Human nature and what we know and don't know

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Sat Apr 15 10:20:13 MDT 1995


On Thu, 13 Apr 1995, ROBERT JOHN FERGUSON wrote:

> Justin Schwarz makes the point that Norman Geras' book Marx
> and Human Nature is short sweet and to the point.  I agree and have
> just been moved to re-read it.  It does give some cause for hope. But
> where can you find the logic which leads you to say that people are
> selfish but only in competitive societies or conditions of
> shortage etc. ?  On what do you base this judgement?
>

I base this judgement on a lot of historical and anthropological
evidence--one place to start, with regard to the creationofd systematic
selfishness as a motivational pattern, is Karl Polyani's magnificant The
Great Transformation.

Intuitively, the logic of the argument is that suggested by Marx: if
selfishness is a matter of putting your indivusal interests ahead of those
of others, this will be far less a tendency in societies where people's
intrerest conflict less, or where indiviual interest is less paramount
than ours. Scarcity tends to increase conflicts of individual *and grou)
interests.

--Justin Schwartz




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