Marx and Freud, comparing their views of human nature

Essay by spoofmanUniversity, Master'sA+, March 1996

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In The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels present their

view of human nature and the effect that the economic system and economic

factors have on it. Marx and Engels discuss human nature in the context of

the economic factors which they see as driving history. Freud, in

Civilization and Its Discontents, explores human nature through his

psychological view of the human mind.

Marx states that history ' the history of class struggles' (9).

Marx views history as being determined by economics, which for him is the

source of class differences. History is described in The Communist Manifesto

as a series of conflicts between oppressing classes and oppressed classes.

According to this view of history, massive changes occur in a society when new

technological capabilities allow a portion of the oppressed class to destroy

the power of the oppressing class. Marx briefly traces the development of

this through different periods, mentioning some of the various oppressed and

oppressing classes, but points out that in earlier societies there were many

gradations of social classes.

He also states that this class conflict

sometimes leads to '...the common ruin of the contending classes' (Marx 9).

Marx sees the modern age as being distinguished from earlier periods by

the simplification and intensification of the class conflict. He states that

'Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile

camps... bourgeoisie and proletariat' (Marx 9). The bourgeoisie, as the

dominant class of capitalists, subjugates the proletariat by using it as an

object for the expansion of capital. As capitalism progresses, this

subjugation reduces a larger portion of the population to the proletariat and

society becomes more polarized.

According to Marx, the polarization of society and the intense

oppression of the proletariat will eventually lead to a...