B0ycey wrote:Fantastic analysis as always Wellsy. Just a few points I would like to address though.
Thank you, I did try to reflect on what you wrote for some days before trying to compose my thoughts in writing when I could find the time. Takes time for me to find the actual idea/point I want to make after sifting through reading material. I'm sorry I rushed this one so there's a lot of reading material I haven't sift through but some of it is just to give different perspective to same idea so don't really have to read all of it, it's there at your leisure to help with some of the ideas I'm making. This post was a lost faster than my last one so less editted, organized it last night and a little this morning. But perhaps if continue I'll be able to look back at the posts and clarify it more later.
As pointed out in the OP, the Amish was around before the Communists Manifesto. So whatever they have created for themselves, it is fair to say they did so without aspiration. But I don't believe they ran away from Capitalism. It just was part of their method to be in isolation so it happens to be a by product for them to not be heavily influenced by it. And perhaps that is how they have maintained their way of life without much change over the years. Also, and I am sure VS will no doubt disagree, but when you listen to the words of Jesus from the Bible, the ethical teachings of Christianity is essentially Communism in many areas. And this explains how the Amish have created what could be argued as Communism without any aspiration to do so.
Aspire was perhaps the wrong word, but my thought was that you’re saying that what they’re wanted to and did create is similar to communism based on their realization of anabaptist teachings. So they aspired to something similar to communism as a consequence.
My comment on running away from communism is in regards to the Marxist conception of communism being global and challenge global capitalism, presumably doing away with the dominance of exchange value. That they also avoided some technological advancements which are seen as part of the precondition for an abundance necessary for mankind's emancipation of certain necessities of labor as opposed to trying to retain the older methods.
But you’re right that it’s not so much they ran away as that they are isolationist in nature and just happened to exist away from typical expansionist influence of capital. Until now of course, with my previous examples of population growth forcing their hand into non-agricultural trades/businesses and opening up to wage labor and tourism (commodifying their cultural niche). That they have a division of labor that is increasingly specialized.
This is the thing. Until this thread I never once considered that dialectial materialism would hinder any possibility for Communism. But the evidence suggests so. Any attempt to create or change a culture to form a Communist state always turns into fascism or a dictatorship - where the power is no longer retained for the worker but instead focused on enhancing the state at the expense of the worker - as humans are by nature selfish. But even without any human intervention all we are seeing is more Capitalism not less. Why? Greed. So in order to create Communism you need an ethical code which everyone agrees to that is by definition Communism. Religion is one way to do this. If you fear the wrath of God you will adhere to anything. And if the Superstructure is fixed society cannot evolve into selfishness and fascism cannot form. And that is why the Amish was successful in their ideology and it continues be so and the Russian revolution changed from a Soviets revolt to a project to create a superstate at the expense of the people who revolted in the first place in a few years.
This quote reminds me of something TheImmortalGoon went on about lots in threads on here in regards to the DeLeon-Connolly debate about culture preceding an economic base. Where it seemed to me Connolly was focused on the economic conditions needing to change prior to the possibility of what a communist life would be life.
Again, when touring this country in 1902, I met in Indianapolis an esteemed comrade who almost lost his temper with me because I expressed my belief in monogamic marriage, and because I said, as I still hold, that the tendency of civilisation is towards its perfection and completion, instead of towards its destruction. My comrade’s views, especially since the publication in The People of Bebel’s Women , are held by a very large number of members, but I hold, nevertheless, that they are wrong, and, furthermore, that such works and such publications are an excrescence upon the movement. The abolition of the capitalist system will, undoubtedly, solve the economic side of the Woman Question, but it will solve that alone. The question of marriage, of divorce, of paternity, of the equality of woman with man are physical and sexual questions, or questions of temperamental affiliation as in marriage, and were we living in a Socialist Republic would still be hotly contested as they are to-day. One great element of disagreement would be removed – the economic – but men and women would still be unfaithful to their vows, and questions of the intellectual equality of the sexes would still be as much in dispute as they are today, even although economic equality would be assured. To take a case in point: Suppose a man and woman married. The man after a few years ceases to love the woman, his wife, and loves another. But his wife's love for him has only increased with the passage of years, and she has borne him children. He wishes to leave her and consort with his new love. Will the fact that her economic future is secured be any solace to the deserted mother or to her children? Decidedly not! It is, a human and sexual problem, not an economic problem at all. Unjust economic conditions aggravate the evil, but do not create it.
The above in the context of sexual relations once socialism is achieved, some were theorizing what it’d be like prior to existing and I imagine from Connolly’s perspective considered utopianist in their fantasizing. Which is just a point that no one knows exactly what life would be like under communism specifically.
I’ve been trying to understand Marx’s supposed ethics and also wondering what ethics is likely to emerge from a working class movement and how.
In regards to Marx, his ethics is like Hegel’s apparently where there is an Aristotlean emphasis with a historical twist.
Just as Aristotle sought to base his ethics on a model of human essence, Hegel insisted that ethics must start from a model of “what human beings are”. It is only when they are so grounded that it is possible to say “that some modes of life are suited to our nature, whereas others are not”.39 He followed Aristotle in assuming that the goal of life is self-realisation, but he broke with him by arguing that it is only by way of freedom that this is possible. Whereas Aristotle insisted that happiness is the end of life, Hegel believed with Kant that the end of life was freedom.40 But unlike Kant, who counterposed freedom to necessity, he insisted that to act freely was to act in accordance with necessity.41 He thus criticised “Kant for seeing dichotomies in the self between freedom and nature…where he ought to have seen freedom as actualising nature”.42 Moreover, he believed that moral laws, far from being universal in some transhistoric sense, are in fact only intelligible “in the context of a particular community”, and can be universalised only to the extent that “communities grow and consolidate into an international community”.43http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/10867/1/VWills_ETD_2011.pdf
Hegel thus provided a social content to the concept of freedom by relating it to the movement of “a living social whole”.44 In so doing, he simultaneously worked a dramatic change on Aristotle’s concept of happiness. For if human nature evolves with the cultural evolution of communities then so too does the meaning of self-realisation. His ethics is therefore best understood as a form of “dialectical or historicised naturalism”.45 It was this historical understanding of human nature that provided Marx with the basis from which he went beyond existing materialist (Hobbesian) and idealist (Kantian) models of agency.
For Marx, ethics are derived in the first place from an understanding of what human beings are, but there is no reason to think that what human beings are is simply static or eternal. If that were the case, it would actually be very difficult to make sense of the charge of ahistoricism that Marx levels against other moral theories. In fact it is precisely because human social being is constantly changing and developing, that the fact of the matter about what is good or bad for human beings at various historical stages changes and develops as well. For Marx, morality is essentially historical. It is historical in (at least) two important senses. The first is that the validity of specific moral commands and specific moral theories depends, not on some set of eternal moral truths, but rather on human social development and the question of which things will promote human development at a particular point in human history.https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch07.htm
Morality is also historical in the sense that morality is a social product that has arisen at a particular stage in human history and, Marx predicts, will also pass away when the gap between human existence as it is and human existence as it ought to be is closed. In a fully developed communist society, Marx argues, the social contradictions which create the basis for morality and for other ideological forms of thought such as politics will be abolished. Not only are particular moral precepts contingent and historical, but morality as such is a historical and transitory phenomenon that can pass out of existence.
Marx does not think that what is moral in a given society at a given historical stage is simply whatever counts as moral according to the dominant moral theory of the time. Rather, an action, principle, state of affairs, or other object of moral judgement is morally good if it contributes to further human development and to the greater conscious control of human beings over their own existence (and morally bad if it inhibits these). In this way, morality for Marx accommodates both the fact that human beings have an essential nature as social beings who produce their own existence through labor, and the fact that this essence is expressed in different ways in different circumstances. Therefore, the fact of the matter about what promotes human development, the expression of human essence, and the abolition of alienation, is different in different historical settings.
In the Grundrisse, we find the clearest description of what I have referred to previously in this study as “human flourishing,” which forms the basis of Marx's ethics. In keeping with the terminology Marx uses in the Grundrisse and Capital, we can now speak of this concept using the phrase, “rich individuality.”
In evaluating specific moral questions, Marx evaluates a whole host of concrete historical factors to reach a conclusion about whether a particular action, principle, movement, etc., is such as to promote or inhibit the realization of human nature and the development of what he calls “rich individuals,” human beings for whom the exercise, development, and expansion of their own capacities is their greatest need, and for whom labor has been transformed from drudgery into “life's prime want.” And so morality, according to Marx, is not mere abstract moralizing, but a scientific analysis of which things are most likely to promote the development of human beings. The morality he develops is thoroughly historical, and so the specific fact of the matter about whether an action or a state of affairs is moral or immoral can be different in different historical situations. However, on Marx's view it is possible to say with a very reasonable degree of accuracy which things are actually likely to promote the development of the “rich individuality” of human beings, and which things are not. This allows Marx to claim an objectivity for the moral judgements that he makes.
We therefore reject every attempt to impose on us any moral dogma whatsoever as an eternal, ultimate and for ever immutable ethical law on the pretext that the moral world, too, has its permanent principles which stand above history and the differences between nations. We maintain on the contrary that all moral theories have been hitherto the product, in the last analysis, of the economic conditions of society obtaining at the time. And as society has hitherto moved in class antagonisms, morality has always been class morality; it has either justified the domination and the interests of the ruling class, or ever since the oppressed class became powerful enough, it has represented its indignation against this domination and the future interests of the oppressed. That in this process there has on the whole been progress in morality, as in all other branches of human knowledge, no one will doubt. But we have not yet passed beyond class morality. A really human morality which stands above class antagonisms and above any recollection of them becomes possible only at a stage of society which has not only overcome class antagonisms but has even forgotten them in practical life. And now one can gauge Herr Dühring’s presumption in advancing his claim, from the midst of the old class society and on the eve of a social revolution, to impose on the future classless society an eternal morality independent of time and changes in reality. Even assuming — what we do not know up to now — that he understands the structure of the society of the future at least in its main outlines.
This is where what movement of people harbors the general interest of humanity as a whole has a superior morality in opposing the fetters on human potential ie alienation of Capitalism and the poverty it reduces most people not just materially but in terms of human culture.
Something that has been catching my eye for a modern workers movement other than the concept of solidarity where one helps others on their terms rather than imposes one’s own sort of help (ie charity) has been based in the decision making process that makes a group of people a subject.
So when I cited
What We do is decided by you and me.
Let us suppose that we have an abstract Notion: collaborate while respecting the different norms and values of the others; arrive at joint decisions through consensus decision-making and keep our promises. I sum up this relation with the maxim: “What we do is decided by you and me.”
What do we do about the fact that millions of people do not share the common objective and some people, the most powerful, actively oppose the shared objective? The millions of people who are not political radicals, not professional agitators with strange pre-occupations remote from everyday life? The point is, that this problem of the ethic of collaboration, which arises in concrete form in alliance politics, is universalisable to society at large.
I think it has appeal in part based on this analysis of Greek states as independent subjects interacting with one another, with Amphictony as the exemplar of what is sustainable in getting people of such differences to maintain activity towards the same goal as the value is placed in a thing rather than an alliance of shared interest.https://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/works/amphictony.htm
The remarkable success of the amphictonies must cause us to reflect on their significance for our own times. The establishment of an amphictony recognises that the relevant subjects do not intend to make an alliance or union, but are prepared to deal with each other as moral equals and make common sacrifices in order to protect and maintain something of common value to them all, and are prepared to continue doing that even when at war with one another. Participation in an amphictony in no way sacrificed the sovereignty of the participating states, since maintenance and protection of the sacred site was the only responsibility of the amphictony, even though that duty could have profound repercussions for any state.
The inclusion in the scope of an amphictony of the inviolability of water sources gives us a clue as to what a modern amphictony would mean. It is the institutionalisation of the recognition by subjects, that there is something which transcends them and whatever may separate them. The nearest thing to a modern amphictony would be a league of independent sovereign subjects which accepted the responsibility to protect the environment or a particular feature of the environment relevant to them.
Amphictony provides for bonds with other subjects with whom we would not form an alliance or even make a peace, but which is in many senses stronger and more long-lasting than an alliance. An amphictony can be exceptionally long-lasting because the object to be protected defines its continuity, rather than the parties.
An amphictony differs from a hegemony because the controlling entity (on one hand the hegemon, on the other the sacred site) is outside, and it is not a subject. Amphicton, the mythical founder of the Great Amphictonic League was born of the soil of the sacred site. The maintenance of shared festivals (like May Day) and institutions (the unions) are possible examples, but above all of course, protection of the environment, create opportunities for the establishment of amphictonies.
At a deeper level, what the amphictony represents is the collaboration of mutually sovereign and independent subjects in a common project, itself a sovereign and independent project outside or above the life of each participating subject. The shared religious rituals and beliefs of the Greek people provided this opportunity, just as do shared religious beliefs and institutions today, though it is stewardship of the environment which is more paradigmatically modern.
This I see as the basis for modern movements where we see in anti-capitalist events since seattle 1999 have been disparate and without a guiding ideal to be subjects/self conscious movements.
And it is projects that actually allow possibly, a scientific approach to the relationship between an individual person and the whole (I’m suspecting it does away with the structure vs agency dichtomony).https://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/pdfs/An_interdisciplinary_concept_of_activity.pdf
It is suggested that if Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) is to fulfil its potential as an approach to cultural and historical science in general, then an interdisciplinary concept of activity is needed. Such a concept of activity would provide a common foundation for all the human sciences, underpinning concepts of, for example, state and social movement equally as, for example, learning and personality. For this is needed a clear conception of the ‘unit of analysis’ of activity, i.e., of what constitutes ‘an activity’, and a clear distinction between the unit of analysis and the substance, i.e., ultimate reality underlying all the human sciences: artifactmediated joint activity.
It is claimed that the concept of ‘project collaboration’ – the interaction between two or more persons in pursuit of a common objective – forms such a unit of activity, the single ‘molecule’ in terms of which both sociological and psychological phenomena can be theorised. It is suggested that such a clarification of the notion of activity allows us to see how individual actions and societal activities mutually constitute one another and are each construed in the light of the other.
Ethics and Collaboration
Invariably any scientific project carries within it a commitment to certain ethical norms and concepts. Liberal economic theory bases itself on a conception of individual, rational agents which also forms the foundation of liberal ethics, for example, and discourse analysis must presume that participants ought to persuade one another with rational argument, even while knowing they don’t. A human science which does not make its ethical commitments explicit is only deceiving itself.
The notion of collaboration not only provides a starting point for science, but is also normative, in the sense that when subjects work together, then they ought to share control over the project and share in its rewards, and in general they expect to, even if they don’t. Collaboration thus provides a reference point for ethics. For example, if a group of people work together to complete a difficult journey, then each will expect to have a say on the chosen route and bear an equal share of privations, and so on. ...
So whilst can’t know exactly what the real existing movement that overturns capitalism may be, one can look to present conditions and see tendencies and limits, offer ideas of what gives a sensible route to what it could or even must look like to be embryonic of norms of future society. But part of that task is largely resolved in people’s negotiation of their problems with methods of organizing. The superstructure that is to develop is to be based in the organized movements although how fixed it is, will be negotiated just as the Amish are trying to negotiate the influence of Markets on them currently. One must adapt to the real world, not in an opportunist way but not to fetishize abstract principles and end up in a kind of dogmatism but something which can be rationally argue for.https://www.marxists.org/archive/ilyenkov/works/articles/humanism-science.htm
In order to resolve the problem of uniting high moral standards with a maximum of the scientific spirit, the problem must first of all be viewed in all of the acuity and dialectical complexity which it has acquired in the difficult and tumultuous time we live in. A simple algebraic solution will not do. The problem of the relationship between morality and the scientific spirit has been resolved only in the most general fashion by Marxist philosophy. In concrete situations, on the other hand, it will occur again and again in the foreseeable future; each time it will have a new and unexpected twist. Therefore there can be no simple or ready-made solution for each individual occurrence of the conflict between the “mind” and the “conscience.”
There can be no simple prescription or mathematical formula capable of meeting every occasion. If you run into a conflict of this nature, do not assume that in each instance “science” is correct and “conscience” rubbish, or at best a fairy tale for children. The opposite is no closer to the truth, namely that “moral sentiment” is always correct, that science, if it runs into conflict with the former is the heartless and brutal “devil” of Ivan Karamazov, engendering types like Smerdyakov. Only through a concrete examination of the causes of the conflict itself may we find a dialectical resolution, that is to say, the wisest and the most humane solution. Only thus may we find, to phrase it in current jargon, the “optimal variant” of correspondence between the demands of the intellect and of the conscience.
To be sure finding a concrete, dialectical unity between the principles of mind and conscience in each instance is not an easy matter. Unfortunately there is no magic wand, there is no simple algorithm, either of a “scientific” or a “moral” nature.
In regards to selfishness, I take it that Marx is appealing as he seeks to give reason why people’s self interest is linked to that of humanity in general in overturning capitalism
In capitalist society, the interests of individuals regularly conflict with one another and with society as a whole. Any attempt to pursue social goods within a capitalist society must therefore involve limitations on the capacity of individuals to pursue their self-interest. (The particulars of what limitations ought to be placed and how they ought to be enforced is the stuff that mainstream political philosophy is made of.)
Marx argues that this conflict and competition among individuals is an artifact of the specific features of class society, and not a necessary and ineliminable feature of human social interaction. His argument is not that the interests of individuals must be set aside while persons altruistically pursue “the common good,” but rather that for the vast majority of people, their material interests point to the need for an economic system in which society's productive capacity is organized and implemented for the benefit of human beings, and points away from the capitalist system that heads into ever-deepening crises, constantly plunging new layers of individual persons into dehumanizing poverty and despair. Capitalist society is so very far from valuing and meeting the needs of individual human beings that while “individualism” as a credo or buzzword holds great ideological sway, a mix of economic, political, and environmental crises present a very real ontic threat to the continued existence and development of concrete, empirical, individual human beings.
Marx distances himself from the issuance of moral injunctions as a way, in and of itself, to close the gap between what “is” and what “ought” to be. Because scientific communism is not opposed to the needs of individuals, but rather is theorized as a means of recognizing and satisfying those needs, and because it identifies as the revolutionary class the class that, because of its position in production, is already brought into conflict with the forces of capitalism through its struggle for its own continued existence, it does not share the same difficulties as “true” or utopian socialism when it comes to the question of rational motivation. This further informs Marx's hostility to calls for sacrifice. Calls for sacrifice become necessary for a political theory when the link between rational self-interest and the prescribed ends can no longer be demonstrated through reason.
A particularly important piece of evidence in their case against Kriege is Kriege's enthusiastic promotion of self-sacrifice as a value for communists (“Circular Against Kriege”, MECW 6:45). Instead of arguing for the coincidence of every person's self-interest with the interest of humanity, Kriege posits a moral sacrifice of setting one's own interests aside for the good of “others” who will benefit from a transition to socialism. This notion of sacrifice, of setting one's own interests aside, is totally at odds with Marxism, which argues that all human beings have an objective interest in the realization of a communist society. Kriege argues for communism not as an answer to the problems that are facing human beings, but rather as a moral imperative to be realized out of a sense of one's duty to humanity. It does precisely what, as we saw in the previous chapter, critics such as Max Stirner accused communism of doing—it posits “the common good,” or “humanity” as an abstraction that demands sacrifices from real, concrete, human individuals, and thereby only replicates alienation in a different form, rather than abolishing it.
Marx and Engels accuse Kriege of misrepresenting communism as “a religion of love” (“Circular Against Kriege”, MECW 6:46), rather than presenting it as a science of human progress and development, because to follow Kriege's reasoning would be essentially to take up a religious attitude towards humanity as a new god rendered into pseudo-materialist terms. We do not “belong to mankind,” to which we must constantly sacrifice our individual self-interest. One should be “worried about oneself”--it is in fact this concern with oneself and one's own circumstances that can be linked together with an argument for rational social control over society's resources. There is no need for a moral leap across some perceived gap between one's self-interest and the general interest of society.
Marx and Engels are quite clear in separating their own theory from Kriege's moralistic grandstanding. The point of communism is not for people to stop “worrying about themselves.” Although Marx does not refer to “alienation” here, his comments here on sacrifice relate directly to the problem of alienation. To sacrifice oneself, after all, is to alienate oneself from oneself, to give oneself over to a being that is separate, for the satisfaction of aims that are considered more important than one's own. Marx does not think human progress can be aided by human beings denying themselves, but rather, by human beings seeking their satisfaction and fulfillment. So what Kriege presents is not communist practice, but rather, as Marx and Engels call it, “a religion of love,” an irrational and emotionalist call to self-alienation. Without a material link between self-interest and the general interest, Kriege retreats to an irrational appeal to emotion to make individuals do what is necessary for “society,” an entity whose interests are imagined to be opposed to their own.
Sacrifice appears in Marx's work as an important theme as early as The Holy Family, and shows up again in his polemic against Max Stirner which makes up the bulk of The German Ideology. There, Marx responds to Stirner's charge that communism is a so-called “good cause,” requiring human beings to sacrifice for a “greater good”. Marx argues that far from requiring individuals to engage in sacrifice or altruism, his theory of communism is based on the needs and interests of people, and seeks to develop, confirm, and realize human individuals, not to promote sacrifice and self-renunciation.
I wonder what you think the concept of greed explains as I don’t think it suffices for a rational explanation of behaviour under capitalism. What appears as greed is itself often reflection of one’s relations to the world and how they feel they must navigate it.
I take issue with greed as it seems to much of an individual and psychological force. If abstracted as the cause of things as something innate in humanity with people not considered in regards to the real existing world, one does not end up with a sensible explanation of things.
Because modern bourgeois theory traces a path of causality from the isolated individual to the social it finds all of the categories of modern capitalist society present in the individual. This is an abstract individual with no specific social context. Bohm-Bawerk’s examples are a man sitting by a stream of water, a traveler in the desert, a colonist alone in the primeval forest, etc. In order to deduce the laws of capital from such an absurdist starting point the laws of capital must already exist in the mentality and actions of these individuals. Thus any choice our desert traveler makes is a utility maximization which produces a subjective profit!https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01a.htm
Bukharin rightly points out the absurdity of such a starting point since the isolated individual is the not a historical precursor to society and hence, any theoretical abstraction of the isolated individual will naturally just read modern categories into his/her mentality. In reality individual choices and actions always are conditioned by pre-existing conditions.
The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their activity. These premises can thus be verified in a purely empirical way.http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/10867/1/VWills_ETD_2011.pdf
Marx's second argument against Kantian morality is that its focus on the free will belies the extent to which the will is itself determined by material conditions and material interests. The abstraction of the “free will” is illegitimate according to Marx because it attempts to prize apart the intellectual life of individuals from their economic, social, and historical context. A person with a will that is “wholly independent of foreign causes determining it,” to adopt Kant's phrase, simply does not exist in reality, and therefore such a subject makes a rather poor starting point for moral theory. (Later, in 1853, Marx writes, there critiquing Hegel, “Is it not a delusion to substitute for the individual with his real motives, with multifarious social circumstances pressing upon him, the abstraction of “free-will” — one among the many qualities of man for man himself”74!)http://18.104.22.168/~brucieba/2014/04/13/ilyenkovs-dialectic-of-the-abstract-and-the-concrete-i/
It is a mistake to conceive thought as a separate entity from empirically presented facts in this view and it is the specific task of logic to move from the abstract contemplation of notions or concepts of the empirically presented facts to work out an abstraction that would express the essence of the presented facts given in our notions and concepts. The problem is in drawing out the generalised expression of the real nature of the object under investigation from the empirically obvious facts. This is far from straight forward and constitutes the real challenge in dialectical logic.https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/en/jordan2.htm
For Hegel the essence or content of objects of investigation cannot be known by examining them in isolation. The thing cannot be known in itself as its essence exists outside of itself and in relation to, or in its connectedness with, other objects or phenomena. As Ilyenkov explains:
“That is why a concept, according to Hegel, does not exist as a separate word, term, or symbol. It exists only in the process of unfolding in a proposition, in a syllogism expressing connectedness of separate definitions, and ultimately only in a system of propositions and syllogisms, only in an integral, well-developed theory. If a concept is pulled out of this connection, what remains of it is mere verbal integument, a linguistic symbol. The content of the concept, its meaning, remains outside it-in series of other definitions, for a word taken separately is only capable of designating an object, naming it, it is only capable of serving as a sign, symbol, marker, or symptom.”
In the opinion of Marx, it is an error to assume that the primary psychological constitution of the individual can be distinguished from his socially acquired characteristics and that the latter, being a product of social existence, are in a sense artificial and secondary, since they are derivable from the former. The differentiation between what man owes to society and to his primary, true, and unchanging nature, can be disregarded as a pseudo-problem or a mere figment of speculation. The ‘normal man’, ever the same in each historical epoch, who provided Jeremy Bentham with his yardstick of utility in the past, present, and future, existed only in Bentham’s own mind. With an incomparable naiveté, Bentham took the English shopkeeper for his model and regarded what was useful to this queer normal man and to his world as absolutely useful. Engels may have praised Rousseau as a forerunner of dialectics, admiring his dialectical ingenuity which enabled him to show how man in the state of nature, free from any social bonds and inclinations, was constrained to enter into social life, and thus came to form society and to establish law and government. But Marx ignored Rousseau’s dialectics as spurious, firmly holding to the view that men have always lived in society and believing that the individual is ‘a social being’ or ‘an ensemble of the social relations’. Consequently, society is as real as the interacting individuals of which it is composed are real. The social laws are not an artificial human product, established by convention or imposed by the will of a powerful lawgiver who can change or discard them as he thinks fit. ‘Marx considers social evolution to be a natural process governed by laws which do not depend upon the will, consciousness, or the intention of men,’ wrote the Russian reviewer of Capital, whom Marx praised for the accuracy of his evaluation in the preface to the second edition of this work. Marx’s own view on society is aptly reflected by Emile Durkheim’s observations made some fifty years later, that it is no easier to modify the type of society than the species of an animal. The more man emancipates himself from the original dependence on nature by social co-operation and becomes an individual by social action, the more he falls under the influence of his social environment and, more specifically, of the mode of existence of his society.
It does not follow from the fact that ‘society is the product of men’s reciprocal action’ that society is governed by laws that are made arbitrarily or are deducible from unchangeable human nature and applicable to the behaviour of individual men, always and everywhere. Since social life results from, or is based upon, human interaction, the study of the behaviour of individual men taken separately of their motives and aspirations, hopes and expectations, is irrelevant to social investigations. Society is not an aggregate of individuals but a totality of interacting individuals. Therefore, society changes and develops according to its own laws which are not psychological but specifically social laws. They help towards understanding social phenomena and the social behaviour of individuals. As Marx put it, just as society is produced by men, so society itself produces man as man.
This tendency has me concerned for a kind of presumed internal essence which in fact takes appearances for the true nature of things and results in a eternalized view of the status quo and change as impossible. Like what people assume in regards to the sexes, naturalizing certain results as the inevitability of biology.
Consider another example showing how beliefs about sex differences cloud people's analytical vision. How often have we heard question like: will women who enter high-status jobs or political positions end up looking like men or will the result of their entry be a change in the way business and politics is conducted? Implicit in this question are a set of strong assumptions: men have essential personality characteristics and cultural orientations that have shaped the terrain of high status jobs and women have different essential personality characteristics and cultural orientations. The conclusion is that and women's entry into these positions unleashes a conflict between their feminine essence and the dominant masculine essence that has shaped the positions. Either the positions must change to adapt to women's distinctive characteristics or the women must become masculine. (It is perhaps telling that those who raise this issue usually seem concerned only with women entering high-status positions; it is unclear if women becoming factory workers are believed immune or unimportant.) The analytical flaw here i assuming that masculinity has shaped the character of jobs rather than that jobs have shaped masculinity. In her well-known book Men and Women of the Corporation, Rosabeth Kanter argued persuasively that the personality characteristics associated with male and female corporate employees really reflected the contours of their positions. The implication is simple and straightforward. Women who enter high-status positions will look about the same as men in those positions not because they are becoming masculine, but because they're adapting to the demands and opportunities of the position, just like men.http://www.nyu.edu/classes/jackson/future.of.gender/Readings/DownSoLong--Persistence&Origins.pdf
Many authors have suggested that feminine personality characteristics (including a lack of drive) explain women's lack of success in climbing corporate ladders. Kantor has persuasively argued that these characteristics are really a direct result of structural conditions. Men placed in positions with no opportunities for advancement and with no effective power show the same personality and behavior characteristics as women in such positions. In the past, however, all women were condemned to occupy the positions without futures. Only men could realistically aspire to rise. Therefore we have good evidence that inequality produces differential motives to dominate weighed against no evidence of any inherent sexual difference in such motives.https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/francois-barre/#Fem
At the same time, it was an acknowledged fact that most women (and most men) in the seventeenth century were unable to read or write, and were inadequately trained for the exercise of public offices. It was a fallacy, however, to conclude that they were not capable of acquiring the relevant skills. Since ‘nature’ was a pseudo-explanation of women's lack of achievement, Poulain required some other explanation. He offered instead an historical hypothesis to explain how, over many generations, women were reduced to the inferior roles to which they had become accustomed. This history of subjection was compounded by women's exclusion from education, so that opponents of equality could then argue that women lacked the training or education required to exercise the same roles in society as men. And since women were generally unfit for those offices, the argument was made that they did not need access to an education if they were excluded from the offices for which education was a necessary condition.https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1960&context=sulr
The circularity of this was made explicit in the summary statement by ‘Sophia’, who had borrowed many of Poulain's arguments: ‘Why is learning useless to us? Because we have no share in public offices. And why have we no share in public offices? Because we have no learning’ [1739: 27]. In contrast, Poulain drew the conclusion that women should be allowed access to exactly the same educational opportunities as men and should then be allowed compete equally for all civil and ecclesiastical offices. The equality or otherwise of men and women could be tested only by implementing such a long-term social experiment.
It goes beyond stereotyping, however, because in believing men are stronger, we both train them to be stronger, and we create a military designed around their abilities—in other words, we make the belief real. Epistemologist Sally Haslanger has termed this cognitive mechanism “assumed objectivity.”207 Members of a powerful group ascribe characteristics to a weak group in a way that makes the differences real, and in a vicious cycle, the ascribed characteristics help make the weak group weak.208 For example, slave owners might ascribe a lack of intelligence to slaves, claim that this characteristic is innate, use this professed belief to justify a lack of education, and in this way make real a difference that keeps the slave owners in power.209https://epistemicepistles.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/a-wittgensteinian-critique-of-conceptual-confusion-in-psychological-research/
Referentialist views of language treat words as standing for, or referring to, objects. While Wittgenstein’s Tractatus espoused such a view, he later came to think one of the Tractatus crucial failings was that it ignored the difference between alternate kinds of words and uses of language. Consider the words ‘table’, ‘blue’ and ‘hot’, these do not all signify objects, and understanding the words does not in each case involve knowing what objects they stand for. Rather, according to Wittgenstein, it involves knowing how the words are used. Consequently treating reference as central to meaning gives a one sided and inaccurate view of language.
However in psychology this referentialist doctrine seems alive: In the misplaced reification of concepts as ‘concrete’ tangible things. As Gould argues, there is a strong tendency to believe that whatever received a name must be an entity or being, having an independent existence of its own. However on a Wittgensteinian take, we can reasonably be sure that no such ‘concept-entities’ can be found among the neurons in a person’s skull, they are concepts not concrete things. Confusing the two is equivalent to confusing a “map with a territory.”  Essentially it involves taking a pattern of behaviour, naming it, then taking this named thing to be a physical entity, then viewing someone’s behaviour as caused by having this entity inside them. Confusing psychological concepts with inner entities, like so, leads to postulating metaphysical explanations which actuality explain nothing. It is equivalent to saying a volcano erupts because it has ‘eruptability’ inside, or to say someone’s nervous behaviour is caused by an inner ‘neuroses’. This is merely to repeat the observation that they tend to behave in a nervous manner. The explanation merely repeats the description of the initial behaviour, yet the vacuousness of the explanation is concealed by pointing to a mystified inner entity; ‘neurosis’. This form of referentialism survives in psychology and leads to much conceptual confusion, distorting our notion of causality and providing only vacuous explanations[J1] .
Simply put, there is a tendency to observe things and only consider them as originating within the individual which doesn’t end up explaining things beyond what is already apparent in describing things/observing them.
As such, what might be seen as human nature, is in fact the accurate reflection of how people are driven to behave out of necessity/limits of the present conditions.
Capitalists today can be crudely seen as motivated by the need to expand their capital (M-C-M cycle) because of the necessities of a capitalist economy. One can see the drive to profit reflected in their own perspectives as shaped by economic factors and their position in relation to it.https://research-repository.griffith.edu.au/bitstream/handle/10072/12641/33292_1.pdf?sequence=1
This is how one of the top 30 Australian directors describes the role of capital and the freedom of capitalists to invest where they like:
Most governments that I have spoken to have no understanding of private capitalism. Now I have heard people say that you should feel privileged to be committed to invest in Australia. Really! The whole world is our oyster so what is so special about here? New Zealand is the same! Their attitude is we are permitting you to invest. So what! The whole world is on offer to us so what is so good about you? They think that they are the pearls in the oyster of the world. Australians in Canberra are remote from the real world. They don’t understand why you invest. It isn’t something that they have ever been involved in and they say, ‘We have improved the conditions — so now you do your bit’. What do they mean — my turn? We don’t have turns; we put our money out when we think that it’s good for us. That’s all we do. We don’t look for any other reason — it’s not a turn. Not when …Keating or Howard or other politicians say we have made all the conditions right, now it’s up to you to go and do it, unless we can see the market we are not going to invest.14
But one wouldn’t rationally explain this behaviour by appealing to their subjective motivations, but more in regards to their place in the world as it exists (in relation to capitalist markets). Because to understand the nature of something requires one examine it within existing relations, rather than something posited solely within the object itself. Scientific understanding cannot be based on subjective things, the subjective must be inferred indirectly by objective means. https://ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/pdfs/determinism.pdf
Even though consciousness can only be directly experienced subjectively, subjective experience cannot be scientific. The science of consciousness, not unlike the sciences of history and geology, relies on surmising the subject matter from objective traces given to the researcher in the observation of behavior. But these traces are not themselves the subject matter of the science. The intelligible explanation of historical processes entails surmising what can never be observed, and first-person reports of historical events are no more than evidence which the historian places alongside other evidence. Nonetheless, historiography relies on the plausibility of intelligible explanations of great historical changes in terms of mundane conversations and concrete events and seeks evidence of such events wherever possible. Likewise, the psychologist places the reports of subjective experience (including their own) alongside other evidence which is objective and verifiable.
But this doesn’t require that Marx’s work is economically detereministic, except to vulgar interpretations.http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/10867/1/VWills_ETD_2011.pdf
What Marx describes when he addresses the way in which economic laws play a role in determining the actions of human beings, are tendencies of members of various social groups to act in circumstances shaped through those laws, and not iron-clad predictions for particular individuals. Howard Sherman, in his 1981 paper, “Marx and Determinism,” puts this point very nicely when he writes:
Marx pointed out that one can find regularities of human behavior, that on the average we do behave in certain predictable ways. This behavior also changes in systematic ways, with predictable trends, in association with changes in our technological and social environments. At a simpler level, the regularities of human behavior are obvious in the fairly constant annual numbers of suicides and divorces (although these also show systematic trends). If humans did not, generally, behave in fairly predictable ways, not only social scientists but also insurance companies would have gone out of business long ago. Any particular individual may make any particular choice, but if we know the social composition of a group, we can predict, in general, what it will do. Thus, on the average, most large owners of stock will vote in favor of preferential tax rates for capital gains; most farmers will favor laws that they believe to be in the interest of farmers 109.
As a rule, a capitalist will tend to maximize his profit irrespective of the social repercussions. A bourgeois intellectual will tend to develop theoretical justifications for the continuation of capitalism, often in spite of the glaring social contradictions.
In theory dialectical materialism can lead to anything. Even an ideology no one has even thought of. But regardless to what culture will lead society into next, changing human nature seems impossible without ethics. After all, there is nothing special about the Amish except for the fact they follow a code of ethics. Without a code of ethics, humanity will always choose materialism over values. And as Marxism is an atheist system, it seems to me it is impossible under free will to create what Marx was hoping for.
I don’t quite get what this materialism over values except as some sort of hedonism, or obsession with consumption of commodities (money is the new god in actuality). But I see Marx’s perspective as being about realizing the sort of humanism some profess in religion.
Religion being the alienated consciousness of much that is good in humanity but not yet realized, an ideal not yet given existence. If the intensely alienating world of capitalism is abolished, the humanity of people may have existence. https://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/pdfs/Why%20Marx%20was%20not%20an%20Atheist.pdf
“The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is indeed the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man, state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, ... its moral sanction, its solemn complement and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is therefore indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.
“Religious suffering is at one and the same time the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”
The above is the point that criticism of religion has already been achieved, the task is to resolve the basis of such human suffering.
To elaborate on this position I hope to one day study Feuerbach’s critique of Christianity to emphasize how God is a creation of man in his own image who is then posited as creator of man in his own image.
In fact, understanding Feuerbach is important to understanding Marx’s sense of commodity fetishism as the same process that has people believe in God applies in regards to consciousness and commodities today.
It’s been a long process, but mankind might yet come to know itself, to be self conscious.
Initially we saw our consciousness directly in concrete things but have separated our consciousness from objects to the point that some see subjects as independent of objects (idealism). https://www.marxists.org/archive/ilyenkov/works/ideal/ideal.htm
It is quite true that the “real talers” are in no way different from the gods of the primitive religions, from the crude fetishes of the savage who worships (precisely as his “god”!) an absolutely real and actual piece of stone, a bronze idol or any other similar “external object”. The savage does not by any means regard the object of his worship as a symbol of “God”; for him this object in all its crude sensuously perceptible corporeality is God, God himself, and no mere “representation” of him.
The very essence of fetishism is that it attributes to the object in its immediately perceptible form properties that in fact do not belong to it and have nothing in common with its sensuously perceptible external appearance.
When such an object (stone or bronze idol, etc.) ceases to be regarded as “God himself” and acquires the meaning of an “external symbol” of this God, when it is perceived not as the immediate subject of the action ascribed to it, but merely as a “symbol” of something else outwardly in no way resembling the symbol, then man’s consciousness takes a step forward on the path to understanding the essence of things.
For this reason Kant himself and Hegel, who is completely in agreement with him on this point, consider the Protestant version of Christianity to be a higher stage in the development of the religious consciousness than the archaic Catholicism, which had, indeed, not progressed very far from the primitive fetishism of the idol-worshippers. The very thing that distinguishes the Catholic from the Protestant is that the Catholic tends to take everything depicted in religious paintings and Bible stories literally, as an exact representation of events that occurred in “the external world” (God as a benevolent old man with a beard and a shining halo round his head, the birth of Eve as the actual conversion of Adam’s rib into a human being, etc., etc.). The Protestant, on the other hand, seeing “idolatry” in this interpretation, regards such events as allegories that have an “internal”, purely ideal, moral meaning.
All I will say on this is when Capitalism fails, it will never return to what it is now. It is after all a system that favours only a small percentage of people at the expense of the majority. But what follows is more likely going to be Anarchy rather than utopian purely on the fact humanity is greedy.
Cue Socialism or barbarism
Greed brought by capitalist conditions may well be our end as a solution isn’t guaranteed.