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True Humans MaRx

True Humans MaRx

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Encoded by Nicodeo V. Ignacio
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Chapter 10
Karl Marx¶s Theory of Human Nature
In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensableand independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society²the real basis, on which rises a legaland political superstructure, and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness.The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political, and intellectual lifeprocess in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on thecontrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.
(
 Marx,
C
ritique of PoliticalEconomy, 1859)
 The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.
(
 Marx,
Ten Theses of Feuerbach, 1845)
 
I
ntroduction
In this chapter, we examine the work of the founders of Marxism, Karl Marx and FriedrichEngels. Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) was born the son of a German industrialist who moved toManchester, England. He had considerable experience of the workings of British industry duringthe Industrial Revolution and was able to provide Marx a firsthand insight of industrial realities.Harold Laski describes the cofounder of the Marxist movement:
 Always friendly, usually optimistic, with great gifts both for practical action and for getting on withother. . . . Widely read, with a very real talent for moving rapidly through a great mass of material,he was facile rather than profound. He was utterly devoid of jealousy or vanity. He had a happy nature which never agonized over then difficulty of thought. . . . It never occurred to him, during thefriendship of forty years, marked only by one brief misunderstanding, to question his duty to serveMarx in every way he could.
Karl Marx (1818-1883) was born in Trier, Germany, into a Jewish family which had convertedto Protestantism. He was educated in
C
atholic schools and at the University of Berlin, where hestudied Hegel¶s philosophy and became a materialist. He received his doctorate from theUniversity of Jena in 1841. As a youth, Marx was a devout
C
hristian, but upon finishinggymnasium (the German high school) he became an atheist. He began his career in 1842 as a journalist for the liberal
 Rheinische
eitung
and soon distinguished himself as a brilliant andradical thinker. In 1843 he married Jenny Westphalen, the close friend of his boyhood. Laterthat year, he and Jenny moved to Paris, where he studied French
communism
and metEngels, who became his lifelong friend and benefactor. Being exiled from Paris for radicalactivities in 1849, he found political asylum in London, where he spent the rest of his life inresearch and writing in organizing the First International Workingmen¶s Association. He wasdescribed by a contemporary as follows: He combines the deepest philosophical seriousness with the most biting wit. Imagine Rousseau, Voltaire, Holbach, Lessing, Heine, and Hegel fusedinto one person²I say fused, not juxtaposed²and you have Dr. Marx.´ He made a powerful
 
impression on his contemporaries, often intimidating them with his rapier intellect and volcanicpassion for his ideas. His principal works are
 E 
conomic
a
nd 
hilosophic
a
Ma
nusc
r
ipts
 
of 
1844, Ma
nifesto
 
of 
 
the
ommunist 
Par
ty
 
(with Friedrich Engels, 1848), and
Ca
 pit 
a
 
(3 volumes: 1867,1885, 1895). As a young man, Marx wrote ³Hitherto, the various philosophies have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.´
he
ommunist 
Ma
nifesto
,
the most famous of his writings, embodies that thesis. It combines socioeconomic analysis of the class struggle witha plan of action for overthrowing the existing oppressive conditions. Marx argues that thestruggle between the classes is the essential catalyst of historical change: in earlier times, thestructure of society was a complicated arrangement of hierarchical classes, but in the presentperiod of the bourgeoisie, the social structure is developing toward a simple division of twoclasses, the ruling class, the bourgeoisie, owners of the means of production, and the proletariat,the worker-slaves. The proletariat are fast becoming self-conscious of their exploited state, andan international drama is unfolding in which they will create a violent revolution, throwing off their chains and, as new dictators, instantiating a new era of justice, an egalitarian, classlesssociety ³in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.´The attractions of Marxism is that it appeals to a set of simple theses and gives low-paid workers, the proletariat, a feeling of hope and power, a sense that history is ineluctably on theirside in the fight for justice. Perhaps the best way of understanding Marxism is to examine the basic ideas. We turn to a brief analysis of his philosophy of human nature, consisting of tentheses.
Ten Marxist Theses
1.
 H 
isto
r
ic
a
Ma
te
r
a
list 
D
ete
r
minism:
 
Like Hobbes, Schopenhauer, and Freud, whom we havealready studied, Marx believed in
determinism,
though the emphasis on historicaldeterminism rather than individual determinism. Socialism is inevitable. Insofar as Marx diddiscuss the individual, he espoused a materialist
epiphenomenalist
 view of ten mind¶sactivities. He held that ³conceiving, thinking, the mental intercourse of men, appear at the[earliest stages] as the direct efflux of their material behavior.´ Analogous to his view of themind is his epiphenomenal view of culture and consciousness. Economic factors determine theindividual consciousness, not vice versa. Necessary economic laws will lead inevitably tocommunistic economic laws, which in turn determine history. Economic determination causes adialectical process in which internal contradictions lead to the self-destruction of each stage of social history and the creation of a new economic stage²until the end of history²in the creationof the communist state. Note well that this is a one-directional and totally materialistic order.The causal process is entirely from the economic infrastructure (foundations) to the culturalsuperstructure (the walls, frame, and ceiling of the social edifice). The religion, law, morality,philosophy, and cultural artifacts are completely determined by the economic, materialist base; but they have no effect on the materialist order. Law and morality are totally relativistic, thecreation of the dominant class, and their validity is limited to the culture itself. In a capitalistsociety, morality and laws are the creation of the bourgeoisie and reflect their interests.Depending on the economic base and ruling class, morality changes its content, so what is moralin one society may well be immoral in another where the material conditions are different.
 
 
Some Marxists hold that in the final communist state, where class interest is abolished, a truemorality will arise. The argument goes as follows:1. Whatever is contained in the state of the true destiny of humanity is the true morality.2. The communist state represents the true historical destiny of humanity.3. Therefore, the communist state contains the true morality. What are we to make of this argument? It has valid form, but are its premises true? There arethree problems with it, which must be addressed before we can accept it. (
1
) Is it true that thecommunist state is the true destiny of humanity? Although Marx believed it was, it needs to beargued. Many philosophers do not believe it is the true destiny, and until we discover anargument for it, we may doubt the second premise. (
2
) Even if the second premise is true, how do we know what kind of morality it will produce? Also, even if we had some idea of thatmorality, we would not be required to live by that morality now in the time before thecommunist state. The morality for us now is that which our culture determines. (
 3
) In speakingof the true destiny of humanity, the argument seems to presuppose an essential human nature.However, Marx denied that we have an essential human nature. He wrote ³All history is but acontinuous transformation of human nature.´ Perhaps Marx is wrong about there not being acommon basic human nature, but if there isn¶t, we cannot make sense of a true historical destiny of humanity.The determinism thesis has the virtue of appearing to make the goal of communism asinevitable as the physical laws of nature. Its liability is that the same logic would seem to entailthat we do not have free will and that we are pawns in history¶s dialectical struggle.2.
Or
g
a
nicism:
 
For Marx, as for Rousseau (see chapter 7), individuality is subordinate to theorganic whole. ³Man is a species being. . . . Individuals are dealt with only in sofar as they arepersonifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class relations and classinterests.´ Individuals are replaceable. The material forces of history are inexorable, moving likea torrenton its predetermined path. If individuals get in the way, they must be sacrificed to thegrander forces for the good of the whole. Marxists have prided themselves of their willingness todie for their cause, confident that history would confirm the allegiance. They have also been willto kill in the name of Marx, as witnessed by the Stalinist purges in the 1930s and Mao Tse Tung¶sruthless elimination of political enemies. The idea of human rights is a bourgeois fetish. As acollective group, it is the class that is preeminent.3.
a
ss
r
uggle:
 
The driving determinist force in history is that of class struggle. Peopleidentify primarily with their socioeconomic class (not race, gender, or religion), and each class isantagonistic toward the others. Marx divided the history of humankind into five separateepochs: (
1
) the primitive communal society, (
2
) the slave society, (
 3
) the feudal society, (
4
) thecapitalist society, and, still to come, (
 5 
) the communist society. He argued that each of the firstfour phases has inner contradictions, or antagonisms, that lead to the next phase of history. Aslords struggled against the bourgeoisie in feudalism, the bourgeoisie is presently pitted againstthe proletariat in capitalism. We see this point in the opening lines of 
 Ma
nifesto
 
of 
 
the
ommunist 
Par
ty
,
in the sectionentitled ³Bourgeois and Proletarians.´

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