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Marx and Reality of Selfish Behavior

April 23, 2011

Marx, in his philosophy, said that individuals are not selfish by nature; however they are selfish through the environment they are in. This environmental manipulation causes a major change in state as well as poses a serious threat to Marx’s ideal society view of communism. We have studied many philosophers throughout the course of this class that have touched on the idea of selfish ideals in humans. What do they think and how would they react to Marx’s ideas? Also based on other’s philosophies, can a Marxist society exist and would it ever be successful?

Marx, in the Communist Manifesto, states that individuals cannot be selfish at all in order for society to function properly. All must work their hardest in order to further their society and all earn the same wages even if they are a doctor, or a garbage man. Everyone has their place in society and stays in it as well as maintains the idea of no one being a higher class than others. This controversial view raises many questions concerning human nature along with how their behaviors effect society formation.

Many philosophers we discussed theorized that selfish behaviors in individuals are a portion of human nature. Locke said that humans are allowed to be selfish in order to preserve their individual right to life, liberty, and their possessions. Hume also says that humans are too selfish to work towards the common good and only do so to further themselves in society. If humans are born this way, it would be very difficult to have an ideal communistic society which we have seen in historic examples of such societies. Without the intense cooperation required for this type of totally equal society, it will not function properly and lead to rebellion. Also, submission to the greater good as a whole is difficult for humans due to their invested interests in their rights and not infringing upon them.

Others feel that humans understand their place in society and will submit rights in order to further their society overall. Rousseau believed in utilizing a social contract where individuals were required to submit particular rights and abide by particular rules to create a safe and successful society. The type of submission that Marx requires though is much more intense than Rousseau hypothesized, however according to his theory it still could be possible. Also in Solnit’s work “Uses of Disaster,” she describes how people can come together and work as one unit, but only in times of life-threatening disaster. This can loosely be applied to Marx’s ideas.

Overall, there is overwhelming support for humans having selfish behaviors from the philosophers we have studied through this course, therefore I believe that humans are selfish to a point. Selfish behaviors are usually associated with unhelpful behaviors, however I feel it is what drives a society economically as well as socially to create incentive to prosper. This selfishness also helps advance society through striving to do better for one’s self as well as advancing ingenuity in a society. Marx’s idealistic society has not worked in the past, and will not work due to the idea of human selfishness and desire to provide for yourself directly. I believe many other philosophers agree with my idea and this raises issues with Marx’s work and idea of a communistic society.

One Comment
  1. August 31, 2011 10:48 PM

    The problem does not come from making Marxism work, it comes from getting their. If allowed to Communism would take us into a new tomorrow, an evolution of the human race. If we view the future of the human race realistically, from a logical perspective, then the only way for it to succeed is for us to eventually evolve into a form of communism. As a whole the human race has no future so long as it continues under capitalism, for one the earth could not sustain us. All logic tells us that in order to guarantee our survival far into the distant future, then we must learn to live as a collective, which the system of capitalism does not support.

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