Note 1: Marx: Man and Nature. 2/7/99
In Capital (New York: International Publishers, 1977)), Karl Marx fashions a comparison between "savage" and "civilized" man in which he asserts that the only substantial difference between them, and their respective relationships with Nature, is the fact that the more advanced culture becomes the more intensified "all possible modes of production" must be in order to meet the expansion of wants that necessarily arise with the development of society. The intensification of production, furthermore, requires that "socialized men," in order to achieve "freedom," must learn to regulate, in a rational way, "their interchange with Nature" by "bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of nature." Marx seems to qualify this assertion in some way when he says that this control over Nature should be achieved "with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favorable to, and worthy of, their human nature." The passage summarized here is quoted in full measure below:
"Just as the savage must wrestle with Nature to satisfy his wants, to maintain and reproduce life, so must civilized man, and he must do so in all social formations and under all possible modes of production. With his development this realm of physical necessity expands as a result of his wants; but, at the same time, the forces of production which satisfy those wants also increase. Freedom in this field can only consist in socialized men, the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favorable to, and worthy of, their human nature." (III, 820)
The reason I hesitate to endorse a possible qualification in Marx's statement about (wo)man's need to establish "common control" over Nature, that he/she needs to control it rather than allowing it to control them (us), is that the notion of "conditions most favorable to, and worthy of, their human nature" seems to be so vague and under-determined that it could mean almost anything at all.
In The German Ideology (New York: International Publishers, 1989), Marx and Engels make another attempt to clarify the relationship between (wo)man and nature:
"At the same time it is consciousness of nature, which first appears to men as a completely alien, all-powerful and unassailable force, with which men's relations are purely animal and by which they are overawed like beasts; it is thus a purely animal consciousness of nature (natural religion) just because nature is as yet hardly modified historically. (We see here immediately: this natural religion or this particular relation of men to nature is determined by the form of society and vice versa. Here, as everywhere, the identity of nature and man appears in such a way that the restricted relation of men to nature determines their restricted relation to one another, and their restricted relation to one another determines men's restricted relation to nature.) . . . . This sheep-like or tribal consciousness receives its further development and extension through increased productivity, the increase of needs, and, what is fundamental to both of these, the increase of population." (I, 51)
That Marx and Engels choose to characterize tribal people as "sheep-like" and suggest that they are universally "overawed like beasts" in the face of natural reality cannot be characterized as being anything other than a most profound racial bigotry of the kind that has prompted European genocide against people of color in every corner of the world where the plague of Eurocentric diatribe against the Other has made a foothold for itself. Statements this racially motivated, this bigoted, do not even deserve rebuttal and none will be offered here. I will say only two things: first the idea of the "restricted relation[s]" that Marx and Engels posit as characterizing the absence of society in "primitive" times is an absurdity not at all unlike the kind of argument Rousseau makes in his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Among Man; in fact, Marx and Engels probably appropriated this nonsense directly from Rousseau.
Secondly, since second, third, and fourth generation Marxists are reluctant to give up any of the foundational aspects of their theoretical position, not unlike the religious bigots who share so much in common with them, for fear that they will be accused of betraying the revolution, of being heretics, one can and should assume that later, more recent, versions of Marxist ideology are just as laced with anti-tribal bigotry as the original versions were. Now-a-days, of course, Marxists simply pretend that their forbearers were not racially motivated and simply avoid reading the passages that implicate them in the crimes against humanity that their words convict them of. Failing to engage the issue of racial bigotry, in hopes that no one will notice, I suppose, that it permeates the discourse, is the same as embracing and condoning it.
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