Dear Phil:

Thanks for pointing that out you talk. I will listen to it with great interest. 

Here is textual evidence of M&E's views in 1845, a decisive year in Marx's development of his materialism and historical materialism. 

In Theses on Feuerbach Marx (1845) writes: “ [T]he human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations.” He also distinguishes his own materialist philosophy by privileging “social humanity”: “The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint of the new is human society, or social humanity.” (The tenth thesis). In The German Ideology (1845), Marx and Engels expand on these ideas: “This mode of production must not be considered simply as being the production of the physical existence of the individuals. Rather it is a definite form of activity of these individuals, a definite form of expressing their life, a definite mode of life on their part. As individuals express their life, so they are. What they are, therefore, coincides with their production, both with what they produce and with how they produce. The nature of individuals thus depends on the material conditions determining their production.” (Marx and Engels, 1945) 

This text is taken from my slightly expanded edition of the essay I shared with you published in March in OPITW. The expanded edition was for translation and publication in Farsi in Iran. Here a link to the Farsi edition

I am familiar with Norman Geras's book and recently republished an article from Science and Society by Karsten J. Struhl (2016) that expands on Norman Geras's work.  

But I am skeptical of them for two reasons. First, Marx changed his views on human nature over time.  This is discussed in Mandel The Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx (1971) the last two chapters and in detail in Mészáros, István. Marx’s Theory of Alienation. 1970 . 

Second, as I argued in the essay, Marx's view of human nature remained mostly philosophical anthropology and it could not have been otherwise. Social and life sciences have yet to be developed to an extend to shed any light on human nature aside from a philosophical one.  

Third, as I argue in my essay and noted in my response to Jay (1) Marx and Engels were quite aware and interested in other factors besides what they consider in the formulation of their materialism and historical materialism but they set them aside to focus of social classes and modes of production.  When Morgan published his research, Engels wrote his The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884), thus developing their theory of history in light of new findings that went before the "written history" they knew about when they wrote The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848). 

Finally, my interest in my essay is not to discuss the development of the idea of human nature in Marx and Engels. It is rather to suggest that their philosophical anthropology at the crucial time they wrote The German Ideology (1845) and Theses on Feuerbach (1845) came to influence their major work which from The Manifesto to Capital and that given 150 years of accumulated knowledge about humans from various social and life sciences requires us to revisit these and in my own case, formulate a new theory of ecological socialism which is adverse to anthropocentrism and in fact eco-centric. 

Of course, my theory which I have been developing in the course of the past decade, is not complete or final. It is, I hope, a point of reference for further critical thinking. If you read my essay carefully (I think at some point you did suggest you would read and comment on an earlier essay "The Crisis of Civilization and How to Resolve It: An Introduction to Ecocentric Socialism," 2018) you will find, for example, that I am arguing of multiple agencies in history while in Marx's theory humans are the agency.  How can we explain that a virus has brought the capitalist civilization to its knee, something Marxists always hoped the proletariat will do at some point. 

Of course, if you find the time to read my essays, I would as always be grateful for any critical comments. Our situation is to complex and too urgent for any one or even a small subset of humanity to undertake and resolve. The future of the world depends on out collective intellectual and activist effort.

With warm regards,


On Tue, Jul 14, 2020 at 12:53 PM Phil Gasper <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
"...human nature is the sum total of our social relations shaped by the prevailing mode of production."

I think Norman Geras refuted the idea that this was Marx's view in his book Marx and Human Nature (Verso 1983).

I gave a talk on capitalism, socialism, and human nature a few years ago. It certainly isn't the Marxist view, but it is a Marxist's view:

On Tue, Jul 14, 2020 at 2:30 PM Mandi Smallhorne <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Dear Kamran and all,

I am not going to critique Sapolsky’s views, but you spark a memory.

I adore his Primate Memoirs. “I never intended to be a savannah baboon,” it begins.

I share with him a deep love of baboons, and simply ate up this wonderful, funny, moving and compassionate memoir of his many years studying a baboon troop on the East African veldt. His comparison of himself, as a gawky young researcher, a bit uncomfortable with girls, with the young baboon Benjamin, whose hair was always untidy and wild and who plainly yearned just to be near one of the coolest young females in the troop, had me howling with laughter and smiling with affection and recognition.

Primate Memoirs came out at least 15 years ago, maybe more, and he has pointed out in subsequent videos and writing that the troop went on to become a different, gentler group, for very interesting reasons. But when the book closes, you fear it is the end of the troop: the baboons pick up TB from a safari lodge’s dump, and he watches as one by one, many of the characters he has loved, and followed for most of their lives, die.  “And Benjamin… my Benjamin…” I have reread the book several times, and never failed to feel tears well in my eyes when I read that.


Mandi Smallhorne

Freelance science journalist


From: Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> On Behalf Of Kamran Nayeri
Sent: 14 July 2020 03:01 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Robert Sapolsky: Behave: The Biology of Human at Our Best and Worst


Dear All:


I have been reading Behave and watching lectures and interviews by Robert Sapolsky. He is a fascinating speaker and has obviously a depth of knowledge in his field of study. 


I wonder if anyone on this list is familiar with his work and has opinions about it and can share any critique of the view of the biological nature of humans.


Thank you.




Kamran Nayeri