This article contains too many thesis objectives too-lengthy quotations for an encyclopedic entry.
Some Marxists posit what they deem to be Karl Marx’s theory of human nature, which they accord an important place in his critique of capitalism, his conception of communism, and his ‘materialist conception of history’. Marx criticizes the traditional conception of human nature as a species which incarnates itself in each individual, instead arguing that the conception of human nature is formed by the totality of social relations. The sixth of the Theses on Feuerbach, written in 1845, provided an early discussion by Marx of the concept of human nature. Feuerbach resolves the essence of religion into the essence of man .
But the essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In reality, it is the ensemble of the social relations. To abstract from the historical process and to define the religious sentiment regarded by itself, and to presuppose an abstract — isolated — human individual. Marx did criticise 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’. For this reason, he would likely have wanted to criticise certain aspects of some accounts of human nature. Man is directly a natural being.
On the other hand, as a natural, corporeal, sensuous objective being he is a suffering, conditioned and limited creature, like animals and plants. In the Grundrisse Marx says his nature is a ‘totality of needs and drives’. In The German Ideology he uses the formulation: ‘their needs, consequently their nature’. Marx says ‘It is true that eating, drinking, and procreating, etc. However, when abstracted from other aspects of human activity, and turned into final and exclusive ends, they are animal. In several passages throughout his work, Marx shows how he believes humans to be essentially different from other animals. Men can be distinguished from animals by consciousness, by religion or anything else you like.
They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence, a step which is conditioned by their physical organisation. It is true that animals also produce. They build nests and dwellings, like the bee, the beaver, the ant, etc. The animal is immediately one with its life activity.
Man makes his life activity itself an object of his will and consciousness. It is not a determination with which he directly merges. Conscious life activity directly distinguishes thesis objectives from animal life activity.
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Only because of that is he a species-being. A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality. At the end of every labour-process, we get a result that already existed in the imagination of the labourer at its commencement. It is similar to saying that A is the objective of B, though A could be a whole sphere of concern and not a closely defined aim. In this context, what does it mean to say that humans make their ‘species’ and their ‘lives’ their ‘object’?
To make one’s life one’s object is therefore to treat one’s life as something that is under one’s control. To raise in imagination plans for one’s future and present, and to have a stake in being able to fulfill those plans. Marx believes will only become possible after communism has replaced capitalism. In one sense, it emphasises the essentially social character of humans, and their need to live in a community of the species. It is often said that Marx conceived of humans as homo faber, referring to Benjamin Franklin’s definition of ‘man as the tool-making animal’ — that is, as ‘man, the maker’, though he never used the term himself.
It is generally held that Marx’s view was that productive activity is an essential human activity, and can be rewarding when pursued freely. However, Marx was always clear that under capitalism, labour was something inhuman, and dehumanising. Not only do the objective conditions change in the act of reproduction, e. 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.
In his article Reconsidering Historical Materialism, however, Cohen gives an argument to the effect that human nature cannot be the premise on which the plausibility of the expansion of the productive forces is grounded. Production in the historical anthropology is not identical with production in the theory of history. According to the anthropology, people flourish in the cultivation and exercise of their manifold powers, and are especially productive — which in this instance means creative — in the condition of freedom conferred by material plenty. Some needs are far more important than others. In The German Ideology Marx writes that ‘life involves before everything else eating and drinking, a habitation, clothing and many other things’.
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Aus verhaltenswissenschaftlicher Perspektive stehen dagegen die Faktoren im Mittelpunkt, die den Verbleib eines Individuums in einer Organisation beeinflussen.