Is greed a part of human nature?

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Redacted
Is greed a part of human nature?
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What do you guys think?

Demogorgon
Yes. Or rather I would say

Yes. Or rather I would say some parts of human nature are expressed as "greed" in certain circumstances. Just as human nature expresses itself in hate, cruelty, kindness, altriusm, vengefulness, laughter, art, cowardice, forgiveness, love and bravery.

The real question is why is it that certain aspects of human nature dominate in certain circumstances. And is it possible to foresee circumstances where the "negative" aspects of human nature can be expressed in a positive way?

Redacted
Those are all great

Those are all great questions. This is a subject where I really lack reading material and scientific resources.

I know there is an idea that suggests we are wired for "fight or flight", or instantly quick decision making. Supposedly, some of us still have that tendency more so than others, which causes some of us to act more impulsively. I tend to see greed as an impulsive desire.

 

Fred
I don't believe in human

I don't believe in human nature anymore than I believe in God.

Demogorgon
You don't think humans have

You don't think humans have definitive characteristics? How then do you distinguish humans from other animals or from rocks for that matter?

jk1921
Joe Rockhead AKA White Van Man

Demogorgon wrote:

How then do you distinguish humans from other animals or from rocks for that matter?

Sometimes its difficult.

jk1921
Here's a follow-up to Jamal's

Here's a follow-up to Jamal's question. Is there an element of sadism in human nature? Apparently, a lot of people are just fine with torture. I mean, in the wake of the release of the US Senate Torture Report, I expected all the worthless platitudes about torture being wrong, a dark chapter in American history never to be repeated, etc., but somewhat surprisingly to me there has been no shortage of otherwise "respectable" political pundits and officials defending the use of torture saying they would do it in the future if necessary. I am not talking just about the Dick Cheneys of the world.......

baboon
Very broad question

It's a very broad question but I'd say that one would have to try to discern what is and what isn't "human nature" and, generally and historically, I would tend to say that the answer to the question is no.

The Christian fundamentalist Tony Blair, gave a speech a week or so ago reinforcing his crusade against the muslim religion where he aligned it closely to the capitalist Caliphate of the Islamic State. Little quoted was the beginning of the speech where Blair said words very much to the effect that 'humans have always fought each other'. This perversion of Darwinism - Social Darwinism - is still maintained by the bourgeoisie and some left-wing anthropologists, that is, human nature is from prehistoric times "dog eat dog" and those remnants from our "cave men" days are still with us today. And, for good measure, the bourgeois spin is that with their leadership and superior morality, we are now trying to rise above this legacy of the past. The bourgeoisie presents itself, and has presented itself, as a force for progress trying to rise above "human nature", a human nature that is nothing but a fiction of the bourgeoisie.

It  is clear from Darwin and Wallace, from Marx and Engels and from the latest research, that the vast majority of mankinds' existence, say a couple of million years, has been dominated not by the human nature of dog eat dog, of greed or selfishness but, on the contrary, by mutual assistance, selflessness and cooperation. Throughout there has been a push for the gratification of needs but this is not self-gratification but an impulse to the development of the productive forces and sexual reproduction leading to futher developments of the production of food, shelter, tools and art. I don't think that what we call "primitive communism" was a situation of an idyll, a heaven on Earth. While there must have been conflict - not necessarily violent conflict - this could have acted as a motor force to greater advances over time within a framework of mutual solidarity.

The "survival of the fittest", greed as human nature, are to me constructs of class society and particularly of the bourgeoisie which doesn't hesitate using such perversions of Darwinism in order to reinforce its rule.

Redacted
“It is not the strongest or

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
― Charles Darwin

This is indeed a very broad question. baboon is always sharp and on point though! Thanks for that last post, giving my brain a framework for communicating my ideas on this subject.

I think I'm also beginning to see human nature as purely a social construct, but I still have doubts. Surely there is some degree of chemical and biological influence on who we are as a species.

There's also this other idea I have, which might sound a bit crazy, but often times I think of the bourgeoisie as a sort of old species of hominid, at risk of extinction. There's the whole idea of "behavioral modernity"...sometimes I like to think of workers as having a set of distinctive traits which distinguishes it from homo sapiens...

Considering it is possible that art and culture go back as far 400,000 years, it's becoming harder and harder to "draw the line" and figure out when "society" started or when humans became "anatomically modern", or whatever. Is it possible the emergence of homo sapiens is indistinguishable from the emergence of class society? If so, how much of a stretch would it be to suggest homo sapiens are hard coded for this shit?

Maybe one day far in the future a new species of homonid will walk the earth.

"Homo communis"? "Homo conscius"?

 

Demogorgon
"Is there an element of

"Is there an element of sadism in human nature?"

I'm assuming you mean sadism in its more general sense, rather than a specific sexual preference ...

Again, I would say yes in the sense that it's one possible expression of human nature. It's undoubtedly related to aspects of aggression and many people find aggressive feelings pleasurable, which has a biological basis in the fight-or-flight reaction. Aggression is an evolutionary pathway that is necessary to humanity as we're a predator species - we wouldn't have made very effective hunters if we hadn't enjoyed hunting and butchering animals for example.

"The "survival of the fittest", greed as human nature, are to me constructs of class society and particularly of the bourgeoisie which doesn't hesitate using such perversions of Darwinism in order to reinforce its rule."

I think the problem with the way the bourgeois perspective frames the question is that it claims that "greed" is an inevitable part of human nature. I don't think Marxism rejects the idea of "human nature" - Marx talked a lot about "species-being", after all, and the Marxist current certain understood labour as an absolutely fundamental aspect of human nature.

For me, "greed" is more properly understood as a particular historic expression of certain fundamental instincts that can dominate human behaviour in particular circumstances.

Going back to aggression, it's very easy to see the negative aspects of it in today's society. On the other hand, the class struggle won't get very far without the working class demonstrating its will to fight ...

Demogorgon
"Sometimes its difficult." My

"Sometimes its difficult."

My humanity is beyond dispute, as long I have access to coffee.

jk1921
Homo

Jamal wrote:

Maybe one day far in the future a new species of homonid will walk the earth.

"Homo communis"? "Homo conscius"?
 

Well, the old Stalinists used to talk about there being a new "Homo Sovieticus" in the making. That was of course a fantasy. But yes, I think that communism will require a new conception of humanity that is in many ways distinct from what we typically define as part of human nature today. The problem of course is that this cannot be willed into existence. It has to be driven by the needs and interests of the species.......

KT
Greed and circumstance

Demo wrote:

"The real question is why is it that certain aspects of human nature dominate in certain circumstances. And is it possible to foresee circumstances where the "negative" aspects of human nature can be expressed in a positive way?"

Think this is the correct framework.

And the biggest "circumstance" is the (potential) passage from the realm of necessity to the realm of abundance: ie from the scarcity dominating social relations of class society to the potential abundance of the communist mode of production.

For me, greed is one expression of fear: fear of the absence of the means of subsistence and all the emotional stuff that accompanies this - the fear of abandonment, the fear of isolation and competition.

Greed therefore is as much a social product - or rather, a product of social relations - as it is anything intrinsic in human nature.

Of course, scarcity/abundance are relative concepts. However ....

jk1921
I am not sure how much it

I am not sure how much it helps us to say certain "negative" aspects of human behaviour are "social products" of class society or capitalism and then cite anthropological evidence from thousands of years ago that these aspects are not immutable givens of the human condition. This may be true, but I think it was Lukacs who suggested that there is something like a "second nature." Even if these behaviours are social products, humanity has been immersed in those social conditions long enough that they assume the character of human nature.

Regardless, its still the case that the only route out of this is through the very society that produces the "negative" behaviours in the first place, which leaves us still having to specify the material circumstances or conditions that lead to a transcendence of these things. Thus, it must also be the case that capitalism produces not only greed but also solidarity, unless we want to fall back on arguing for a vestigal pre-captialist solidarity as the basis for the proletarian revolution.

I think I confused myself writing that......

lem_
i have a few thoughts. human

i have a few thoughts.

human nature isn't i think fixed. but perhaps we are innately greedy with the world as it is.

actually i sometimes practice meditation, and a lot of that is about a prohibtion on greed, being emotionally etc. self sufficient without uncontrollable lust for contingently affirmative things.

Demogorgon
Social being is intrinsic to

Social being is intrinsic to human nature and by simple logical extension, all products of that social being whether that be the Holocaust or the Russian revolution are aspects or expressions of human nature too. Society is human nature.

I don't think JK is confusing at all. Of course, capitalism generates solidarity, because it produces the working class, which expresses the highest form of human solidarity to date. This is one of the reasons why Marx saw a positive side to capitalism.

Redacted
After reading posts #10 &

After reading posts #10 & #13, I ended up again going through the 1844 Manuscripts as well as the Theses on Feuerbach but this time in German, too.

The sixth thesis hits right on these topics:

Quote:

...The essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In reality, it is the ensemble of the social relations.

And so do the Manuscripts:

Quote:

...The relation of man to nature is immediately his relation to man, just as his relation to man is immediately his relation to nature, his own natural condition. Therefore, this relationship reveals in a sensuous form, reduced to an observable fact, the extent to which the human essence has become nature for man or nature has become the human essence for man. It is possible to judge from this relationship the entire level of development of mankind. It follows from the character of this relationship how far man as a species-being, as man, has become himself and grasped himself; the relation of man to woman is the most natural relation of human being to human being. It therefore demonstrates the extent to which man's natural behavior has become human or the extent to which his human essence has become a natural essence for him, the extent to which his human nature has become nature for him. This relationship also demonstrates the extent to which man's needs have become human needs, hence the extent to which the other, as a human being, has become a need for him, the extent to which in his most individual existence he is at the same time a communal being.

"species-being" (used in the Manuscripts quote) = "gattungswesen" = literally translated as "generic essence"
 

baboon
Good link Jamal to the

Good link Jamal to the 400,000 year old "art". Obviously these finds are few and far between but along with a half-a-million year-old ceremonial stone "axes" and abstract drawings on an elephant's tibia some 350,000 years ago in Africa then one can assume that these "artisitic" expressions are indicative of a culture and therefore a society. The zig-zag "signs" linked to exist throughout Palaeolithic art all the way up to the "signs" above Neolothic burial chambers in Fourknocks in Ireland. I think that culture and society existed long before anatomically modern humans and shows us the depths of the social instincts of humanity rather than a human nature which is, more often than not, is an ideological construct of the bourgeoisie.

I don't know about this idea of innate "aggression" - I think that goes along the same lines as innate greed and could tend to reinforce ideas of social Darwinism. Because hunter-gatherers killed and butchered animals doesn't mean that they were "aggressive" in the sense that we understand the term. There's plenty of evidence that the hunt and the animals hunted were respected and while the hunt would be effective and the butchery skilful, it doesn't imply aggression. Today we don't talk about an aggressive working class but, when it's struggling, an indignant and combative unity that is prepared to fight.

Redacted
With everything we've

With everything we've mentioned, I don't think it's a stretch to say society has been around for 200,000 years or longer. So one question that still lingers for me is when did class society first emerge and is it possible it's an archaic, artifact of hominids who weren't behaviorally or anatomically modern?

Fred
Okay then. There is something

Okay then. There is something called "human nature" just as there's something called the human body. We all know what it is don't we?  Oh yes! Human nature. It generates our love  and openness to some and our bitchy attitude  to others.   It's the result of human frailties and natural flaws. Frailties like corruption, infidelity, drug addiction and the rest, well they're all down to the flaws in human nature.  Everyone knows that. It's natural. It's human. But what does this thing called human nature consist of? 

 Its a psychological and mental construct, the product of various mainly social forces,  which operates  to provide a human being with a sense of "self", or personality, which is misinterpreted in a common sense fashion to be "human nature."   What I assume to be meant by the vague expression "self"  is the result in general of motivational factors.  The self, the personality,  is the product of motivation and experience as this effects, produces and modifies individual awareness and action.    (Marx uses the concept "personality" in the 1844 manuscripts, so I will use it too.) )  A personality is by and large a psychological manifestation,  the product of powerful motivating forces working in a dialectical polar  opposition. These forces are at one end the urge to self-realization (what used to be called 'the pursuit of happiness') and at the other end the emotional fact of fear.  The interplay of these two psychological urges produce what we call a personality;  or what some call "human nature" as if we all have it in common,  in similar proportions and agree on what it is. In fact our personalities are not all the same or even constant. They are living and changing.  In class society our happy urge towards self-realization is constantly being thwarted and this produces fear. Fears appear in various forms such as fear of failure, of being "found out", of exposure of our pathetic incompetences and so on.  The persistent threats to our well-being  that capitalism produces, like poverty, unemployment, unsatisfactory health care and education,  and the relentless  competition of each  against everybody else, all work towards the generation of fears, and these produce material side effects like greed, gluttony, sloth, avarice and so on, as we try to escape fear, and snatch what we perceive as a smidgeon of happiness and satisfaction from the overall austerity and misery of commoditized society and all its fetishisms: like the one that says we all want sex all the time; because it's only human nature after all, and if you don't want it all the time there's something wrong with you. These fears we suffer and live  under manifest themselves in our consciousness, our personality, our psychology  or whatever, as misery, despair, loneliness, envy, jealousy, hatred of others and self-loathing to name but a few. There are other unfortunate effects that we may not be so much conscious of but undoubtedly suffer from all the same.  Issues like self-deceit, breakdowns in self presentation and composure, the onset of psychotic conditions or  suicidal thoughts and the inability to cope satisfactorily in any way with the process of life itself with its horrendous demands under  capitalism.  This whole package outlined briefly above constitutes to the formation of a human personality in an exploitative class  society and is generally taken for granted as just being "human nature". It's the way things are. There's not much we can do about it.  But the catch-all concept of human nature is a major and generally unacknowledged plank in bourgeois ideology. The miseries concocted out of submission to capitalism's demands on the working class in particular, the psychological devastation that accrues, is conveniently dismissable as "well you know, in the end it's all just human nature. There's nothing to be done about it. After all, capitalism itself, with all its faults,  is just the result of human nature.   We just have to get on with it and do the best we can."  But of course we don't have to.   When the life giving urge to self-realization is freed from its capitalist and individualistic shackles, and becomes a matter of class consciousness, solidarity and the self-realization of a whole class, then the general mass of mental, psychological fears we suffer under now begin to dissipate and we risk a better understanding of what the thing  we currently call human nature might actually be. Or whether it exists at all.   The fears  and demons that stalk the night and terrify our dreams and even our waking nightmares is what I reference as fearsome, loathsome  and anti-life. Not the tiger behind the forest tree, which generates rightly a quite different and more positive type of fear in the cause of self-preservation.            

Fred
Despite my best efforts my

Despite my best efforts my attempts at formatting and making paragraphs stick have all failed. I apologize.

Demogorgon
"Because hunter-gatherers

"Because hunter-gatherers killed and butchered animals doesn't mean that they were "aggressive" in the sense that we understand the term."

Aggression doesn't necessarily apply a hostile affect, although it often can. In particular, predatory aggression can involve a quite different affective display (and presumably, therefore, emotional state) than other forms. A dog that barks and growls is not going to be a particularly effective hunter; it'll warn its prey that it's close. On the other hand, wander into a garden with a certain type of dog in it and it'll snarl, snap, bark etc. because it wants you to know it's there and is willing to defend its flower beds.

The point being that I don't see a necessary contradiction between the respect, indeed worship, of prey in early human communities and accepting it as a form of aggression.

There are clearly shared biological mechanisms in humans (which we also share with animals), such as the "fight-or-flight" mechanism. That doesn't mean that the actual operation of these mechanisms can't be heavily mediated by social and other mechanisms. Even in humans, although men and women share the same essential mechanism, women also have a "tend and befriend" response which has biological bases in oxytocin regulation and broader evolutionary basis in the fact that a flight-or-fight response in its basic form would compromise the safety of children.

In modern society, one might argue that many elements of fight-or-flight are maladaptive anyway. Society creates an abundance of extremely threatening situations where both the basic responses are deemed socially inappropriate. If your boss threatens you, punching her on the nose and (literally) running away can both get you the sack. On the other hand, a pint down the pub and a whinge with your mates - or spending too much time on internet forums! - could be seen as a socially adaptive form of flight, while competitive sport may allow socially-sanctioned expression of the fight reflex.

Obviously, different societies will have different views on the acceptable expression of the range of human emotions, but all societies (including communism) have to enable outlets for them somehow. I suspect anger will always be a part of human nature - and surely one of the motivators for class struggle is an anger against injustice.

jk1921
Anger Management

Demogorgon wrote:

Obviously, different societies will have different views on the acceptable expression of the range of human emotions, but all societies (including communism) have to enable outlets for them somehow. I suspect anger will always be a part of human nature - and surely one of the motivators for class struggle is an anger against injustice.

I'll mention this at my next "anger management" seminar.

Demogorgon
Are you giving it or taking

Are you giving it or taking it?

blackpope75
greed

i think it is a part of human nature that develops conciousness of every comrades all over the world to abolish of being greed. it is about the greediness of bourgeios society against to working people. the more proletariats eagerly work the more profit they can get but they know thru the sweat and labour power of the workers they paid the workers in low wages. so much greed they can hurt many people.

 

baboon
A brief diversion in relation

A brief diversion in relation to Jamal's question above about when did class society first appear and were its origins in more archaic times. There was conflict during the period of primitive communism and probably some elements of differentiation. This conflict doesn't have to be aggressive or violent or lead to violence and it could be managed within the existing society as well as acting as a stabilising force or a spur forwards. The basis for class division and the state does not exist here.

We see the appearance of the state with the devopment of civilisation (civilisations) which Marx said (quoting Fourrier, I think) was "the war of the rich against the poor". The development of the state didn't happen uniformly but its fundamental development came once the "fetters" of barbarian society (which was global and had lasted many thousands of years) had been broken. Elements of the old society themselves developed from the barbarian gentes (forms of social organisation going way back) into state structures as the old communistic tendencies of that society gave way to permanent retinues and hereditary chiefs more or less accompanied with the change from mother-right to patriarchy. The best and most concise description of the development of class society is Engels "Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State", with much of it based on the work of Lewis Henry-Morgans "Ancient Society..."/

Fred
What a pity Engels didn't

What a pity Engels didn't write "Origin of the Family, Private Property, Human  Nature and the State."

Fred
human nature

blackpope75 wrote:

i think it is a part of human nature that develops conciousness of every comrades all over the world to abolish of being greed. it is about the greediness of bourgeios society against to working people. the more proletariats eagerly work the more profit they can get but they know thru the sweat and labour power of the workers they paid the workers in low wages. so much greed they can hurt many people.

 

 

Hi blackpope75. If it's a part of human nature to develop class consciousness why is this restricted to comrades alone?  Does the working class have a different human nature than does the bourgeoisie?  Is politics a part of human nature too? 

Fred
The monkeyness of the monkey

The monkeyness of the monkey is its monkey nature.  The humanness of the human is our human nature. 

But the bourgeoisie use the concept "human nature" as an ideological weapon. Capitalism and all its awfulness is presented by the bourgeoisie as the product of human nature. We can't do anything about its; its natural; its god's will.  

Greed is not a factor of human nature at all but a pathological and unhealthy condition  produced by capitalism itself; a result of capitalist society's misery and despair.  

baboon
1844

Another quote from Marx's Manuscripts: "Communism is the positive abolition of private property, of human self-alienationj, and thus, the real appropriation of human nature, through and for man. It is thereforre the return of man himself as a social, that is, really human being, a complete and conscious return which assimilates all the wealth of previous development".

The bourgeoisie, doens't only say, through its fundamental tenet of social Darwinism, that mankind is innately greedy, selfish, aggressive and warlike - all attributes perfected by the bourgeoisie and its economic system - but it has also used the idea of Rousseau's "Noble Savage", the innocent perfection of a previous society, in order to bolster its revolutions and its class rule. To me the quote above deals with both the questions of a "human nature" that is a mixture of innate emotions and the against the idea of liberty and equality being restored from a previous ideal. Marx goes beyond both traps by posing positive revolutionary developments outside of those restrictive confines.

jk1921
Its probably not a surprise

Its probably not a surprise to anyone here, but it should be mentioned that the question of whether Marxism has a "philosophical anthropology" that does posit a human nature or if it views human behaviour as structured predominantly by objective social, historical and economic context has a LONG history of debate in the literature. Its not entirely an academic question either as there are political ramifications for how one comes down on this.

Personally, I prefer to think of human behaviour as rather fungible depending on context, whether its questions of greed vs. altruism, agressiveness vs. cooperation, innate sexual preferences vs. socially constructed sexual identity, etc. Of course, that is not to deny the fundamental underlying biological basis of the human species, but I think Jamal is on to something when he suggests that communism may be such a radical departure from all that has come before it that even that aspect of humanity may have to change.

This probably wasn't very helpful....

Redacted
In each of those dichotomies,

In each of those dichotomies, I also see reflections of what jk calls a "radical departure".

According to scientists, empathy was so beneficial to humans it became a defining evolutionary trait. Our bigger brains took longer to mature than our hominid cousins, making the act of caring for others, especially in the context of child rearing, essential doings. Certain hominids, like certain simians alive today, reach "maturity" or gain the ability to feed themselves very early on. Not the case with humans.

200,000 years ago, things like adopting orphans, caring for the sick, forming tight pair bonds --- these were all "radical depatures". But today are basically common sense.

But to quote the character Dr. Mann (fucking legendary character!) from the film Interstellar:

"Evolution has yet to transcend that simple barrier. We can care deeply, selflessly about those we know. But that empathy rarely extends beyond our line of sight."

jk1921
Imagined Community

Jamal wrote:

But to quote the character Dr. Mann (fucking legendary character!) from the film Interstellar:

"Evolution has yet to transcend that simple barrier. We can care deeply, selflessly about those we know. But that empathy rarely extends beyond our line of sight."

Interesting quote, of course we now also have the phenomenon of "imagined communities," in which people are encouraged to have empathy for people they don't know based on rather arbitrary and accidental characteristics: race, nationality, langauge, etc. and of course less empathy for those who fall outside the constructed community. Studies have shown that people are more willing to donate to disaster relief efforts--even when they know nobody involved personally--if the victims are somehow portrayed as belonging to the same imagined community.

A.Simpleton
Second nature

jk1921 wrote:

I think it was Lukacs who suggested that there is something like a "second nature." Even if these behaviours are social products, humanity has been immersed in those social conditions long enough that they assume the character of human nature.

Regardless, its still the case that the only route out of this is through the very society that produces the "negative" behaviours in the first place, which leaves us still having to specify the material circumstances or conditions that lead to a transcendence of these things. Thus, it must also be the case that capitalism produces not only greed but also solidarity, unless we want to fall back on arguing for a vestigal pre-captialist solidarity as the basis for the proletarian revolution.

Far from confusing (as DG stated above). It's a very good formulation of questions around what I have tagged the 'bootstrap operation' in my personal shorthand. It was Lukacs, as jk says:

The commodity can only he understood in its undistorted essence when it becomes the universal category of society as a whole.

Only in this context does the reificiation produced by commodity relations assume decisive importance both for the objective evolution of society and for the stance adopted by men towards it. Only then does the commodity become crucial for the subjugation of men’s consciousness to the forms in which this reification finds expression and for their attempts to comprehend the process or to rebel against its disastrous effects and liberate themselves from servitude to the ‘second nature’ so created

i.e.

jk1921 wrote:

the only route out of this is through the very society that produces the "negative" behaviours in the first place.

The question here is about the 'first nature' that has the opportunity to return in 'grown up' form as it were.

I got the response a while back in discussion with work colleagues 'well communism is a nice idea but man is by nature greedy' and not for the first time.

Yes: the misrepresentations in domineering bourgeois ideology, their gaoler nature must be attacked. The presumptions of the ruling class' ideas on man's nature and social development ideologically enforce the material servitude and work against consciousness. 'Survival of the most-able-to-adapt-and-change' is actually the theory as various c'rades point out : not strongest - fittest (at the gym) - biggest - loudest.

Yes: the communism of abundance is the correct framework. But here I voice a query - probably just pedantic logic - that I have felt re: the 'Not just a nice idea book'. Lets' be clear in no way does it propose the un-Marxist idealising of the primitive but - and I'm just thinking out loud and asking, not pronouncing 

'The slightest acquaintance with human history dispels this version of human nature [that competition, greed etc are inherent] ..'for the longest time, hundreds of thousands of years mankind lived where the essentials of wealth were shared..

But this is the communism of scarcity. The species shared or died. Although with mortal irony we are indeed faced with the same choice today, it is in abundance and an abundance of material progress which greed ('Habsucht' 'Have-sickness) power, hierarchy in a way helped to achieve. 

Perhaps humanity will have to make its own evolution as well as its own history whatever is in our limbic systems?

Fred
human behaviour

I still don't understand all this "human nature" stuff, and whether there is or isn't one, or even whether it matters. If only Jamal's original question had just said: What is greed? and left out asking if it's part of human nature, how much easier things would have been. 

We could have discussed the cause of greed, whether it's good or bad, whether it's a normal or natural instinct or not, like the urge to urinate from time to time is natural, and other things too. We could have talked about how our very early ancestors appear to have dealt with greed by the formulation of basic rules to do with the hunt, and the regulation of food allocation and so on. How they established a very basic morality which underpinned and organized for the benefit of all their social behavior, and developed a primitive kind of ethics as essential to the satisfactory running of society which would make this society generally acceptable to everybody.   This is what we call now, looking back, primitive communism.  We could have talked about all  this without ever mentioning "human nature", which as far as I know no one has ever properly defined not even Aristotle. (I could be wrong!) 

But didn't Marx go a long way to telling us how humanity would behave under communism when he said: From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.  So, if we still insist on the concept "human nature", then this formulation by Marx describes how human nature will work  in the new society. And because there will be a clearly established morality or code of ethics in this new society  corruptions of the human psyche like greed, anger, jealousy and all the cruder manifestations of human behavior will tend to disappear as we all grow up. 

 

blackpope75
greed

it is because there is nothing the same with the bourgeisie system like a bureaucratic capitalism/capitalism. i don't said that the working class have a different nature, it is the system that needed to abolish it because of the greed not in the working conditions but also in politics. if politics is a part of human nature i say yes, it is connected to greed why? there ids no contentment in his future. 

 

Redacted
Fred, while you do have some

Fred, while you do have some valid points, my intention was very specifically to call into question the concept of greed as it relates to the concept of human nature. Not sure why you are confused or surprised. I fully expected the question of "does greed exist?" to bring us to the question "does human nature exist?", something all comrades seem to have touched on in this thread.

AS has made a great post and I'm in full agreement. Can't tell you guys how much I hear the line "Communism is perfect on paper, but humans are naturally greedy and competitive. Just look at _____ [insert Stalinist regime here]."

I have to say, though, that I don't find the "first nature, second nature" thing helpful at all. It seems to me that we all agree that if there is such a thing as "human nature", or a generic essence as Marx called, it is dominantly a result of society, not a cause for society existing.

One more point - jealousy and anger. Not sure about jealousy, but I see anger as critical to the human experience.

KT
Re "Abundance"

I agree with AS that the communism of the 'primitives' was indeed not fundamentally a moral, conscious choice (even if solidarity was shared, cultivated and celebrated in ceremony and legend amongst other behaviours) but an existence foisted upon humanity by modes of production marked by scarcity. By contrast, should it prevail, tomorrow’s ‘return at a higher level’, communism, will be characterised both by a relative abundance of the means of subsistence and, crucially, be the product of a growing consciousness which in turn will impact on how and what we produce, and for what purpose. We may still be ‘greedy’: for knowledge, maybe. We may still display lust: for the multiple physical and mental stimulations that life offers, etc, etc. But these ‘attributes’ will have fundamentally different characteristics from those displayed today and will be expressed under different circumstances which alter their essence. Mankind has always ‘made itself’ - transformed its ‘species being’ - through labour and the social relations arising from its organisation and the degree of development of the productive forces. Tomorrow, this will be a conscious affair in which the tendencies towards greed, acquisitiveness, selfishness and jealousy are harnessed for collective and individual empowerment. This will start with the revolutionary process itself: necessary, says Marx, not merely for the seizure of political power but for beginning to rid humanity of the muck of ages through the unavoidable promotion of solidarity, camaraderie, sacrifice, heroism, unselfishness, collective effort and class consciousness  etc, etc, which alone can guarantee the movement’s success.

However, if capitalism has laid the potential basis for this transformation (and is today threatening to undermine this ‘gain’ of globally developed productive forces), we shouldn’t mistake, where they exist (which is by no means everywhere) the bulging shelves, lakes of wine and oil and other surplus commodities (including that of labour power) as a form of “abundance” which might be implied in AS’s contribution. The phenomenon AS describes here is overproduction – the sign that the productive forces could, with the right social organisation, be developed to enable the fulfilment of humanity’s basic and not so basic ‘needs’. But it is not in itself that development: on the contrary.

PS: Tend to agree with Jamal about the usefulness, for this discussion, of the 'two natures'.

jk1921
Briefly, the point about the

Briefly, the point about the two natures thing is this: Whatever tendencies towards solidarity and altruism characterized primitive man or pre-capitalist man or whatever, this may not be the most effective argument against notions of an inherently greedy mankind today. Humanity has lived under class society for long enough that greed might rightly be said to have become integrated into human nature, like a retrovirus becomes part of the genome.

Its a question of where does the impulse to resist captialist relations come from--from a vestigal pre-capitalist "noble primitive" solidarity (England before the Norman yoke or some such yearning) or from within the relations of capitalist society itself--the impulse to solidarity and collective resistance overcoming the impulse towards personal acquisition, everyman for himself, etc. both of which flow from the structures of class/captialist society.

As to Fred's question about why any of this matters: Some might wonder if there is no inherent human nature that capitalism somehow mucks up, then there is no basis upon which to think a resistance to captialist relations can form. If man is a total tabula rasa, then there is no such thing as "alienation," and thus no basis upon which to think mankind would even want to challenge commodity fetishism. A rejoinder to this would be what I outlined above--resistance is as much a product of captialism as the things to be resisted.

One additional complication is that is seems to me that although it is quite right to point out the cross cutting nature of human behaviour under class society--there is greed at the same time there is solidarity, there is sadism at the same time there is empathy--these qualities do not exist in concrete human individuals in the same quantities. Some people think is just fine to torture people, while others find it morally repugnant. Some people tout the virtues of posessive individualism, while others champion more communitarian goals--and these do not always break down along class lines. (Mitt Romney and Joe the Plumber?) We can write this latter part off to the influence of ideology, which is of course a factor, but it seems to me that we need to explain why certain people are more likely to fall for the ideology than others. Is there a depper difference in moral instincts at work? If so, where does it come from?

Redacted
Morality vs. Ethicality & Abundance

Ah, ok, that makes sense. I agree the "second nature" thing does have some usefulness.

Don't know about the other comrades but the terms "moral" and "morality" eg "good vs. evil" has always made me cringe. I think ethics and ethicality are more useful because those terms imply a "scalable" concept of "right vs. wrong" according to what society deems fit. Jk mentions the example of torture, well thats the justification, its "morally" acceptable to torture the bad guy. But one mans freedom fighter is another mans terrorist. It's because of situations like these an act can be both moral and unethical at the same time. Or unethical but supposedly moral, like stoning your daughter to death for having premarital sex or killing gay people.

I guess in much the same way Marx viewed human nature as dominantly a construct of society, we should also see morality in the same light.

Re: Re: Abundance - It's funny, I've always thought of capitalism as the society of "abundance", but I guess overabundance or wastefulness are better terms, indeed. For what it's worth, I hope communism will not also be a society of "abundance". After all, surplus commodities and economies are what got us here, no? I see communism more of a society of social necessity than "abundance".

KT
Further thought

Nice post (#39) JK: food for further reflection.

Jamal: another way of looking at this 'abundance' question - it's the difference between labouring because you have to - necessity born out of scarcity - and labouring because you want to, because you derive immense satisfaction from the creativity of your productive actions which you choose willingly and freely, without compulsion ie "after labour has become not only a means of life but life's prime want" (Marx, Critique of the Gotha Prog)

Fred
A problem suddenly occurred

A problem suddenly occurred with the web page, so I'm told, so my post I've just spent an hour on was deleted. 

Fred
The Garden of Eden

jk wrote:
 Some might wonder if there is no inherent human nature that capitalism somehow mucks up, then there is no basis upon which to think a resistance to captialist relations can form. If man is a total tabula rasa, then there is no such thing as "alienation," and thus no basis upon which to think mankind would even want to challenge commodity fetishism. A rejoinder to this would be what I outlined above--resistance is as much a product of captialism as the things to be resisted.
 

If we were a total tabula rasa at birth then I guess we would be psychologically and mentally innocent and without prejudice. But it wouldn't take long for capitalism to expel us from this Garden of Eden would it, and the alienating snake would get us eventually? As you say jk, resistance to capitalism, like alienation, is a product of the system itself. Not caring myself for the expression "human nature"  and wanting a definition of what it might be - if it exists - and fearing a complete commitment to the tabula rasa suggestion - though not rejecting it either - I wondered if it was possible that our brains at birth already  contain  an innate largely sub-conscious component - inherited from our three million year life as a species -  relating to how we learned to live together in communal and mutually supportive groups, and whether that might be what we crudely call "our human nature"? A sort of deeply embedded  memory of our species history and our efforts to learn how to live together for the benefit of all, which produced some essential but  primitive ethics.  Human nature! 

Alf
prehistory of morality

This is a very interesting dicussion. I think Fred's last post in going in the right direction, in seeing the foundations of morality in our evolutionary past. Darwin posited a social instinct and saw the germs of morality in the animal kingdom, something which we inherit because of its usefulness in the strugle for survival. So this would go against the 'tabula rasa' idea. But the idea of a 'second nature' is also important because human beings have developed culture far beyond any embyronic form it has in the animal kingdom, and with it the specifically human self-consciousness.  For the human species morality becomes something that is (up to a point) conscious of itself. (In answer to Jamal I would define ethics as the 'philosophy of morality' and it really only develops at a rather developed stage of civilisation -eg the ancient Greeks).

Of course, this transition from nature to culture, taking place in conditions not of man's own choosing, brings forth new contradictions, not least the problem of guilt. I think all these questions take us back to the origins of the species and the long phase of primitive communism, as most comrades have noted, and can't be restricted to a discussion of humanity under capitalism. 

On scarcity and abundance in primitive communism. I agree that hunter gatherers faced scarcity in certain conditons and phases of their life cycle, but it can also be argued that they had far more leisure time than any subsequent form of human society so far, and they used this to develop a considerable cultural wealth (ritual, art,etc). 

Redacted
Re:

Fred wrote:

A problem suddenly occurred with the web page, so I'm told, so my post I've just spent an hour on was deleted. 

Sorry this keeps happening to you friend. I have also been a victim of this same phenomenon. It's nothing against you personally, so don't feel singled out. The problem is being cause by the Anti-DDOS measures, such as the captcha page prompting you at a regular interval. I have two tips:

1. Every operating system has a text editor. If you need help getting one up let us know. It would be wise to type your posts here, and past them into the forum reply box when finished. This is what I have been doing.

2. In the event you submit a reply and are greeted with an error screen, open a new tab in your browser, point it to the ICC forums and make sure you are still logged in or complete the captcha test if prompted. After doing both those things, close the recently open tab, then hit back on your original tab. The post should re-appear in the reply box for you to submit. Unfotunately this doesn't work everytime, so option 1 is your best bet.

Hope that helps.

PS - Had to use method #2 to post this just now.

Redacted
I HAVE MADE FIRE
baboon
\I'm not saying that anyone

\I'm not saying that anyone is, but I don't think that greed, a product of class society, can be equated to the need to gratify certain wants: to have a safe place to sleep, to eat, to be protected against the weather, to play, to have someone to love and other sensuous enjoyments.

I don't think that what we call primitive communism was a time of scarcity. There must have been climatic periods when some things were in short supply but these could have only led to more positive developments and adaptations, certainly not scarcity though. Marx talked about the chains of primitive communism being "comfortable". What studies there have been on this issue - and they should be treated warily - have shown that Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers needed to spend a relatively short time to provide all they wanted for themselves, leaving plenty of time for the development of other activities. All the more intriguing then that we should move from this relative "comfort" into the world of agriculture and cultivation, back-breaking, disease-ridden work taking up much more time and producing smaller and less fit human beings.

I don't think that there's any doubt that the morality of prehistoric peoples worked its way into the developments of civilisation and provided a healthy resistance to the demands of class society.

Redacted
Stone age hunters used to

Stone age hunters used to overhunt frequently.

When a child wants another toy a child is playing with, and takes it, is that greed? I can't say for sure but, having never been a parent, I would expect this type of behavior to show before the 1 year and a half marker, which is when the vast majority of us start to gain theory of mind.

If a child displays "greedy" behavior before having knowledge of self, wouldn't that suggest the tendency is more complex than just looking out for one's self?

A.Simpleton
All good points

KT is right in his response and depiction. I prefaced my specific point about taking the long eras in prehistory of primitive communism as a kind of 'proof of possibility' for something so qualitatively different with wondering whether it was a point of logic and I think it was: '

'We were all more human sharing children once therefore we can be come even happier as adults with more to share but an incomparable more. Many of the posts reformulate that well and clarify.

Baboon especially reminds me of the misrepresentation that foreshortened categorised analysis can lead to all too easily. Certainly 40 years ago, in archaeology and physical anthropology, the finding of hominid remains, ten part-skulls here, some shin bones there, lots of teeth from a different continent, carbon dated to plus or minus 4,000 years were presented as two or three straight lines of descent and the ascent of 'man'.

Four thousand years is a long time let alone 200,000 never mind a million.The culture and art that irrefutably remain (and the heart of the very rhythms I and other drummers still play on animal skin over hollow tree stump) simply cannot represent millenia of rain-soaked hungry hominid daily grind. That is back protection of the allegedly much cleverer, hi-tech, more civilised daily grind of capitalist mode.

I'll post separately portions of letters from Marx to Engels re Darwin and the socialist tendency.

 

A.Simpleton
As promised

Marx To Ferdinand Lassalle

In Berlin   16th Jan 1861

After characteristically blunt comments about a new book by Bastian (unknown to me)viz

I happened upon A. Bastian, Der Mensch in der Geschichte, etc. I think it’s a bad book, formless and pretentious. His endeavour to explain psychology in terms of ‘natural science’ amounts to little more than a pious wish. His endeavour to explain history in terms of ‘psychology’, shows that the man does not know what psychology is, or, for that matter, history.

Then by contrast:

.........Darwin’s work is most important and suits my purpose in that it provides a basis in natural science for the historical class struggle. One does, of course, have to put up with the clumsy English style of argument. Despite all shortcomings, it is here that, for the first time, ‘teleology’ in natural science is not only dealt a mortal blow but its rational meaning is empirically explained.

Marx To Engels

In Manchester  [London,] 25 March 1868

The history of mankind is like palaeontology. Owing to a certain judicial blindness, even the best minds fail to see, on principle, what lies in front of their noses. Later, when the time has come, we are surprised that there are traces everywhere of what we failed to see.

The first reaction to the French Revolution and the Enlightenment bound up with it was naturally to regard everything as mediaeval, romantic, and even people like Grimm are not free from this.

The second reaction to it is to look beyond the Middle Ages into the primitive age of every people — and this corresponds to the socialist tendency, though these learned men have no idea that they are connected with it. And they are then surprised to find what is newest in what is oldest, and even egalitarians to a degree which would have made Proudhon shudder.

AS

baboon
Three points:Hunter-gatherers

Three points:
Hunter-gatherers did overhunt some species at some times but generally hunting strategies developed to make the best use of what there was and maintain their numbers. For instance, it wouldn’t have helped the survival of the mega-fauna to have their numbers hunted but the main cause of its demise seems to be climatic. There’s a discussion here but the extinction of these large animals wasn’t entirely and even mainly, down to hunting. Studies show that the demise of the mega-fauna in South America point to mainly climatic change.

Scarcity doesn’t seem to have been a problem among hunter-gatherers and though it must have occurred on occasions it acted as a spur to the elimination of scarcity and a development of the productive forces. This is clear by looking at the last ice age. Such an event must have caused shortages, severe disruption of the basics and great problems for society. What we see from this in Europe, where the skin of sapiens is still somewhat brown, is enormous developments in the productive forces. It’s not just adaption to new conditions but an adaption with an advance. Similarly, if we look at the aftermath of the Toba explosion some 70,000 years ago, which would have had profound disruptive effects that must have included shortages, we see not only the stabilisation and advance of homo sapiens but of several other homo species as well.

On the development of prehistoric morality being “taken forward”: when we talk about “primitive communism” we quite rightly mean a framework of hunter-gatherers. But, beginning about thirteen thousand years ago hunter-gatherers were breaking away from this tradition (though it was still maintained in part) and becoming builders of “temples”, architects and craftspeople. The first civilisations arose about four thousand years ago so between hunter-gatherers proper and the beginning of class society and the state there is a gap of some eight thousand years. What filled this gap was a world-wide society (with cultural specifics that were similar and different) that maintained and even refined communistic tendencies and this was the distinct society of the barbarians. This society gave us the building of temples, ceramics, metal-working and agriculture and it did this entirely outside of the framework of private property. Along with, and more than that, this society also developed moral codes, brotherhoods and sisterhoods that were by no means exclusive of the other sex; a certain democracy far more inclusive than any in ancient Greece; a strong tendency towards mother-right that reinforced many of the moral codes; slavery was unknown – prisoners were either assimilated into the tribe or killed; war chiefs only elected for war and, with the fighters, stood down when the crisis passed; nominal chiefs of the tribe the power being with the assembly. This is the barbarians and some of their societies persisted well into civilisation.
As they were absorbed, crushed or whatever by civilisation, as they were turned into slaves and serfs under the most brutal oppression, then the morality of this society, the accumulated, developed morality of prehistory, stood these peoples in good stead to face up the travails of class society and oppression, seeing them fight back even (after the collapse of the Roman Empire) and laying the basis for the class identification and solidarity of the peasantry.

KT
Some elements

A superb if somewhat partial (1) timeline appraisal by Baboon of our ancestors’ abilities, achievements, culture ... their humanity – our humanity - without which, etc, etc.  The question is: why write this here? Why reiterate this now?  

No-one, I think, is denigrating Primitive Communism or the society of the Barbarians as described above: to say humanities’ incredible journey was made with a very low development of the productive forces; to insist that this was all still within the realm of necessity (if you don’t like the term scarcity) within which the various societies and individuals which comprised them were largely at the mercy of their surroundings rather than being masters of them – to insist on all this only makes the achievements that more astonishing.

However, to overlook or underplay the historical fact that – in the final analysis – the social relations embodied by this mode of production, at that moment in our development, became a barrier to humanities’ ‘progress’, which has been, of course, also a ‘fall’ in the dialectical sense (2),  is to under-estimate the opportunity, the challenge, that the modern proletariat faces today: to consciously make the leap from the ‘realm of necessity to the realm of freedom’ equipped with the means of production to make it happen. Something our ancestors couldn’t do, unless you think like an anarchist! I don’t believe it’s falling into ‘productivism’ to state this.

Even Alf’s valid point (#44) about the leisure time enjoyed by (some) archaic societies (by no means all of them, everywhere, over the eons we are discussing) reinforces the fact that they did not overcome the dichotomy between work and leisure that is a hallmark of underdeveloped productive forces that we’ll aim to overturn tomorrow.  (3)

Let’s think about the concerns that prompted this thread: how do we explain that humanity is not necessarily selfish, greedy, doomed to destroy itself: that communism is a ‘nice idea’ but unworkable?

One tack is indeed to explain that for the majority of its existence on this planet, humanity has organised itself in a caring sharing manner; the societies it created were by and large, classless; there was not, in general, exploitation of man by man and that they held all goods in common. Baboon’s post (indeed all his contributions all over this site on this subject) do this with real clarity which comes from a depth of knowledge.

But we also need to explain why these societies were doomed to fall: did indeed fail. And to give a perspective: to use the Marxist method to explain that here and now we are potentially in a position to create a global, classless community and why this is so. And to develop through discussions like these, our collective understanding of the issues.

So, to mark a certain point in the discussion (and to take a position on aspects of it) ....

Is there a human nature? yes (and nothing human is alien to me, as Marx said).

Is it fixed, immutable? No: but we require - the history of philosophy shows we have always strived for – a better understanding of what is the ‘core’ of human nature and what is more circumstantial: what is the essence and what the accretion. What is ‘in general’ and what, for example, the product of class societies and capitalism in particular.

Are greed, selfishness, etc , facets of human nature? For me yes, but I repeat: I think the framework given by Demogorgon in post #2 is the correct one: The real question is why is it that certain aspects of human nature dominate in certain circumstances. And is it possible to foresee circumstances where the "negative" aspects of human nature can be expressed in a positive way?”

Finally, a word on second nature: JK1921 (post #39) wrote:

“Briefly, the point about the two natures thing is this: Whatever tendencies towards solidarity and altruism characterized primitive man or pre-capitalist man or whatever, this may not be the most effective argument against notions of an inherently greedy mankind today. Humanity has lived under class society for long enough that greed might rightly be said to have become integrated into human nature, like a retrovirus becomes part of the genome.”

I’m sure there are elements to agree with in the notion of ‘second nature’. Marx spoke about the dominant ideas of society being those of the ruling class: it’s common sense (‘second nature’?) to accept things as they are. We know the base/superstructure thing is a two-way process (ideology, a material force, etc). He also spoke of the traditions of the past weighing like a nightmare on the brains of the living. Second nature has also been described as “conditioning”. Freud feared for humanities’ future because he perceived it wasn’t merely the parents’ egos that were imposed on the next generation but their super-egos: the largely unconscious, controlling aspects of repression which, he said, were passed down from generation to generation, blocking the possibilities of radical development in individuals and the species (sorry: rather crude exposition here, but you get the drift). All elements towards developing this ‘second nature’ concept, perhaps. However ....

What I can’t agree with is the notion that all this “second nature” has become integrated into human nature to the point of no return – on a biological level, even. We’ve been living under class society for a few thousand of years, true, yet we still recall the slave uprisings of the Spartacists; the Peasants Revolt of the Middle Ages and the global revolutionary wave is less than 100 years behind us: a blink of an eye in historical time. Decomposition is one thing: a change at the level of our DNA is quite another, IMO.

PS: sorry for the long post: I’m off where the internet doesn’t shine for a while.

(1)    See, for example, the text War Before Civilization on this site, which goes into violence in archaic societies, something somewhat underplayed, IMO, in Baboon’s post above. It’s just one of the excellent contributions on primitive communism and evolution in general  by or about Wallace, Darwin, Marx, Engels, Morgan, Pannekoek; more recent thinkers such as Knight, Power, their critics and, not least, from ICC members and sympathisers of the organisation, Baboon first and foremost amongst the latter. https://en.internationalism.org/worldrevolution/201307/8953/war-civilisation

(2)    Anyone read Pandora’s Seed – The Unforeseen Cost of Civilisation by Spencer Wells? It’s apparently a very thorough critique of the ills brought about by the agrarian revolution.

(3)  I’m not in any way endorsing this text, but The Truth About Primitive Life (Ted Kaczynski) provides some food for thought. http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/ted-kaczynski-the-truth-about-primitive-life-a-critique-of-anarchoprimitivism

jk1921
Dopamine Dominance

KT wrote:

What I can’t agree with is the notion that all this “second nature” has become integrated into human nature to the point of no return – on a biological level, even. We’ve been living under class society for a few thousand of years, true, yet we still recall the slave uprisings of the Spartacists; the Peasants Revolt of the Middle Ages and the global revolutionary wave is less than 100 years behind us: a blink of an eye in historical time. Decomposition is one thing: a change at the level of our DNA is quite another, IMO.

Well, there is the so-called "dopaminergic society" theory, in which socio-historical developments really have changed our biological make-up to favor certain personality types. In this case, the development of frequent meat consumption promoting the augmentation of dopamanie as the dominant neuro-transmitter favoring intelligence, but also personal fulfillment, goal and acheivement oriented action, a certain level of ruthlessness in inter-personal relationships, male dominance and a general decline in empathy. Its not hard to see in this a refection of bourgeois personality types--but what came first class relationships causing a shift to dompamine dominance or the opposite?

Interestingly, modern psychiatry tends to blame "high dopamine" for all kinds of psychopathology--most importantly schizonphrenia, but also obsessive compulsive disorders, which are not hard to see as a certain "bourgeois personality type" gone haywire.

I am not agreeing with any of that, just putting it out there......

A.Simpleton
Psychology

Dualistically - and I believe spuriously - framed as opposites, in increasing-division-of- analytical-mental-labour style into Medical Psychology and Social Psychology. Crudely put, the former looks for enzymes the latter at poverty to 'explain'.

Both, neither, both and [both and neither both] et seq.which is the Hegelian tsunami of thought beyond which (what a relief) Marx went - or rather 'beneath' to the actual, real (wirklich) state of affairs.

It's outdated now but a study decades ago that my hippy professor made, showed with regard to one theory, that the enzyme supposedly responsible for schizophrenia - itself a label which is placed on the human individual and they 'live up to it' - was just a result of the food in that particular asylum for the allegedly abnormal behavers. (Blair/ Bush behave 'normally'? (shome mishtake shurely Ed)

The labelled schizophrenic thinks they are Napoleon at one juncture and an alien at another and he wondered why. I agree with KT that Demogorgon hits on the radical/root question. 

“The real question is why is it that certain aspects of human nature dominate in certain circumstances. And is it possible to foresee circumstances where the "negative" aspects of human nature can be expressed in a positive way?”

From The German Ideology :

'Communism is quite incomprehensible to [the anarchist and individualist Max Stirner] because the communists do not oppose egoism to selflessness or selflessness to egoism, nor do they express this contradiction theoretically either in its sentimental or in its high-flown ideological form; they rather demonstrate its material source, with which it disappears of itself.

The communists do not preach morality at all, as Stirner does so extensively. They do not put to people the moral demand: love one another, do not be egoists, etc.. on the contrary, they are very well aware that egoism, just as much as selflessness, is in definite circumstances a necessary form of the self-assertion of individuals. Hence, the communists by no means want…to do away with the ‘private individual’ for the sake of the ‘general,’ selfless man.

(my bold)

Like jk, just putting it out there....

 

baboon
On the above

Good post from KT taking a much broader view of the discussion than my limited efforts and giving more food for thought.
The partial timeline that I took in relation to barbarism was because it was a response to a particular question from Jamal which was how is morality “transferred” from one age to another? I used the argument of barbarian society to show, concretely, how the developed morality of prehistory was further refined in barbarian society, integrated into the consciousness of the oppressed and greatly contributed to the solidarity of the peasantry.
I’ve seen the arguments of the anthropologist Lawrence Keeley before. I don’t think that he uses or investigates much archaeological evidence. At any rate, he relies heavily on ethnographic reportings. Now with ethnographic “evidence”, that is the results of studies of extant tribal peoples, you can come up with virtually any theory you like and have it backed up by the “evidence”. And Keeley does. What his “evidence” definitively shows, and some anarchists have used it in order to attack a Marxist view of prehistory, is that for over one hundred and fifty years capitalism is a much more peaceful society than any in prehistory, i.e., modern western society is overwhelmingly less violent than prehistoric societies. Keeley achieves this result by looking at some of the most bellicose ethnologies living in the twentieth century and draws his utterly bizarre conclusions from these. Ethnological studies can be useful but they are almost always corrupted in the act of relation. One must be extremely careful about using them because they don’t tell you what happened twenty thousand years ago, they tell you what ethnological people are relating to others (westerners who are translating in many cases) in the twentieth century. Keely not only uses this “evidence” to show that capitalism is essentially more peaceful than hunter-gatherer society, he also gives another sophisticated push to the social Darwinism of the bourgeoisie. President Obama said that we can never have peace in the world because “war began with the first man”. Ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair says that “man has always fought”. Keeley backs them up.
Another point that I thought was odd in the article was Keeley’s idea that women in prehistory were against war because it would disturb their traditional activities like “gardening”. Leaving aside other responses, that doesn’t really explain where the women warriors of the barbarian tribes came from.

The oldest archaeological evidence of warfare, that is of a group of people violently attacking another group of people, is thirteen thousand years ago in the Jebel Sahara region of Sudan. There’s evidence of deadly group violence where, among 59 skeletons, 24 met a violent end. In a study reported in Scientific American, July 2013, three thousand skeletons from 400 sites were examined by scientists and four possible violent deaths were identified. Most examples of violent warfare come in the last ten thousand years.

It’s good to know from Keeley that we are living in the most peaceful times ever – that reassures me no end.

Demogorgon
I don't have an aversion to

I don't have an aversion to accepting violence, aggression, etc. as a fundamental element to humanity's psychological make-up. As I've pointed out already, I don't think that even if this is the case, I don't think it threatens the communist project because many of the reasons for violence will be negated in that society. Our aggressive impulses can be channeled into other, more productive outlets.

It's worth bearing in mind the other side of the coin though - and that is that humanity also has a deeply ingrained aversion to same-species violence. The kill-rates in WW2 were supposedly quite low. I've seen some figures that reckon only 20% of US soldiers actually fired at the enemy. And while a soldier may fire, he doesn't necessarily shoot to kill. Fire-rates have gone up in most conflicts since, but kill-rates are still fairly low. Most deaths are caused by more depersonalised means of destruction - artillery, air-strikes, etc.

We can see this in a negative way by the intensive training that soldiers are put through, carefully designed to lessen the psychological blocks to killing. They work, not by turning soldiers into cold-blooded killers, but by conditioning the soldier to act on reflex, bypassing the normal processes of rational action. This has the effect of raising the fire/kill rate but apparently increases the psychological trauma as we can see from the increasing psychological problems by vetaran of the various conflicts in Korea, through Vietnam, Falklands, etc.

To make it easier for a soldier to rationalise the decision to kill, the enemy is dehumanised. We saw this in the recent Gulf War when soldiers were sent over after being indoctrinated in deeply racist depictions of Iraqi and Arabic people. Removing the sense of responsibility also helps - the decision is made by someone else, you're just following orders. Modern fire-teams have very clear command structures, with the team leader giving orders to fire and making the decision for the grunt.

Even this is far from perfect. In spite of the dehumanisation of the Jew and rigid hierarchy of fuherprinzip, the SS in the death camps consumed vast amounts of alcohol to manage the trauma of what they were doing. Indeed, the death camps themselves were partly conceived as a way of managing the genocide "humanely" and with minimal trauma to the Germans after the experience of the Einsaztgruppen showed most people simply couldn't cope with it - it was also grossly inefficient.

Another interesting point is that, contrary to conventional thoughts about "honour" and "rules of war", it's usually a retreating army that takes the most casualties. This is not just about nasty leaders but very simple psychology - when someone starts running away, they become something running away, prey if you like. The adrenaline rebound kicks in, fear vanishes and our instinct is to give chase. Again, this is reflexive, not rational. It also offers an explanation as to why soldiers often kill surrendering enemies - the adrenaline surge is such that the soldier may not fully comprehend his enemy is surrendering.

A view of human nature that sees us as warlike should be seen in context of the deep psychic barriers that resist human-on-human violence. I see no problem with accepting both as elements of human nature and recognising that material circumstances can tip the balance one way or the other.

Fred
humanity's psychological makeup

Demogorgon  said:

Quote:
I don't have an aversion to accepting violence, aggression, etc. as a fundamental element to humanity's psychological make-up.
 

Ah! This is it. "Humanity's psychological make-up". A more helpful and  insightful concept than the loose baggy monster and possibly phony concept "human nature" and one that can be discussed, analyzed, investigated and so on.    

Demogorgon
"A more helpful

"A more helpful and  insightful concept than the loose baggy monster and possibly phony concept "human nature" and one that can be discussed, analyzed, investigated and so on."

Human nature is not a baggy concept at all. It simply means those definite human characteristics that exist independent of culture. Of course, the debate about what those characteristics are has been going since humanity became self-aware. That's not to say that human nature is not a politicised concept, it obviously is. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

baboon
Violence

Interesting points from Demo about the way that the ruling class has adapted the handling of its violence through brainwashing techniques and more general application of psychological methods. I read somewhere that at the beginning of World War I in France, soldiers from Germany and Britain were greatly reluctant to open fire on one another. The British soldiers had a common term for it at the time - live and let live. The High Command put an end to that by its officers opening up artillery barrages which provoked responses and the bloodbath ensued. The only option facing soldiers then was to go along with the madness or, as happened a bit later, mutiny or desert in their hundreds of thousands. Today the bourgeoisie prefer to use professional armies (not entirely trustworthy), special forces, "detached" slaughter and, increasingly, mercenary forces.

 

I should make the point that the position I defend above about the development of barbarian morality is the one, among other things, made by Engels in "The Origins...".

 

And on Professor Lawrence Keeley: his work as an anthropologist in the 1980's on the marks and polishing of stone artifacts led to enormous advances in identifying these artifacts and their usage going back to times much further than previously managed. However, for the reasons above, his views on humanity are those of social Darwinism. The anarchists didn't just attack the ICC's view on prehistory from Keeley's work, they used it to attack the idea of decadence with the argument that we have advanced from dog eat dog, from each against all of a savage society, to a capitalism that's not perfect but overall more peaceful and more civilised than the blood-lust violence of prehistory as classified by the Professor.

Demogorgon
"Interesting points from Demo

"Interesting points from Demo about the way that the ruling class has adapted the handling of its violence through brainwashing techniques and more general application of psychological methods."

Yes, we're so hardwired for violence that we have to be brainwashed into it and suffer psychological trauma following it. This, of course, doesn't contradict the fact that we have natural impulses towards violence as well simply that it's not cut-and-dried. As with most human qualities, however, these vary in the population. Every army has soldiers who have few problems with killing and some who even quite enjoy it.

"I read somewhere that at the beginning of World War I in France, soldiers from Germany and Britain were greatly reluctant to open fire on one another. The British soldiers had a common term for it at the time - live and let live. The High Command put an end to that by its officers opening up artillery barrages which provoked responses and the bloodbath ensued. The only option facing soldiers then was to go along with the madness or, as happened a bit later, mutiny or desert in their hundreds of thousands."

One of the problems in WW1 and 2 is that soldiers were trained with paper cut-outs. When they ended up in the field and actually confronted the "enemy" and saw another human being in front of them, the fear and hate in his eyes, etc. most of them were unable to bring themselves to shoot-to-kill. These days, the figures soldiers train with are much more lifelike which helps to prevent surprise over coming the reflex action.

"Today the bourgeoisie prefer to use professional armies (not entirely trustworthy), special forces, "detached" slaughter and, increasingly, mercenary forces."

Who are subjected to far longer and more intensive training before seeing combat than the conscripts of the World Wars were. In particular, those who aren't able to adapt to the realities of killing tend to pass out of the armed forces "voluntarily". In conscript armies, this isn't usually an option. I don't think the abandoning of conscription is just down to bourgeois preference, but to do with the nature of today's global situation. Huge set piece wars are not currently on the agenda (obviously the reasons for this are up for debate!). But the US was still drafting people to fight in Viet Nam in the 70s which certainly added to the explosive social and political situation around that conflict.

"However, for the reasons above, his views on humanity are those of social Darwinism."

I'm not sure that Keeley's views can be regarded as "social darwinism". My understanding of "Social Darwinism" is the idea that natural selection (and Spencer's "survival of the fittest") justify the idea that the rich deserve their wealth by virtue of their obvious "fitness". It has nothing to do with natural selection, of course, unless there's evidence that "the rich" are more successful at reproducing than the poor. Judging from the terror the rich seem to have that the poor will outbreed them, this wouldn't seem to be the case. I doubt there's much evidence of a direct corrolation with wealth and certain allelle frequencies, or you'd have to ask why we're not all getting richer ...

In any case, I'm not sure Keeley's views - at least as explained here - are properly an expression of "Social Darwinism" as it's usually understood. I suppose it depends on what you mean by Social Darwinism, of course.

Redacted
Are we giving Fred the short

Are we giving Fred the short end of the stick here? The general tone of this discussion seems to be more in agreement with Fred than in disagreement. I'd prefer to have someone like Fred constantly reminding me that human nature doesn't exist over the bourgeois position, cramming "survival of the fittest" down our windpipes.

Demo has said: "Human nature is not a baggy concept at all. It simply means those definite human characteristics that exist independent of culture."

What characteristics are definitely human?

Because from my perspective things like greed are still very much up in the air. Sure we've given evidence for the usefulness of characteristics in terms of pre-modern survival. But I for one have walked away from this discussion feeling less and less that we are hard coded for anything.

What characteristics are definitely human? Eating, sleeping and having sex. All the rest - I have to agree with Fred - gets a bit "baggy".

PS - I have a lot more to say but I'll leave it there for now. And also, there is a direct correlation, a negative one, between rates of reproduction and the income levels worldwide. It's been shown time and time again the advanced capitalist nations have less babies than developing, by a large factor, and I'm sure the comrades are aware of this. Nonetheless this still suggest the opposite of the rich being the "fittest". Actually there so unfit they don't fuck like the rest of us. Or maybe they can just afford birth control. Who knows...

Redacted
So "baggy" is british slang

So "baggy" is british slang for something old and outdated? Today I learned...

jaycee
I definitely think there is

I definitely think there is such a thing as human nature, just as there is a chimpanzee nature, a spider nature etc. Humans have their physical and phsychological chracteristics which make them human, however as is clear from this discussion this is not a rigidly fixed unchanging nature but rather a certain outline with a lot of room for manoeuvre. I remeber Erich Fromm saying that the further we go in a certain direction in evolution, the direction which has lead to human beings, we see a lessening of the importance of instincts and an increase in the importance of experience and social environment. I thibnk this is an observable fact, humans are clearly the furthest along this line of evolutionary development.

I think agression and war re a good example for the purposes of this discussion. That there is an agressive instinct in humans I think is undeniable but as with all animals and even more so for humans, violence is 'naturally speaking' a last resort. There are certain situations which bring this instinct out and turn it into agressive acts, war etc. at the level of primitive communism this is still an expression of the contracictions inherent in nature and the scarcity that did exist in primitive communism. This is not scarcity as a constant reality but was an expression of the dividedness of humanity into tribal groups and the low level of control of our environment in these societies. This for me is the main reason why the communism of the future would be an advance on primitive communism, that it allows for the possibility of truly transcending the circumstances that can lead to warfare in the first place.

with this being said this unifiction and abundance though I think very reasonably could be said to be ble to end warfare, it would not do away with agression. i don't think we would want to do away with agression completely as there are many situations where the agressive instinct can be useful and indeed necessary. however I am undecided on whether greed is the same, i.e wheher or not greed per se has any positive aspect. the aim of abundance in communism could be said to be an example of greed, indeed all utopian strivings could be said to be an expression of greed however i would say there is a difference between these feelings and greed.

Greed by definition is firstly selfish, secondly it iswanting more than is necessary which I think communism would look to overcome. Many mystical traditions would say that it is possible to eradicate greed entirely and that indeed untill this is done true hapiness is impossible. This brings up an intersting connection between the Buddhist aim of transcending desire and Marx's view of 'freedom from necessity'- personally I see these ideas not only as compatable but extremely similar in essence.

However now I have to help get the house ready for the annual celebration of gluttony and consumerism (which i do enjoy quite alot).

 

baboon
The descent of man

I’m not going to give a definition of social Darwinism because, by definition, definitions can be unnecessarily restrictive. Instead a brief recap of the main elements of Darwin’s and Wallace’s work on the development of humanity.

Though it wouldn’t have made much difference to the course of history, I think it a great pity that Marx and Engels did not acquaint themselves with the works of Darwin and Wallace on humanity’s development as expressed in “The Descent of Man...” The former had other important issues to deal with but I feel that this was a great opportunity lost. After welcoming “The Origin of Species....” Marx came back to criticise it and Darwin, saying words to the effect that Darwin ‘didn’t know what a bitter satire he had written on the English bourgeoisie”. Already the social Darwinists were at work distorting the lessons of the descent of man as laid out by the two men and, it has to be said, Marx was fooled by the arguments of the social Darwinists which whom he associated the position of Darwin.
“The Descent of Man...” is the result of the work of both Darwin and Wallace and it was a quantum leap overturning the previous work of “The Origin of Species”, as valid as that work was and remains today. “Descent” represented a move from anthropology on a grand scale to the domain of politics, i.e., a profound political criticism of capitalism and its bourgeoisie.

Life is a struggle and it always has been. Malthus, no ignoramus, was correct from his position to see the fundamental right of competition to throw the weak against the wall and to point out man’s fundamentally aggressive instincts. Amusingly, round about the same time, both Darwin and Wallace had nightmares about Malthus; Darwin’s like a slow-burning ache as the enormity of the step he was about to take dawned on him; and Wallace in a shack in the Indonesian jungle waking up screaming about Malthus from a malarial fever.  No harm done to both as they both found the key to the development of humanity and in the process not only overturned their previous work but that of Malthus, whose work was also overturned by Marx from another direction.

Notwithstanding all the other human emotions, aggression, jealousy, whatever - all of them, conscious or unconscious over the human’s existence on Earth, the essence to human development, the main driving motor force, was solidarity, mutual support, care for the old, children and the weak and the effective organisation needed for these elements – in short the development of human morality coming from the social instincts. Though neither Wallace or Darwin were in any way communist, “The Descent of Man...” was very much a political document that was a materialist study of history and, as such, went in the direction of a communist society.

That’s it in a nutshell. An abstract “human nature” doesn’t play any role here. Social Darwinism is the response of the bourgeoisie and it’s used – by anthropologists and others -- to obscure the communistic tendencies of the analyses above. It doesn’t recognise any political critique of capitalism because for it the latter is the natural and highest result of humanity’s development. Social Darwinism can only be reactionary. Nor, of course, does it recognise the essence of humanity overcoming natural selection by its own morality and consciousness. Prior to capitalism, it sees a history of savages imbued with aggression fighting for survival in a war of each against all. In looking at the past it sees only capitalism.

Is Lawrence Keeley a social Darwinist? I don’t know if that’s a useful way of posing the question. Like the anthropologist Lewis Binford, and his “impoverished” views on prehistory, Keeley puts forward dubious “evidence” and further takes it out of context in order to show that prehistory was rife with savagery and competition and capitalism is a much more peaceful and ordered society.   

Fred
Actually Jamal I think

Actually Jamal I think "baggy" may be  American usage because I got it from Henry James who described Dickens'  late novel "Our Murual Friend" as "a loose baggy monster" not because it was old and out-dated but because it fails to hold together coherently.  Q.D. Leavis  described it as a novel that showed the failing of Dickens' power as a novelist. As applied to the worn out semi-concept "human nature" it indicates a failure by those committed to the well worn notion to think beyond what appears to be commonsense. In reality "human nature" as baboon has pointed out is just an abstraction. 

As to Jaycee's insistence that we are by nature aggressive beings and that this is "undeniable" how come he is so sure about this?   The bourgeois is an aggressive class; aggressive in the relentless pursuit of profit which leads them to endless competition and war. But I don't think we can automatically jump from that into thinking that aggression is an essential and fundamental part of humanity's psychological outlook. For the sake of argument I don't have an aggressive bone in my body, though am very defensive of what I think I  believe  in and resent being attacked.  I don't however equate this defensive "instinct" (Jaycee's word) with aggression which is an expression of the desire to do harm to others.  This desire, like so many others, can be controlled as can violence.  It may be difficult indeed to control both aggression and violence in capitalist society, but that is the fault  of this particular political  and economic system and its effect on human responses and motivation, not a "natural" product of our species being.

The working class will be forced to defend itself and its new communist ideas against the vicious aggression of the bourgeois class in defense of its worn-out political ideas but now I realise  I have contradicted myself. 

I can't go into this now.  But there has to be a difference in morality between the aggression that arises from the defense of new positive developments  for humanity - like the struggle for communism - and the aggression to prevent progress and defend reactionary viewpoints.  But in both cases the aggression is being used consciously and isn't just some automatic knee jerk "instinct". 

Your post above baboon is beautiful and made my day. Thank you. 

Redacted
Merry Christmas all.I was

Merry Christmas all.

I was just thinking about how badly we are lacking the perspective of female comrades in this thread. So far we've only been talking about the nature of men. I really want to encourage any female comrades who might be reading this to step up and share their perspectives on human nature. After all, and also according to Dr. Camilla Power, we would never be having this conversation without you all in the first place.

Fred
This below is footnote ten to

This below is footnote ten to an interesting article currently on lefcom called "Towards Socialism: Notes on the transitional Phase." 

 

Quote:
10) We use the terms man, men, masters, middle class, workers, producers, etc. . to indicate the set of human beings belonging to a particular category, irrespective of the fact that their gender is female or male. Language itself is the instrument and the result of the system of oppression. The proletarian revolution, realising the end of all exploitation of man by man, will end at the same time, the subjugation of women, will not fail to also produce, in its development, a more suitable terminology.
 

Language as an implement of oppression....This is the point A. Simpleton was making on the now closed thread about 'Greed'

Fred
German Ideology

AS quoted this from The German Ideology

Quote:
...the communists do not oppose egoism to selflessness or selflessness to egoism, nor do they express this contradiction theoretically either in its sentimental or in its high-flown ideological form; they rather demonstrate its material source, with which it disappears of itself. 

...they are very well aware that egoism, just as much as selflessness, is in definite circumstances a necessary form of the self-assertion of individuals. Hence, the communists by no means want…to do away with the ‘private individual’ for the sake of the ‘general,’ selfless man.

 

Egoism and selflessness would be seen by some as components of that mysterious ghostly appendage to human life called "human nature" which is called upon to explain everything from greed to charity but actually explains nothing. The communist writers of the German Ideology see both egoism and selflessness as the product of material sources; not the product of some high-flown ideological and philosophical invention  which is generally today called human nature. 

But in certain circumstances both egoism and selflessness, products  of the human psyche and thought processes, can be usefully employed for individual self-assertion and self expression, in response to definite circumstances, say our writers.  They are thus not a part of some ready-made human nature, but cognitive and emotional techniques, learned in response to life, and available for use  when needed. 

Ruling classes  can't understand this. Their necessary blindness to their own exploitative force forbids them any rationality when it comes to the analysis of human cognitive and psychological processes,  knowledge of which would  frighten them by its moral honesty. Instead they take refuge under the umbrella of "human nature" which excuses everything from robbery to sadism to war. 

Fred
German Ideology

AS quoted this from The German Ideology

Quote:
...the communists do not oppose egoism to selflessness or selflessness to egoism, nor do they express this contradiction theoretically either in its sentimental or in its high-flown ideological form; they rather demonstrate its material source, with which it disappears of itself. 

...they are very well aware that egoism, just as much as selflessness, is in definite circumstances a necessary form of the self-assertion of individuals. Hence, the communists by no means want…to do away with the ‘private individual’ for the sake of the ‘general,’ selfless man.

 

Egoism and selflessness would be seen by some as components of that mysterious ghostly appendage to human life called "human nature" which is called upon to explain everything from greed to charity but actually explains nothing. The communist writers of the German Ideology see both egoism and selflessness as the product of material sources; not the product of some high-flown ideological and philosophical invention  which is generally today called human nature. 

But in certain circumstances both egoism and selflessness, products  of the human psyche and thought processes, can be usefully employed for individual self-assertion and self expression, in response to definite circumstances, say our writers.  They are thus not a part of some ready-made human nature, but cognitive and emotional techniques, learned in response to life, and available for use  when needed. 

Ruling classes  can't understand this. Their necessary blindness to their own exploitative force forbids them any rationality when it comes to the analysis of human cognitive and psychological processes,  knowledge of which would  frighten them by its moral honesty. Instead they take refuge under the umbrella of "human nature" which excuses everything from robbery to sadism to war. 

A.Simpleton
Nutshell indeed

Baboon wrote:

Quote:

Social Darwinism is the response of the bourgeoisie and it’s used – by anthropologists and others -- to obscure the communistic tendencies of the analyses above. It doesn’t recognise any political critique of capitalism because for it the latter is the natural and highest result of humanity’s development.

This expresses what I was trying to get at in less-than-nutshell form. Marx premised his work on the unmissable, actual, real, sharp end relations of social production before his (now our) eyes.  He did not leap into the intellectual fray of his present (now ours) with this radical critique and analysis of just that present - some compelling analysis of 'this bit' 'this era'. He first placed each and all other accepted premises, assumptions under scrutiny from the start, The blinding/blinded presumption also: that the capitalist mode simply is - if not yet 'perfected' - close to some imaginary pinnacle of 'human devlopment'. As if the whole picture were already sketched out like a numbered child's painting and the social, political, philosophical theorists' greatest concerns were to elucidate which colour 'really' matched which number when the very sketch itself was only a skewed projection backwards of what the picture 'ought' to look like. And furthermore Marx gets to the root of why that picture is skewed - the result of the actual circumstances that produced it. 

baboon wrote:

Social Darwinism can only be reactionary. Nor, of course, does it recognise the essence of humanity overcoming natural selection by its own morality and consciousness. Prior to capitalism, it sees a history of savages imbued with aggression fighting for survival in a war of each against all. In looking at the past it sees only capitalism. (my bold)

This is no more and yet certainly no less than what I meant when I wrote that humanity not only has made, makes and will make its own continuous history but may well now be in a conscious position to to make its own evoulution.

I wont digress too much at this point but physiologically, we have the limbic centres of our brain (Amygdela and Hippocampus) the brain stem wired direct from the main conduit in the spinal cord and the nasal bulbs, auditory cortex inputs. Asleep, a thunderstorm might not wake us but in later silence, a quiet tap tap on the bedroom window and before the cortex has even come online we are flooded with adrenaline, muscles ready. Instinct yes: but the structures themselves are neutral: those two little almond sized brain parts are constantly in communication with each other and with the conscious cortex - the hippocampus logging and judging to some extent the 'good/bad/ugly' files that serve instinct.

We are not perhaps as hard wired as we are lead to believe.

 

 

Fred
human nature again

Yesterday I thought the above post of mine (69) was quite good. But I now realize what a mess it is.

So. 

Is "human nature" another name for Freud's concept of mind as containing interactively  an id, an ego and a superego, as these  combine to form a person, or personality to use the word Marx used? 

Is "human nature" the "gestalt" in Gestalt Psychology? 

In primitive communism was it possible that, despite scarcities and other negative factors, the better side of human nature ie. the moral superego and the loving aspect of the id, were able to prevail in an atmosphere of solidarity, and  a sufficient sharing of satisfaction and happiness to bring contentment,  which the advent of class society destroyed? 

So.

Is greed a part of human nature? Or is it the product of material forces as these may effect an individual's psychological being  and cause  a behavioral distortion called greed? 

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