Freud vs Marx

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorUniversity, Bachelor's February 2008

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Freud investigates human nature by means of his psychological view of the human mind, in Civilization and Its Discontents. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels offer their view of the human nature and the effects that the economic system and has on it, in The Communist Manifesto. Marx and Engels argue the nature of humans in the framework of the economic aspects which they see as driving history.

Freud, in Civilization and Its Discontents, presents a conception of human nature that differs from that of Marx. His view of human nature is more complex than Marx's. Freud is critical of the Marxist view of human nature, stating that '...I am able to recognize that the psychological premises on which the [communist] system is based are an untenable illusion. In abolishing private property we deprive the human love of aggression of one of its instruments...but we have in no way altered the differences in power and influence which are misused by aggressiveness, nor have we altered anything in its nature' (Freud 71).

Freud does not believe that removal of economic differences will remove the human instinct to dominate others. For Freud, aggression is an innate component of human nature and will exist regardless of how society is formulated. He sees human beings as having both a life instinct (Eros) and an instinct for destruction. In Freud's view of human reality, the source of conflict, oppression, and destruction in human society is man's own psychological makeup.

Because of Freud's view of human nature as inherently having a destructive component, he does not believe that a 'transformation' of humans to communist men and women will be possible. Marx's belief that the current capitalist society will evolve into a communist society is not supportable under Freud's conception of human nature because the desires of...