I have taken for my study one chapter from the book Marx and human nature by Norman Geras. In the second chapter Norman Geras deals with the human nature and historical materialism. Although many Marxists denied Marx's theory of human nature that there was a human nature to be found in Marx's words, there is in fact a Marxist conception of human nature which remains, to some degree, constant throughout history and across social boundaries. The sixth of the Theses on Feuerbach provided the basics for this interpretation of Marx according to which there was no eternal human nature to be found in his works. Feuerbach resolves the essence of religion into the essence of man human nature. But the essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In reality, it is the ensemble of the social relations. Feuerbach, who does not enter upon a criticism of this real essence, is hence obliged: Human nature
Thus, Marx appears to say that human nature is no more than what is made by the social relations. Norman Geras' Marx's Theory of Human Nature, however, offers an extremely detailed argument against this position. In outline, Geras shows that, while the social relations are held to determine the nature of people, they are not the only such determinant. In fact, Marx makes statements where he specifically refers to a human nature which is more than what is conditioned by the circumstances of one's life. In Capital, in a footnote critiquing utilitarianism, he says that ’’utilitarian’s must reckon with human nature in general, and then with human nature as modified in each historical epoch. Marx is arguing against an abstract conception of human nature, offering instead an account rooted in sensuous life. While he is quite explicit that individuals express their life, so they are. Hence what individuals are depends on the material conditions of their production, he also believes that human nature will condition (against the background of the productive forces and relations of production) the way in which individuals express their life. History involves a continuous transformation of human nature, though this does not mean that every aspect of human nature is wholly variable; what is transformed need not be wholly transformed. Marx did criticize 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, a process sometimes called reification. For this reason, he would likely have wanted to criticize certain aspects of some accounts of human nature. Human beings collectively work on nature but do not do the same work; there is a division of labor in which people not only do different jobs, but according to Marxist theory, some people live from the work of others by owning the means of production. How this is accomplished depends on the type of society. Production is carried out through very definite relations between people. And, in turn, these production relations are determined by the level and character of the productive forces that are present at any given time in history. For Marx, productive forces refer to the means of production such as the tools, instruments, technology, land, raw materials, and human knowledge and abilities in terms of using these means of production.
Human nature, Marx's ethical thought and alienation
Gears says of Marx's work that: Whatever else it is, theory and socio-historical explanation, and scientific as it may be, that work is a moral indictment resting on the conception of essential human needs, an ethical standpoint, in other words, in which a view of human nature is involved . Alienation, for Marx, is the estrangement of humans from aspects of their human nature. Since - as we have seen - human nature consists in a particular set of vital drives and tendencies, whose exercise constitutes flourishing; alienation is a condition wherein these drives and tendencies are...
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