## Human nature and human economy

• 5.1k
One thing I like about liberal philosophy and Marxism is that they dont attempt to control outcomes with moralizing (although individuals in both camps may). Instead, they claim we can look to the natural unfolding of events to know how to behave. They point out the folly of resisting nature instead of working in line with it. The punishment for thwarting nature is to be diminished and to ultimately perish, not because some divinity is offended by a broken law, but just because nature blindly selects winners.

However these two outlooks vary in how they assess nature's ways and how humans fit in. I think Marxism expects a human transformation. We will somehow become better. We'll leave behind our tendency to oppress and exploit and walk into an emancipated new world. States will no longer be needed to protect the rich from the poor, and so will dissolve naturally.

What is liberal philosophy in contrast?
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I think much of liberal philosophy is predicated on an unchanging human nature that includes selfishness or at least self interest and the belief is that we ought to build our systems around that rather than the Marxist view that the system itself molds human nature.
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I think a way to start answering that is to look at the reasoning behind a cornerstone of liberalism: separation of church and state.

It starts with recognition of the presence of conflict in the realm of religious views and the chaos and bloodshed that ensues when one religious entity proposes to have the final answers and seeks domination.

On the topic of religion, liberalism says that societies that put a priority on peace and stability will insulate the government from religion.

From the liberal's point of view, Marxists are proposing to provide the same kind of final answers religions try to offer. Though a monument of rational justifications may exist to support Marxism, it remains as unproven as the existence of the average god.

Therefore, a society is more likely to flourish if it rejects utopian visions and faces the world as it is.
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think much of liberal philosophy is predicated on an unchanging human nature that includes selfishness or at least self interest and the belief is that we ought to build our systems around tha

Locke believed each person has a natural right to life, liberty, and property. So, yes.

rather than the Marxist view that the system itself molds human nature.

Do Marxists hold that human nature should be molded?
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Do Marxists hold that human nature should be molded?

I think it's more that as Marxist projects emerged in the early 20th Century, established power bases threatened to destroy them before they were even out of the revolutionary stage. Purging in Russia and cultural revolution in China were aimed at mangling the systems that had evolved naturally.

I wonder if Marx would agree with Locke: every human is born free. Freedom is the natural state. Those who advocate control carry the burden of justifying.
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1700s when the guy was around- 682 million people. Throughout the entire planet. Not even double the current US pop.

The quote is correct. What is left out is those who do not advocate control, because they already do so by other means, carry no burden regarding justification.
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The quote is correct. What is left out is those who do not advocate control, because they already do so by other means, carry no burden regarding justification.

Who are you referring to?
• 3.6k
Do Marxists hold that human nature should be molded?

I imagine that people on the left generally question attributing features of social systems to human nature to begin with. Let's grant that there is a human nature that's been the same since homo sapiens came about; it's a constant, how can it be used to explain the variations (including historical ones) associated with culture and society, versus nature acting more as a constraint on what is possible for us.

For me (and I'm probably some shoddy flavour of Marxist), human nature is stuff like: we have knees, we have language, we can solve problems, we use tools, we live in communities, we have social rituals associated with sex. Which tools, which communities, which language, which social rituals associated with sex? That's culture. Our propensity to organise ourselves in those ways? That might be nature; we all talk, but we don't all talk in English, even if there is a strong propensity to talk in English the world over. Our capacity to do those things? In some sense, it must be compatible with human nature since we do those things.

I think the leftist suspicion is to resist reading commonalities in social organisation into some underlying human nature as part of our nature's content; eg, like reading the propensity to speak English into human nature due to the world's current propensity to speak it.

To me: what is human nature? The constants associated with humanity. And explaining huge variation in social forms by appealing to something which is the stipulated to be the same on those historical timescales is a fool's game.

So in that regard; it's not so much that "human nature" needs to be "molded" to fit more communitarian, democratic and egalitarian ideas, it's that the social form needs to be changed to be more like that. Hence all that harping on about politics; politics/community organising is how our social forms change, brick by brick.
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If you wanna read what Marx has to say about human nature, the term he uses is "species-being". Wiki has a page on it here. There's also some remarks on it on SEP's Marx page.
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Anyone who meets stated criteria. I'm saying the quote is presented as if someone who likes law and order, justice, or civilized society and explains it rationally is not listened to all that remains is an ideal freedom. As if a civil society is some obstacle to happiness or something.
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imagine that people on the left generally question attributing features of social systems to human nature to begin with.

The left abandoned structuralism because it seemed to say that we can't reinvent ourselves. Post WW2 and during the Civil Rights movement, reinvention was a necessity.

You would think that post Cold War, the same would be true, but I don't see it. Typical contemporary American political skepticism says that the elites allow progress to pacify the people. Rally all you want, it's only superficial.

Let's grant that there is a human nature that's been the same since homo sapiens came about; it's a constant, how can it be used to explain the variations (including historical ones) associated with culture and society, versus nature acting more as a constraint on what is possible for us.

With Hegel it was some sort of cosmic consciousness evolving, right? Why do you take up the label "Marxist" if you arent expecting a global revolution? What part of it do you want to carry forward?

you wanna read what Marx has to say about human nature, the term he uses is "species-being".

I went looking for Marx's view of human nature one time and gave up. It shouldn't be that hard to nail down. That's why I just recently gave up on trying to discover if he was a determinist. I think I need someone a little more forthright to represent the view I'm trying to contrast with liberalism.
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Anyone who meets stated criteria.

Hmm. :grin:
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For me (and I'm probably some shoddy flavour of Marxist), human nature is stuff like: we have knees, we have language, we can solve problems, we use tools, we live in communities, we have social rituals associated with sex.

How about the general human tendency to value one's family and community above the rest of humanity? Marxist or socialist societies - whatever you'd want to call it have aimed at deconstructing the family unit in order to move humanity towards a more global, universal outside stripped from family or old cultural ties.

Do Marxists hold that human nature should be molded?

Yes. We are to control our own evolution by molding the systems that shape it. Capitalism is relic of history and should be thrown in the dustbin ASAP according to Marxists. Any honest Marxist will believe in trying to shape human nature away from what it has been.
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Any honest Marxist will believe in trying to shape human nature away from what it has been.

Why do you think that?
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Liberalism's roots are in anti-monarchy and the religious perspective that supported it. Liberalism endorses secularism and so is the ally of atheists in their quest for freedom of thought.

So what is the self-consistent view in opposition? Leftist usually are social liberals if only in word. The contemporary enemy of civil rights is monarchical societies that have been targets of attack by western nations for over a century.

That leaves the economic field as a possible source of opposition, but liberal states have systematically gobbled up the agendas of those who point out that a liberal economy us ultimately at odds with social liberalism.

That leaves a bare shadow of resistance to occupy wall street. I think I just answered my question.
• 8.7k
Though a monument of rational justifications may exist to support Marxism, it remains as unproven as the existence of the average god.

Therefore, a society is more likely to flourish if it rejects utopian visions and faces the world as it is.

"Reality" is always a good starting point, whether one sets out to remake the bathroom or remake the world.

Ah, but "reality" is a tricky word. Who will enforce the definition?
• 8.7k
Any honest Marxist will believe in trying to shape human nature away from what it has been.

Like @fdrake I'm probably some sort of shoddy Marxist. Societies are always trying to shape ""human nature", and to some extent they are successful, for better and for worse, of which there are many examples.

I've found that a reasonably tolerant, reasonably stable, reasonably affluent society produces reasonably good results, for me, at least. An intolerant, unstable, and poor society is likely to produce more of the same. Virtuous cycles and vicious cycles beget more virtuous and vicious cycles.

Billions of people have grown up in societies of both kinds, and unfortunately goodness doesn't always last because competing interests sort out winners and losers. The Post WWII Boom, 1946 to 1973, roughly, was a reasonably good time had by quite a bit of the American society--certainly not all, and not all at the same time. Competing policies brought the boom to an end, and since we have had a less equitable society, over all, which is now quite inequitable. The European Community project has produced very good results for a widening circle of people. How all of that work will pan out in the longer run remains to be seen.
• 8.7k
Any honest Marxist will believe in trying to shape human nature away

Marxists will also quarrel with the notion that there is such a thing as "human nature". Clearly, and irrefutably, we are a species which manifests various characteristics -- just like Canadian geese, grey wolves, and porpoises do. In that way there is certainly "human nature". We use very complex language, for instance, and we use it a lot. We have a central nervous system with certain characteristics -- emotional, cognitive, and sensory capabilities. More "human nature".

The difficulty arises when statements like "war is inevitable" or "people are naturally selfish" are made. Even "people are naturally good" and "everyone wants peace" are problematic statements. Certainly, war is decidedly more likely when societies devote a great deal of treasure, time, and talent toward preparation for war. If the economy is organized as a free-for-all fight, selfishness makes sense.

People have better experiences, behave better, behave more peacefully, in a society which meets basic human requirements and affords available rich cultural experiences (like food, clothing, shelter, care, and the opportunity and means for self expression).

That "environment strongly influences outcomes" isn't exactly a new revelation.
• 8.7k
I went looking for Marx's view of human nature one time and gave up. It shouldn't be that hard to nail down. That's why I just recently gave up on trying to discover if he was a determinist.

There was Karl Marx and then there are marxists.
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There was Karl Marx and then there are marxists.

Like their was Jesus and then there are Christians?

Is there something philosophical about your fondness for Marxism? Could you explain what it is?
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Ah, but "reality" is a tricky word. Who will enforce the definition?

Isn't it true that marxists start by rejecting the world as it is?
• 138

Don't the greatest philosophers?
• 8.7k
The left abandoned structuralism because it seemed to say that we can't reinvent ourselves

What I know about the history of cultural criticism (structuralism, et al) would fit on a 3x5 card. I should do better, but...

F. Scott Fitzgerald (died 1940) said: “there are no second acts in American lives.”

Not sure what exactly he was thinking of, but American history is replete with people managing second, third, fourth... acts. Riff raff rising to the top, blue bloods ending up in the gutter, and back again. If structuralism was an itchy pinchy intellectual corset, post structuralism has resulted in worse.
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I don't think so.
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Yeah I guess. But society would not have improved since the days of cavemen if someone didn't. And perhaps. It took a philosopher to adequately explain its follies.
• 8.7k
Like their was Jesus and then there are Christians?

Yes.

Is there something philosophical about your fondness for Marxism? Could you explain what it is?

Such demanding questions you ask, and it's a holiday to boot.

Probably more social than philosophical. Above I confessed to being some sort of shoddy marxist. I'm a shoddier philosopher.

Jesus and Karl are both seminal characters; of course we know vastly more about Karl than Jesus, and Jesus has been a thing vastly longer than Karl has. In a way, they both are "eschatologists" in a way -- more Jesus than Karl on that point. But for somebody steeped in Christianity (I was), it's natural to taste the eschatological flavor of the egalitarian classless society, free of the state and corporation. Workers of the world, unite! Or, Repent and prepare for the kingdom of God.

Six of one, a half a dozen of the other.

I found a community of like-minded people among some marxists. They were in earnest, serious, secular people. Some were much more intellectually charged up than others, given different levels of education. Some marxists are widely tolerant, others are very narrowly doctrinaire. I find the latter dreary.

I think it is better to think of Marx as providing a framework than a cookbook.
• 8.7k
Like their was Jesus and then there are Christians?

One of my favorite topics is how we got from Jesus to Christianity. When one looks at the topic as a historical problem rather than the unfolding plan of salvation, a fascinating conundrum is presented. What happened during the "dark gap" between the (probable) fact or Jesus and the definite fact of Christianity?

We don't know, for sure, because it is, after all, a dark gap. How much of what we know about Jesus was compounded after the fact? In some ways, Jesus is a creation of the church the church says He founded. (Heresy, of course.).

The transition from Marx to Marxism happened in "our time" more or less. We saw Karl's ideas taken up by maybe well-meaning but pretty vicious types in Russia, China, and elsewhere. Surely Karl was spinning in his Highgate Cemetery grave.
• 8.7k
Isn't it true that marxists start by rejecting the world as it is?

No. They might not like the world as it is (who does?) but existing methods of production (a vast topic encapsulated in a brief phrase), the existing class and power structures, the culture as it exists -- all that and more -- have to be taken into consideration as "from this point forward".

Marxists look forward to a revolutionary overthrow of the existing capitalist system (a rejection of the world as it is) but they don't engage in a future-other-worldly rejection of the world as it is.

Is this a problem? For marxists, yes. We live in a tension between the world as it is and the way we would like the world to be. The same problem is shared by all world reformers. Religionists and political-economic revolutionaries share this form of suffering.
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What are the differences between Marxism and Communism?

Not to push anything but the guy was born in the 1800s. There were one billion people. In the whole world. Today the US has over a third of that alone. In a free and open society that does not rely on war everyone has to be working. How else could you sustain it's people? You can't just empty the land of oil and minerals, the waters of fish, and anything and everything else. There'd be nothing left. Nothing to trade. I get that the government providing basic necessities doesn't completely remove the incentive to work to earn nice things or position but. Yeah.
• 5.1k
I think it is better to think of Marx as providing a framework than a cookbook.

19th Century liberalism was reformist, it's just that it took over the world. An american marxist would agree that all people are born equal and free, and that the state infringes on our freedom because we accept that control as part of our citizenship.

The part that marxists disagree with, and so continue to seek reform for, is the idea that the state doesn't owe a citizen protection from the vagaries of the market. Right?
• 8.7k
The orthodox marxists I know dismiss reform out of hand. As humane people, they of course want the state to protect working people from the vagaries of the market. They go further to say that there is nothing vague about the market: It is inherently exploitative, and screwing the people is just what it does. (It's the continual transfer of wealth from workers to the bourgeoisie.).

Here: Take the recent book "Evicted". It's a documentary volume on the way the market in housing for the poor works in Milwaukee. Landlords accumulate considerable wealth from the many poor people to whom they rent lousy, substandard housing. Crappy neighborhoods are full of crappy housing that goes onto the market through tax auctions and other means. You buy a piece of junk for $12,000, maybe. You fix anything that absolutely has to be fixed -- like not having a furnace of some sort, not having water service. You charge rent at the highest level the market for poor housing will bear, maybe$500 a month. In two years you have paid for the shit pile and for the next few years you earn more profit. During your ownership tenure you tend to fix nothing. Toilet breaks? Blame the tenants and charge them extra to fix it. They don't pay? Evict them, get some other desperate broke family in there. Maybe the toilet got fixed, maybe not.

That's how the bottom of the housing market works. Reform it? No. Do away with it altogether.
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