Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Karl Marx and Human Nature Essay Example for Free

Karl Marx and Human Nature Essay I have taken for my study one chapter from the book Marx and human nature by Norman Geras. In the second chapter Norman Geras deals with the human nature and historical materialism. Although many Marxists denied Marxs theory of human nature that there was a human nature to be found in Marxs words, there is in fact a Marxist conception of human nature which remains, to some degree, constant throughout history and across social boundaries. The sixth of the Theses on Feuerbach provided the basics for this interpretation of Marx according to which there was no eternal human nature to be found in his works. Feuerbach resolves the essence of religion into the essence of man human nature. But the essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In reality, it is the ensemble of the social relations. Feuerbach, who does not enter upon a criticism of this real essence, is hence obliged: Human nature Thus, Marx appears to say that human nature is no more than what is made by the social relations. Norman Geras Marxs Theory of Human Nature, however, offers an extremely detailed argument against this position. In outline, Geras shows that, while the social relations are held to determine the nature of people, they are not the only such determinant. In fact, Marx makes statements where he specifically refers to a human nature which is more than what is conditioned by the circumstances of ones life. In Capital, in a footnote critiquing utilitarianism, he says that ’’utilitarian’s must reckon with human nature in general, and then with human nature as modified in each historical epoch. Marx is arguing against an abstract conception of human nature, offering instead an account rooted in sensuous life. While he is quite explicit that individuals express their life, so they are. Hence what individuals are depends on the material conditions of their production, he also believes that human nature will condition (against the background of the productive forces and relations of production) the way in which individuals express their life. History involves a continuous transformation of human nature, though this does not mean that every aspect of human nature is wholly variable; what is transformed need not be wholly transformed. Marx did criticize the tendency to transform into eternal laws of nature and of reason, the social forms springing from your present mode of production and form of property, a process sometimes called reification. For this reason, he would likely have wanted to criticize certain aspects of some accounts of human nature. Human beings collectively work on nature but do not do the same work; there is a division of labor in which people not only do different jobs, but according to Marxist theory, some people live from the work of others by owning the means of production. How this is accomplished depends on the type of society. Production is carried out through very definite relations between people. And, in turn, these production relations are determined by the level and character of the productive forces that are present at any given time in history. For Marx, productive forces refer to the means of production such as the tools, instruments, technology, land, raw materials, and human knowledge and abilities in terms of using these means of production. Human nature, Marxs ethical thought and alienation Gears says of Marxs work that: Whatever else it is, theory and socio-historical explanation, and scientific as it may be, that work is a moral indictment resting on the conception of essential human needs, an ethical standpoint, in other words, in which a view of human nature is involved . Alienation, for Marx, is the estrangement of humans from aspects of their human nature. Since as we have seen human nature consists in a particular set of vital drives and tendencies, whose exercise constitutes flourishing; alienation is a condition wherein these drives and tendencies are stunted. For essential powers, alienation substitutes disempowerment for making ones own life ones object, ones life becoming an object of capital. Marx believes that alienation will be a feature of all society before communism. The opposite of, alienation is actualization or self-activity- the activity of the self, controlled by and for the self. Human nature and the expansion of the productive forces It has been held by several writers that it is Marxs conception of human nature which explains the primacy thesis concerning the expansion of the productive forces, which according to Marx, is itself the fundamental driving force of history. If true, this would make his account of human nature perhaps the most fundamental aspect of his work. Geras writes, ‘‘historical materialism itself, this whole distinctive approach to society that originates with Marx, rests squarely upon the idea of a human nature. It highlights that specific nexus of universal needs and capacities which explains the human productive process and mans organized transformation of the material environment; which process and transformation it treats in turn as the basis both of the social order and of historical change. The tendencys autonomy is just its independence of social structure, its rootedness in fundamental material facts of human nature and the human situation. Historical progress consists fundamentally in the growth of peoples abilities to shape and control the world about them. This is the most basic way in which they develop and express their human essence. Historical materialism Historical materialism started from a fundamental underlying reality of human existence: that in order for human beings to survive and continue existence from generation to generation, it is necessary for them to produce and reproduce the material requirements of life. Marx then extended this premise by asserting the importance of the fact that, in order to carry out production and exchange, people have to enter into very definite social relations, most fundamentally production relations. Norman Geras analyzed historical materialism and postulated that society has moved through a number of types or modes of production. That is, the character of the production relations is determined by the character of the productive forces; these could be the simple tools and instruments of early human existence, or the more developed machinery and technology of present age. The main modes of production Marx identified generally include primitive communism or tribal society (a prehistoric stage), ancient society, feudalism, and capitalism. In each of these social stages, people interact with nature and produce their living in different ways. Any surplus from that production is allotted in different ways. Ancient society was based on a ruling class of slave owners and a class of slaves; feudalism was based on landowners and serfs; and capitalism based on the capitalist class and the working class. The capitalist class privately owns the means of production, distribution and exchange (e. g. , factories, mines, shops and banks) while the working class live by exchanging their socialized labor with the apitalist class for wages. Marx identified the production relations of society (arising on the basis of given productive forces) as the economic base of society. He also explained that on the foundation of the economic base their arise certain political institutions, laws, customs, culture, etc. , and ideas, ways of thinking, morality, etc. These constituted the political/ideological superstructure of society. This superstructure not only has its origin in the economic base, but its features also ultimately correspond to the character and development of that economic base, i. . the way people organize society is determined by the economic base and the relations that arise from its mode of production. Historical materialism can be seen to rest on the following principles: 1. The basis of human society is how humans work on nature to produce the means of subsistence. 2. There is a division of labor into social classes (relations of production) based on property ownership where some people live from the labor of others. 3. The system of class division is dependent on the mode of production. 4.  The mode of production is based on the level of the productive forces. 5. Society moves from stage to stage when the dominant class is replaced by a new emerging class, by overthrowing the political shell that enforces the old relations of production no longer corresponding to the new productive forces. This takes place in the superstructure of society, the political arena in the form of revolution, whereby the underclass liberates the productive forces with new relations of production, and social relations, corresponding to it. Human nature and historical materialism Marxs theory of history attempts to describe the way in which humans change their environments and (in dialectical relation) their environments change them as well. That is Not only do the objective conditions change in the act of reproduction, e. g. the village becomes a town, the wilderness a cleared field etc. but the producers change, too, in that they bring out new qualities in themselves, develop themselves in production, transform themselves, develop new powers and ideas, new needs and new language. The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals. Thus the first fact to be established is the physical organization of these individuals and their consequent relation to the rest of nature. Thus History does nothing, it possesses no immense wealth, and it wages no battles. It is man, real, living man who does all that, who possesses and fights; history is not, as it were, a person apart, using man as a means to achieve its own aims; history is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims. So we can see that, even before we begin to consider the precise character of human nature, real, living humans, and the activity of man pursuing his aims is the very building block of Marxs theory of history. Humans act upon the world, changing it and themselves; and in doing so they make history. But even beyond this, human nature plays two key roles. In the first place, it is part of the explanation for the growth of the productive forces, which Marx conceives of as the driving force of history. Secondly, the particular needs and drives of humans explain the class antagonism which is generated under capitalism. Conclusion and critical remarks Here I would like to say that Marxist philosophical anthropology is one sided. Its conception of human nature and human good overlooks the need for self identity than which nothing is more essentially human. The consequence of this is held to be that Marx and his followers have underestimated the importance of phenomena, such as religion and nationalism, which satisfy the need for self identity. In the study of human nature and historical materialism, history is what is made by human beings and its nature. According to Marx human beings are working and changing the world, Marx ignored all other factors that at work in the development of history. History has been developed not only by human beings but also through various elements. Historical materialism is caused by the production of things and there by arising social relationships. Here it implies that economy is the basic structure of society that controls and develops. But it is a reductionist approach, it is impossible to reduce the basic structure as economic relations alone.

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