the withering away of the State itself, is a literally vital demand of our time. The State […] cannot do anything other than protect the established socio-metabolic order, defend it at all costs, regardless of the dangers to the future survival of humanity. This determination represents a mountain-sized obstacle that cannot be ignored when attempting the much-needed positive transformation of our conditions of existence.”

By writing this work, István Mészáros left us an intellectual legacy and also a life lesson entirely dedicated to the search for substantive equality, da emancipation of mankind and the urgency of socialist alternative.

One last necessary note: Beyond the Leviathan is part of a broad effort that allowed the incorporation of the István Mészáros Collection, with around 10 titles – generously donated by the author in June 2002, when, after giving a conference in the IFCH auditorium, he publicly announced the assignment (postmortem) from its library – to Unicamp. This incorporation was possible thanks to the decisive support of Fapesp, the then dean Marcelo Knobel, the employees and the researcher Murillo van der Laan, who participated in the project in all its stages.

*Ricardo Antunes is professor of sociology of work at IFCH-UNICAMP. Author, among other books, of The privilege of servitude (Boitempo).



István Meszáros. Beyond Leviathan: critique of the state. Organization: John Bellamy Foster. Translation: Nélio Schneider. São Paulo, Boitempo, 2021, 512 pages.


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