1st Edition

A Critical Theory of Economic Compulsion Wealth, Suffering, Negation

By Werner Bonefeld Copyright 2023

    This book explores a variety of interconnected themes central to contemporary Marxist theory and its further development as a critical social theory.

    Championing the critique of political economy as a critical theory of society and rejecting Marxian economics as a contradiction in terms, it argues instead that economic categories are perverted social categories, before identifying the sheer unrest of life - the struggle to make ends meet - as the negative content of the reified system of economic objectivity. With class struggle recognised as the negative category of the cold society of capitalist wealth, which sees in humanity a living resource for economic progress, the author contends that the critique of class society finds its rational solution in the society of human purposes, that is, the classless society of communist individuals.

    A theoretically sophisticated engagement with Marxist thought, A Critical Theory of Economic Compulsion will appeal to scholars of social and political theory with interests in critical theory and post-capitalist imaginaries.

    1 A Critical Theory of Economic Compulsion: Wealth, Suffering, Negation PART ONE Society as Process of Compulsion 2 Real Abstraction: On Capital and Class; 3 Money as Social Power: On Labour and Value; 4 World Market and Crisis: On Capital and its State PART TWO Practical Humanism and the Reason of Negation 5 Social Coldness and Practical Humanism: On Counter-Hegemony and Governmentality; 6 History and Freedom: On Social Justice and Class Society; 7 On Communism and the Philosophy of Now-Time. A Conclusion Postscript. On the necessity and impossibility of communism


    Werner Bonefeld is Professor of Politics at the University of York, UK. He is the author of Critical Theory and the Critique of Political Economy and The Strong State and the Free Economy.

    "Bonefeld's brilliant book challenges contemporary arguments about a socialist version of the labour economy.  Aligned with Marx's critique of political economy as a critical theory of society, he conceives of human emancipation as freedom from economic compulsion."

    -Ana Cecilia Dinerstein, Associate Professor Social & Policy Sciences, University of Bath, UK.


    "Bonefeld’s book is a comprehensive and relentless exposing of the untruth of economic abstractions—capital’s perverted forms that present in the world as inevitable economic necessities experienced by so many as a grinding daily emergency: ‘the sheer unrest of life to make ends meet’."

    -Beverley Best, Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Canada.


    "Bonefeld’s groundbreaking interpretation of the critique of political economy as a critical social theory ties landmark critiques of capitalist society, socialist political economy, and traditional Marxism to a vital argument for the necessity of communism as the negation of labour, class, economic objectivity, the state, social coldness, and suffering."

    -Chris O’Kane, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, USA.


    "Werner Bonefeld is the leading critical theorist of our time. This magnum opus represents a perfect introduction for those new to his unparalleled capacity to expose the everyday implications of the critique of political economy in prose that is both poetic and humane."

    -Frederick Harry Pitts, Senior Lecturer in Management, University of Bristol 


    "Things should be different" (Adorno). Bonefeld's challenging book showcases negative critique at its very best. His razor-sharp focus on the human condition subverts the economic forms for the sake of human emancipation."

    -Christos Memos, Lecturer of Sociology, Abertay University, UK


    "Werner Bonefeld’s book masterfully interweaves concepts ranging from value, capital, labour, real abstraction, and the state, to globalization. There is no other critical theorist writing today who demonstrates better than Werner Bonefeld that capitalist societyis, in his words, the "wounded subject of its own objective existence"."

    -Christian Lotz, Professor of Philosophy, Michigan State University, USA


    "A relentless critique of a world ruled by economic compulsion, a rejection of the premises of many a leftist political alternative, and a vindication of the communist promise of the concrete equality of individuals. This is Bonefeld at his most subversive and compelling. It must be read."

    -Greig Charnock, Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of Manchester, UK


    "This is good, very good. It is a provocative, rigorous and uncompromising analysis of capital as a system of social compulsion based on labour. What we need is not the emancipation of labour (the old socialist idea) but liberation from labour. A searing critique of democratic socialism and a challenge to confront "the necessity and impossibility of communism".

    -John Holloway, Professor of Sociology, Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Mexico