[Marxism] Do you agree or disagree with the following proposition
james.irldaly at ntlworld.com
Mon Mar 27 10:16:10 MST 2006
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From: "Charles Brown" <cbrown at michiganlegal.org>
To: <marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
Sent: Monday, March 27, 2006 5:58 PM
Subject: [Marxism] Do you agree or disagree with the following
Do you agree [that]... Marx and Engels are looking for _necessity_ to
put historical materialism on a scientific basis. In human biology
there is necessity, things that must be done.
Could I approach the controversial topic from another angle? My
approach is partly based on the brilliant insights of Lucio Colletti,
summarised in his invaluable introduction to the Penguin Early
Writings (but rejecting his attack on dialectics, which led him to
As he points out, Marx credited Feuerbach with having:
founded true materialism and real science by making the social
relations of "man-to-man" [the "I-Thou" relationship, community,
species being, universality - JD] the basic principle of his theory.
What Marx meant by *materialism* was the rejection of the *idealist*
premise that (really existing, bourgeois social) reality is
intelligible, whether in the sense of "natural" (in the empiricist
Robinsonade version from Hobbes to Adam Smith), or in that of
"required by reason" (by the Idea, in Hegel's version; Hegel, by the
way, accepts the Hobbesian basis of an individualist "state of
nature" -- as Marx argues, absolute idealism succumbs to gross
empiricism: see Colletti's introduction to the Early Writings).
The emphasis on a biological base to human existence is a rejection of
the Hegelian Germanic Christian divorce of nature and spirit, and its
bias towards the intellectual and religious as the essence of history.
Marx called his position "humanism or naturalism", and characterised
it as neither idealism nor materialism but the unifying truth of both:
Communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as
fully developed humanism equals naturalism. (EW 348).
Here we see how consistent naturalism or humanism differs both from
idealism and materialism and is at the same time their unifying truth.
The human essence of nature exists only for social man [i.e. in
communism - JD]; for only here does nature exist for him as a bond
with other men, as his existence for others and their existence for
him, as the vital element of human reality; only here does it exist as
the basis of his own human existence. Only here has his natural
existence become his human existence and nature become man for him.
Society is therefore the perfected unity in essence of man with
nature, the true resurrection of nature, the realised naturalism of
man and the realised humanism of nature. (EW 349-50).
Marx's idea of human nature is not Hobbesian but Aristotelian. As he
says in the introduction to the Grundrisse, there is no individualist
state of nature; man is a Zoon politicon (Aristotle), only able to
become an individual through community.
It has been widely argued, and I think successfully, that Marxist
notion of necessity is not the empiricist and positivist one of causal
determinism or laws of history, but of realist natural or essential
necessity; an example would be the necessity to capitalism of the
extraction of surplus labour through the wages system. The first leads
to inhuman moral relativism and the justification of inhumanity in the
name of progress. The second puts human values back into science, from
which they have been banished by the bourgeois divorce of fact and
value, is and ought, of morality and realpolitik, political economy
and alienated "economics".
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