Marx's theory of human nature: alienation
Marx's conception of human nature is most dramatically put forward in the excerpts from the Economic Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 that I have assigned to you. But this work is very difficult and obscure. I have tried to select those passages that are most straightforward. But, as you will see, they are by no means very clear. Let me give you some guidelines for reading them. These passages talk about four kinds of human alienation or estrangement: (1) from our product, (2) from our productive activity, (3) from our species being and (4) from other human beings. What I would like you to do in your first essay is to give a brief explication of three of these four types of alienation, all except (3), alienation from our species being. I will explain the third type of alienation here, which, I hope will, help you understand the other three types. To be alienated or estranged is to be distanced, or in opposition, or somehow not in the proper relationship to something. In saying that we are alienated, Marx is claiming that we do not stand not in the proper to certain products, activities, people or features of our lives. And, for Marx, this means we are fundamentally dissatisfied and unhappy. For our basic ends or goals or wants include being in a proper relationship to these things. All four phenomena from which we are alienated are related, in one way or another, to what Marx took to be the central feature of human life, our productive activity. Human beings are, for Marx, quintessentially beings who must be productive, who, that is, must interact with nature and other human beings to make things and effect changes in the world around us. By "species being," Marx means our essence as a species. Thus to be alienated from our species being is to be distanced from our fundamental nature as productive beings. Now how is this possible? How can we, or our lives, be in opposition to or not in the proper relationship to our...
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