Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Position Paper #5 Karl Marx


Scienticism vs Historicism

There have been a lot of debates on the various ways of interpreting History. The philosophers of Enlightenment like Vico Giambattista, Immanuel Kant, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel insist that the factor that makes and leads History is human reason and consciousness. Things in human society are a work of human reason and potentiality. What does it mean? It strongly says that History or human society can never be explained by any mathematical laws and means so we should not put our History into certain laws of mathematics.

Those philosophers criticize the trial to interpret and look into History by means of Newtonian science which realize things by rational experiments and work out certain formula from certain phenomenon. Rene Descartes was the one who tried to explain History by his epistemological view which was only applicable in the area of mathematics and physics. As we know History is sometimes not obvious. There is something in History that is hard to exactly explain and define. There could be certain patterns, but there could never be the law that put History in it. Due to the vagueness of History Descartes devaluated History.

Karl Marx was the one who admired “Scientism” His attempts to interpret History by means of science and materialism were to answer to Hegel who was an advocate of “Historicism”

Marx’s theory is quite different from Hegel’s. It is well shown in their views on human reason which is an anthropological matter. Hegel says that the thing that distinguishes Human species from other animal species is human reason and by which Human society develops and progresses. But Marx insists that human reason is just a function that is developed instrumentally to serve naturalistic purposes. For Marx, Consciousness does not determine life, but life determines consciousness (Marie Hughes Warrington, 2009).

What does it mean? Marx thinks that the material condition of life determine the nature of human consciousness and society, rather than the other way around (Marie Hughes Warrington, 2009). It is Marx’s materialist conception of History. This conception of History therefore, is very much concerned with the development of human species and society which occurs as human species evolve. So the idea of Marx is related to Darwinian Science and also with Newtonian Science in the point that he concentrates on materialistic matter in approaching certain realization.

I quite disagree with Karl Marx’s approach to History. I believe that man’s nature to produce something is already under human consciousness. Therefore it is obvious that human consciousness is the factor that brings social developments and progresses.

What is consciousness? It is the ability of human to realize and be aware of things. I believe that realization and awareness of human species about their nature and environment is the factor that enables and urges them to produce something. A man produces something when he is aware of his needs. And that awareness is under consciousness.

Karl Marx sees materialistic things first to reach certain realization of History. But in my opinion, we should first look into the factors which bring certain materialistic change. And I say in Human history every materialistic change comes from man’s reason or consciousness. Materialistic changes do not determine consciousness. Consciousness determines materialistic changes.

Therefore, I disagree with Marx’s scientism that puts the history into certain laws or formula and interprets History with materialistic concept. In order for us to properly understand History, we should know the factor that makes and moves Human History. And it is man’s consciousness.


Communism, the Solution to the Problem of History?

Karl Marx also takes important part in economic philosophy. He sees means or system of production as an important key to History. Then he bravely says that “Communism is the solution to the problem of history.”

In Ancient period, slavery was the force of production. In early historical time slaves were needed for various specialized functions in the societies (Encarta, 2003).

In Medieval period, feudalism was the mode of production. It was characterized by the granting of fiefs, chiefly in the form of land and labor, in return for political and military services—a contract sealed by oaths of homage and fealty (fidelity). The grantor was lord of the grantee, his vassal, but both were free men and social peers (Encarta, 2003).

Finally, in modern era, the capitalism became the mode of production. Marx argues that the capitalist form of production is a truly dynamical economic structure. In fact capitalism has achieved amazing economic development in countries and solved problems of scarcity. However for Marx, capitalism could not be complete stage of the mode of production.

He points out the problem of capitalism such as an enormous gap between rich and poor, and inhumane life of workmen as a result of division of labor. And he predicted that when the recession and depression comes communism will occur.

Marx actually wants Utopia in which there are no classes and everyone can enjoy equality. Communism is simply that everyone works and be distributed things equally so that there will be too rich and poor people and it is classless society.

Actually, his desire is quite ideal. Utopia that Marx suggests may be a perfect society but it is impossible because of human nature. Here is the crucial error in Marx’ ideal society, it denies natures of human such as greed and selfishness while Adam Smith’s capitalism accepts those natures of human and considers them as the key or motive power the economic system. If Utopia can be established, there should not be any one who is greedy and selfish. However there is no man like that.

And we may notice that none of the modes of production that prevailed in history (Slavery, Feudalism and Capitalism) was classless society. Actually there is no certain class in society but there are still classes in terms of economic power and wealth. What does it tell us? It is truly impossible to achieve classless society. The natures of human do not allow it to happen. This is what has been proven through History, the collapse of USSR and other communist society.

Communism cannot be the solution to the problem of history. It is proven in Russia and other communist countries. Most of communist countries have been collapsed. Their trial and failure is telling us that there is no Utopia.


Division of labour, (August 8, 2009). In Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 05:43 August 8, 2009 from

Marie Hughes Warrington (2009). 50 Key Thinker on History New York: Routlege
Marx, K. (2002) Das kapital (Vol. 1, 4th ed.). (Ehrbar, H.G., Trans.) (Originally
published in 1890).

Park, Sungbeen(2009). Position Paper on Vico Giambattista.

Encarta Encyclopedia (1993-2003), Microsoft Corporation

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