Thus work which manages to confine both philosophical rigour and respect for the self-evident realities of material life is extremely welcome. This short book it is barely over a hundred pages aims to do two things: to show that Marx did not reject the idea of a human nature and also to show that he was in fact right not to do so.
On the first score, Geras succeeds completely. And it is to an extended discussion of this text that Geras devotes the first third of his book. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations.
And his argument is that the first sense does not exclude a concept of human nature in that the dependence declared by it is not complete and that therefore the character of human beings must depend on something else as well and can be due in part to stable, natural causes. Nor does the second sense carry the implications that the opponents of human nature would want to see: for the reference to a social and historical diversity in no way tells against the concept of a human nature since there is nothing in the thought to say that such diversity does not contain permanent characteristics inherent in each human being.
But the third sense above does involve the denial of a human nature and this is the reading of the Sixth Thesis that Geras is concerned to contest. More interestingly, he also shows convincingly that Marx does not depart from the view in his later writings. However, a socialist society, one founded on meeting the basic human needs of all, one that values co-operation and equality, is likely to amplify our social and altruistic drives, the better parts of our human nature.
Graham-Leigh, E. Marxism and human nature. MR Online. Outside the Whale. Human nature is neither originally evil nor originally good; it is, in origin, potential. If human nature is what men make history with, then at the same time it is human nature which they make. Nor is there only one, prescribed and determined, way of making socialist human nature; in building socialism we must discover the way, and discriminate between many alternatives, deriving the authority for our choices not from absolute historicist laws nor from reference to biblical texts but from real human needs and possibilities, disclosed in open, never-ceasing intellectual and moral debate.
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Marx’s Concept of Human Nature
Eleventh, communism destroys the distinction between private and public life and between civil society and the state. It does away with political institutions, class, private property etc. People can determine their own development free from exploitation. Twelth, communism is not an ideal state that could be invoked at any stage of history, but evolves historically out of capitalism, which itself represents the maximum of dehumanisation. Thirteenth, the proletariat, aware of their situation, consciously act to bring about communism through revolution as they represent the epitome of dehumanisation.
The interest of the proletariat and of no other class coincides with the needs of humanity as a whole. The alienation of labour has operated through history to produce the working class. The working class is the agent of the destruction of alienated labour. In his later work, Marx developed these about the nature and working of capitalism which can be briefly summarised as follows: First, capitalist accumulation is the result of exploitation of the workers by owners of capital who appropriate the surplus value of labour.
Second, capitalism contains the seed of its own demise as more capitalisation is likely to lead to less labour input and a reduced potential for capiatlist appropriation of surplus value. Third, capitalism is legitimated through bourgeois ideology which makes it appear that capitalism is both natural and in the interests of the exploited. Against Hegel, Marx does not see such reconciliation in terms of the recognition of being as a product of self-knowledge. With Feuerbach, Marx sees the reconciliation in terms of a recognition, by people, of the sources of alienation and an overcoming of the alienation.
He rejects the Young Hegelian view that negative self-knowledge will always conflict with an unresponsive world. On alienation, however, Marx disagrees with Feuerbach who argues that alienation results from the mythopoeic consciousness which makes God the concentration of human values. Marx maintains that this mythopoeic consciousness is itself the product of the alienation of labour. The division of labour is an inevitable feature of history as it is the result of technical innovation. Marx disagrees with Feuerbach that alienation is simply destructive and inhuman.
However, Marx disagrees with Hegel about the progress of human history. Hegel regards history to the present as the progressive conquest of freedom. Marx regards history to the present as a process of degredation that has reached its nadir in capitalism. For Marx the resolution is not a process of going back to a lost past but a present suffering towards the re-conquest of humanity.
For Marx, alienation means the subjugation of people by their own works which have assumed the guise of independent things. Marx identifies the commodity character of products and argues that the effect the social processes of exchange have is of regulation by factors operating independently of human will similar to natural laws. Marx asserts that alienation gives rise to private property and to political institutions.
The state creates a fictitious community due to lack of real community. Alienation can only be cured by removing the causes. It cannot be overcome by thought.
Marx is opposed to metaphysical and epistemological questions that offer the false hope of attaining some kind of absolute beyond practical reality. For Marx, thought is grounded in practical activity, it is governed by practical needs even if it is obscured by false consciousness. Communism , for Marx, is the transcendence of alienation. Communism destroys the distinction between private and public life; between civil society and the state.
Communism turns philosophy into reality, and by so doing abolishes it. Communism does not deprive people of their individuality but due to technical progress which obviates problems of physical existence allows people to be truly creative. People can determine their own development free from the enslavement of material forces and the exploitation and political pressure that goes with such enslavement.
Under communism, people can mould their own destiny. Communism is not an ideal state that could be invoked at any stage of history, but evolves historically out of capitalism which itself represents the maximum of dehumanisation. It is through the proletariat who represent the epitome of dehumanisation that a revolutionary upheaval will be invoked. The working class is the agent of the destruction of alienation. The proletariat is not a passive agent of history but achieves its destiny consciously, aware of its unique situation.
By understanding its own position the proletariat understands the world and in so doing sets about changing it. The proletariat does not simply assimilate past history as Hegel would suggest but directs attention towards a transformation of the future. Nor does it simply negate the existing order as Fichte and the Young Hegelians suggest , rather it consciously and freely acts on its historical situation, thereby combining historical necessity and freedom. The shift to communism is a long convulsive process, it is not simply the abolition of private property.
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It can only occur in a situation of advanced technical development and a world market. Kolakowski maintains that Marx developed these ideas to the last pages of Capital without departing from them. Engels, on the other hand, shifted towards a theory which subjects humanity to the general laws of nature and makes human history a particularization of those laws.here
Social Research Glossary
Engels, then, created a completely new version of Marxist philosophy. Marx's epistemological break. The notion of epistemological break derives from Lenin who had called for studies of abstract-theoretical questions that should be distinct from specific 'concrete historical' ones, although the former must spring from the historical world if it is to be conceptualised in a materialist framework.
The notion has been applied to Marx's own work, especially by Marxist structuralists who radically dispense with the theory-history harmony. They assert that Marx had argued that, in developing revolutionary praxis, one must grasp the structural relations existing in bourgeois society. He had no interest in naive historism and argued that structural relations be exposed through a process of deconstruction of ostensive relations by focusing on more fundamental units of analysis than those that appeared on the surface of social relations.
Hence Marx's deconstruction of social relations under capitalism by focusing on commodity relations and the subsequent dialectical reconstitution of the nature of capitalism. The long-running dispute about the shift or break in the development of Marx's epistemology derives from Althusser 's analysis. Althusser posits an epistemological break in Marx as a means of distinguishing Marxist science of historical materialism from ideological philosophies that claim Marx as projenitor. Althusser's aim, simply put, is to locate an 'epistemological break' in Marx's intellectual career such that those texts produced before the break can be designated works of theoretical ideology, whilst those after it are governed by the newly founded scientific problematic.
Althusser's argument is basically as follows. Marx, in the Manuscripts , adopts the Feuerbachian materialist inversion of Hegel. However, he takes it further in works from onwards, and thus critiques Feuerbach as well. In the Manuscripts , Marx applies Feuerbach's approach to the field of political economy.
Feuerbach had applied his materialist critique of Hegel to religious and philosophical ideology, inverting Hegel's view that the Absolute Spirit or consciousness is the subject of historical processes and material life a mere 'predicate' or appearance. The inversion Feuerbach proposed was that humans are the historical subject whilst conscious life or the spiritual is itself the historical evolution of matter. In , in the Theses on Feuerbach , Marx and Engels reject the essentialism of Feuerbach's approach.
In the sixth thesis they argue that Feuerbach resolves the essence of religion into the essence of man.