Marx's theory of human nature  

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"Who were the critics, and why were they so offended? Their rank included the last of the Marxist intellectuals, most prominently represented by Stephen Jay Gould and Richard C. Lewontin. They disliked the idea, to put it mildly, that human nature could have any genetic basis at all. They championed the opposing view that the developing human brain is a tabula rasa. The only human nature, they said, is an indefinitely flexible mind. Theirs was the standard political position taken by Marxists from the late 1920s forward: the ideal political economy is socialism, and the tabula rasa mind of people can be fitted to it. A mind arising from a genetic human nature might not prove conformable. Since socialism is the supreme good to be sought, a tabula rasa it must be. As Lewontin, Steven Rose, and Leon J. Kamin frankly expressed the matter in Not in Our Genes (1984): “We share a commitment to the prospect of the creation of a more socially just—a socialist—society. And we recognize that a critical science is an integral part of the struggle to create that society, just as we also believe that the social function of much of today’s science is to hinder the creation of that society by acting to preserve the interests of the dominant class, gender, and race.” --E. O. Wilson in the 2000 edition of Sociobiology: The New Synthesis

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Marx's theory of human nature occupies an important place in his critique of capitalism, his conception of communism, and his 'materialist conception of history'. Marx, however, does not refer to "human nature" as such, but to Gattungswesen, which is generally translated as 'species-being' or 'species-essence'. What Marx meant by this is that humans are capable of making or shaping their own nature to some extent. According to a note from the young Marx in the Manuscripts of 1844, the term is derived from Ludwig Feuerbach’s philosophy, in which it refers both to the nature of each human and of humanity as a whole [1]. However, in the sixth Thesis on Feuerbach (1845), Marx criticizes the traditional conception of "human nature" as "species" which incarnates itself in each individual, on behalf of a conception of human nature as formed by the totality of "social relations". Thus, the whole of human nature is not understood, as in classical idealist philosophy, as permanent and universal: the species-being is always determined in a specific social and historical formation, with some aspects being biological.

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