Marxist humanism (part 4)

 

The Articulation of the Psychology of Personality with Marxism

All this gives us the answer to precisely that this lengthy but necessary theoretical analysis of the relations between Marxism, science and humanism: the problem of the articulation of Marxism and psychology. At the point we have reached it is clear that in so far as general theory of the scientific conception of man, its articulation with the personality, f i.e. with science of the individual, necessarily exists, at least we have still not so far described it in detail, it is now at all events localized.  In order to describe it more precisely from Marxism, we must look more correspondence between various aspects of the concepts of  historical materialism and the fundamental individual life-processes, of the the production of human personality.

The Articulation of the Psychology of Personality 

Let us first of all summarize the results we have arrived at on this’ I question. The first one is that on each of its fundamental levels the concepts of historical materialism correspond with the new concept of man. Between the productive forces and men there is the basic correspondence that men are precisely the most important of the productive forces. Considered in the first place as producers, as labor-powers, i.e. as ‘the aggregate of those mental and physical capabilities existing in a human being’,men constitute the subjective factor of production. Everything which is said by economic science about the productive forces and their development directly concerns men. The instruments of labor are ‘a standard ‘of the degree of the development to which human labor has attained, but they are also indicators of the social conditions under which that labor is carried on’. And in the purely technical sense of the word the appropriation of the productive forces by the producers ‘is itself nothing more than the development Of the individual capacities corresponding to the material instruments of production.

Between the relations of production and men there is the basic correspondence that the relations of production are in fact necessary relations which men enter into in order socially to produce their existence, so that they ‘find their conditions of existence predestined and hence have their position in life and their personal development assigned to them by their class, become subsumed under it’. The social and technical division of labour essentially determining the general forms and modes of development of individuals, this subordination does not concern only their conditions of labour — or leisure — moreover, but also their conditions of consumption, their incomes and their mode of satisfying needs since ‘an individual who participates in production in the form of wage labour shares in the products, in the results of production, in the form of wages’.

Between the superstructures and ideologies on the one hand, and men on the other, there is the basic correspondence that ‘consciousness is, therefore, from the very beginning a social product’, that on the whole individuals’ consciousness cannot therefore surpass the limits or escape the problems — nor the solutions — characteristic of their class and the general degree of historical development,and that at their level the objective institutions and representations of a society determine the life-processes and representations of individuals. And all this being the case, there is reason to expect that the characteristic contradictions of of a social formation, especially the contradiction between the character of the productive forces and the relations of production, also have this basic correspondence with men, that they induce in them basic contradictions between capacities and real development, needs and satisfactions of needs, labour as means of subsistence and labour as self expression, etc.  Thus one can easily understand that ‘in order to assert themselves as individuals’, proletarians in capitalist society ‘must overthrow the State’, and more generally that every social formation by and large produces the men which it needs, including those whom it needs to transform it in a revolutionary way, so that ‘mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve’.

The correspondence between the specific concepts of historical materialism and the structure of human individualities is therefore not only clearly pointed out in detail in Marxist texts but is overall necessarily required for the coherence of the theory and moreover is strikingly borne witness to by the development of revolutionary Practice. One may even wonder how it is possible, for example, to read the pages in Capital on the distinction between concrete and abstract labour, the value of labour-power and the wage-rate, the division of labour in capitalist manufacture, the effect of money in commodity relations, the extraction of absolute and relative surplus—value, the general law of capitalist accumulation, etc., right up to the very last Pages on revenues and social classes — without seeing that individuals are involved at the same time as economic categories. At its simplest level, the answer to this question is that in order to perceive everything Winch is articulated with a possible science of the individual in Marx’s economic analyses, it is necessary to be ready to conceive to a certain extent as a whole the very idea, which is radically new, of such a science as articulable with Marx’s political economy and historical materialism In short, the failure to recognize everything in Marx’s work which prefigures and makes the elaboration of a scientific theory of the individual possible is merely the last avatar of the speculative conception of the individual: in so far as one remains influenced by the idea that psychology of personality is speculative — which up till now, and’ varying degrees depending on the doctrines, is an empirical truth but not an essential necessity one does not expect mature Marxism contain vital elements making its scientific transmutation possible and therefore one does not in fact perceive them. The denial of psychology of personality is the latest negative form of belief in the psychology of personality in which one has still not managed to conceive its surpassing but merely its suppression. In this sense, positive theoretical antihumanism, which denies all anthropology, is to scientific anthropology what conventional atheism is to the Marxist theory of religion.

But while the existence and general position of the articulation between historical materialism and the scientific theory of the individual are perfectly clear, the concrete structure of this articulation remains somewhat obscure. Like every articulation, it necessarily has two side We have seen that the first, the side of historical materialism, presents itself to us from the point of view of a theory of general historical fort of individuality: forms of needs, productive activity and consumption in their social determination; forms of individuality involved in social relations; forms of general contradictions of individual existence corresponding to these social relations This theory is no way a psychology. Its object is not individuals but individuality. It is elaborated solely on the basis of materials provided by the analysis of social relations and more broadly the mode of production. It therefore belongs wholly on the terrain of the science of society. However, it constitutes articulation with the scientific investigation of individuals in themselves  for the obvious reason that these forms of individuality, the essence of which is situated in social relations, nonetheless exist in individuals whose life-processes the determine.  And this is how Capital, analyzing the ‘Faustian conflict between the passion for accumulation and the desire for enjoyment’ which necessarily manifests itself in the soul of the capitalist, a conflict which in spite of appearances is not at all a psychological but an economic conflict, Marx says of the historical stage in which avarice and the desire to get rich predominate that ‘every capitalist upstart has personally to go through [it] ’. In other words, everything in the general historical forms of individuality is social — except the actual fact of the form of individuality, the fact that social relations exist through individual life-processes, i.e.,  in short, the historical expression of the biological fact that like every species, the ’human species reproduces and develops through an ensemble of individuals.

The second side of the articulation is precisely the one which appears when one sets out not from society but from the individual; when one considers not the unity of the ensemble of social relations, with regard to which the individual only appears in the exceedingly partial form of a support for this or that economic category or form of individuality, but the unity of the ensemble of individual life processes in the personality, with regard to which it is society in its turn which appears in the very partial form of general forms of individuality. This second standpoint, which is specifically psychological, because its object is the individual as such, can be found in many places, as we have seen, in mature Marxism: the Grundrisse and Capital in particular offer many nuggets on which a really scientific psychology of personality could cut its teeth. But it is quite true that one does not find anything more in this respect than teething stones. This absence of a fully worked-out theory of the human personality in the great Marxist texts has played such a role in the ever-recurring speculative-humanist critique of Marxism and more recently in the anti—humanist interpretation that it is important to go into its causes, which have nothing to do with ruling out all psychology in principle. In the first place, one must call to mind that at the time when Marx wrote Capital psychology as an experimental, positive science did not yet exist in practice. Broadly speaking, it is the enormous contemporary development of the psychological sciences which informs our present reading of Capital and may make the problem presented here obvious, but one could not present it to Marx retrospectively without a certain theoretical anachronism. In other words, to be astonished that Marx did not develop the elements of a theory of personality further at the time when he was writing Capital amounts to being astonished that, while carrying out the colossal work of constituting political economy into a fully developed science, he did not also and as if by the way, at a stroke invent and construct the Scientific psychology which a century later still does not possess a full grown theory of personality.

One could go further and say that it would be to misunderstand that ma sense he was precisely able to make political economy a full-grown science only by entirely escaping from the temptation to do psychology as in 1844, by strictly distinguishing the object of political economy from that of psychology in the 1844 sense. To understand this clearly one must objectively consider all the different moments of Marx’s. reflection on the problems of man in their logical and historical connection. The starting-point is the ensemble of illusory forms assumed by the products of labour and the producers themselves in capitalist society and which mystify individuals’ immediate consciousness just like more or less worked out ideological systems. In so far as social relations seem to be relations between things, natural facts, the human essence appears as being alien (étrangdre) to them as the more it seems to be alien to them the more it itself looks like natural fact. A complementary fetishism of the producers’ capacity necessarily corresponds to the fetishism of the products of labour, fetishism of the individual to fetishism of the commodity. All abstract humanism and all speculative psychology sink their roots here. Marx throws particular light on this point in important pages in the first draft of the Contribution: for the producer situated in such social relation ‘the particular characteristic of his labour — and in the first place its materialization — has its origin in its peculiar nature and what specifically presupposes’. Conceived in this way, ‘the division of labor is the reproduction of particular individuality on a social basis which, a the same time, is thus a link in the whole development of humanity ‘.

This conception, which turns real relations upside down, is ‘the current conception of bourgeois political economy’. It is also the current conception in the speculative psychology and philosophy which Marx was already battling with in Stirner in The German Ideology showing that the division of labour must not be made to derive from differences between individuals but on the contrary between individuals from the division of labor.  More precisely still, as far as they are not the result of the division of labor, the differences between individuals are at most one of the causes which make a given individual come to occupy a given position in a social system of division of labor which is in no wise the result of differences but , on the contrary, the source of differences between individuals which overlays and dominates their other differences.

  To grasp the reality behind these illusory forms it is therefore essential to break with this substantialism of the human essence, decisive obstacle to the materialist inversion of the whole conception of society and history — therefore, it appears, in the first place, to give up spending time on human individuals in order to turn one’s attention to objective social relations. This moment of rupture with direct reflection on the human essence, which was still very much to the fore in the 1844 Manuscripts, is an essential and necessary stage in Marx’s thought. In 1844, psychology — a still speculative psychology — was all the more developed as, in the confusion, in many cases it took the place of economic and historical analysis. This is why the 1844 Manuscripts are the most captivating as well as the most deceptive of Marx’s works as far as the articulation between Marxism and psychology is concerned. From the Theses on Feuerbach onwards this 1844 psychology is rejected in principle, and elaborating economic and historical science is conceived as an autonomous task, absolutely primary in relation to any reflection about the individual person. But precisely because it settles its a4counts with the speculative conception of man, The German Ideology pays considerable attention to problems of personality: the new science in process of being born relieves the 1844 psychology of its duties in analyses of remarkable richness and insight. Economic knowledge is still very slight however, and the change from the standpoint of the abstract human essence to the standpoint of social relations is distinct but only embryonic. Because of this all the psychological remarks in The German Ideology retain an elliptical, conjunctural character — it also is embryonic. And the more Marx advances along the path which he had opened up, the more historical materialism, political economy and scientific socialism — the practical importance of which in revolutionary struggles of course is primary — gain ground, breadth and time for research, and the more the theoretical detour which will be necessary in order to return to the problem of the human individual becomes more lengthy and complicated. One can therefore understand why on the whole Marx devoted a decreasing part of his work to direct, visible elaboration of the theory of personality, to the extent that the ever more advanced development of political economy made the only real route to the foundations of the individual life-process, for anyone seeking it with the old point of view, seem to be indirect and invisible. At each further stage in his work Marx was then led to consider that the indications which he had provided concerning this problem in the preceding stage of his investigations were still premature in certain respects, i.e. insufficiently scientific. From The German Ideology to the Grundrisse and from the Contribution to Capital, he extrapolates less and less on the terrain of the theory of the concrete individual at the) same time as he increasingly deepens the theory of the forms of individuality, an integral part of economic science. But he is thereby doing precisely the work which is really the most decisive from the standpoint of problems of the concrete individual too, since it is their absolute prerequisite. Above all one must therefore not allow oneself to be ‘surprised  by the usual failure to recognize immediately the bases of the theory of the concrete individual in the unrecognizable’ forms which Marx gave them — unrecognizable for anyone who clings to the traditional fetishism of the human individual, the old representation of the individual as the bearer of an abstract human essence, a representation which of course has no equivalent in the science of social relations which is its negation. It must not be inferred from the rupture, with speculative illusions about the possibility of an immediate psychology that Marx ruled out all psychology, when this rupture is precisely the discovery of the theoretical detour which finally makes possible to think the psychology of personality in all its rigour.

This summary of Marx’s development with regard to the problem before us not only makes it possible to put an end to the extraordinary mistaken idea according to which Marxism is unable to account for the individual but it also makes us clearly see that what serves to support this idea is precisely the fact that Marx was the first to discover paradoxical ways by which alone an account of the individual can given. And it is true that although he indicated its starting-point and the shape of its outline, in discovering these ways Marx was not able t o pursue to its conclusion what amounts to the science of the individual. This gives us an idea of the theoretical task which remains to be carried out on the terrain of the theory of personality, not only for psychology to attain full development but for the completion of Marxism itself in this area — the word completion being meant not at all in the sense which completion means brought to a final end and therefore lifeless~ which is incompatible with Marxism of course, but in a thoroughly dialectical sense in which completion means completely formed and therefore at full strength. Only the acute awareness of this partial and relative failure to complete Marxism in a direction which it its discovered can make the ever-recurring nostalgia of so many Marxisants thinkers, and even Marxists, for the works of Marx’s youth, and especially for the 1844 Manuscripts, intelligible in all its aspects they are seen as richer than the mature works, it is said that the fruit has not fulfilled the promise of the blossom, that a destruction of humanism occurs with later developments, etc. In this nostalgia one can usually se above all what in actual fact is the main thing nearly every time: inability to make our hostility to the switch which everyone who starts from bourgeois ideology must remake on his own account from a still, speculative humanism to scientific socialism. But one must also know how to discern here what presentiment makes this nostalgia possible while it is completely false to see in fully developed Marxist science the result of an impoverishment with regard to the germs to be found in the youthful works — in actual fact there is a remarkable enrichment — it. is true on the other hand that, in addition to the germs of what was to b raised to the level of a fully developed science in mature Marxism, these youthful works also contain many other elements which seem to be the germs of something else which has not yet been raised to the level of fully developed science and in particular — at the same time as those of an ethics and an aesthetics — the germs of a psychology which should also be raised to the level of a fully developed science. Hence the ever-recurring temptations at regular intervals to go directly there for the starting point of what fully developed Marxism appears to have let slip away. Actually the advance which culminated in Capital is not only the sole path which leads to scientific economy and history: more generally it is the sole path which leads to any human science, since it leads to the science of what constitutes the basis of all human acts. There is therefore no short cut to a scientific psychology by way of the 1844 psychology — and this goes for many of the ethical and aesthetic speculations too. But this does not prevent the 1844 Manuscripts in their, as it were, naive totality of human facets at the level of a still partly speculative humanism, from remaining a striking appeal for the constitution of a fully developed totality of human sciences at the level of rigour of Capital. In this sense, yearning after the 1844 Manuscripts is not pure irrationality; it has a rational kernel; it not only looks backwards but forwards; it is not reactionary but militant. What it expresses, therefore, is quite simply the deeply-felt necessity for the development of Marxism without which it is impossible in theory and practice to resolve the new and immense problems which constantly emerge in the present stage of the transition of humanity to socialism. In my opinion, the elaboration of the scientific theory of personality today constitutes the principal link in this development.

(2) The articulation from the side of psychology

So far we have considered the connection between Marxism and psychology from the side of Marxism, i.e. by starting from the question: how do Marxist political economy and historical materialism come to the problem of human individuals and what do they necessarily imply in relation to how it is to be conceived? To proceed further with the investigation of this crucial question, while remaining on the terrain of Marxism, it is now necessary to triangulate it, i.e. to consider the articulation from the other angle, from the side of psychology, by examining this new problem: how is that psychology, how is that the attempt to constitute a scientific theory of personality, comes to rely on historical materialism and Marxist political economy for support, and what does such support necessarily involve for it?

The question is all the less arbitrary because from its birth, in actual fact, scientific psychology has never stopped seeking theoretical supports in all quarters. Wrested from spiritualistic metaphysics and private diaries only to drift in the first instance into positivism, it was, exposed right away to the teachings of very different sciences physical and biological sciences yesterday, mathematical logic, cybernetics or linguistics today — always hungry for ‘models’ to import, even if only to try them out. While it is quite true that in the last resort the only criterion to determine the legitimacy of these epistemological hybridizations is their fertility, this fertility itself cannot simply be proved by the proliferation of published works but rather by their theoretical relevance. In other words, one must be able to prove  that the use of some particular externally derived ‘models’ is~ permissible in psychology by showing that to a given extent there is an essential identity or at least connection between the object of psychology and these external objects. To justify the transposition of~ linguistic concepts to the theory of the ‘subject’, for example, it is not enough to argue that rhetorical figures such as metaphor and metonymy might be relevant there on the grounds that the unconscious appears to  be structured like a language; it must be proved more radically that it is structured by language, so that the linguistic rendering of psychic structures and processes appears not as the more or less successful selection of a formulation for a subject matter the particular essence of which is still not understood, i.e. precisely, not as a metaphor, but as an actual grasp of this essence. Failing which, however much it is useful to get a perspective and can be an incentive to reflection, this propagation) of ‘models’ is basically merely a theoretical expedient, doomed from  the outset to degenerate into ideological modishness, in this case to a panglossia (panglossie) in G.G. Granger’s term, a lingualism (lingualisme) in M. Dufrenne’s,in truth a linguistomania, younger sister of the cybernetomania of the Sixties.

The only conceivable underlying legitimation for psychology’s theoretical support by another science is, therefore, the objective articulation of their respective essences. In its efforts to construct a valid theoretical representation of its object, psychology, whatever its aversion to such questions, is thus led by its own logic to ask itself about the essence of that entity of which it wishes to be the science; it cannot avoid’ asking itself what man is in his essence. It thereby confronts a problem, the solution to which is not on its terrain but on the terrain of historical materialism. This is what Politzer had seen clearly: ‘Psychology by no means holds the “secret” of human affairs, simply because this “secret” is not a psychological order’.

This ‘secret’ is the ensemble of social relations. In other words the essence of the human individual is not originally within himself but outside in an excentric position in the world of social relations: this. is what Marx discovered and formulated for the first time through the 6th Thesis on Feuerbach. This theoretical view has been strikingly borne out ever since by the progress of all the human sciences: as opposed to animality (‘animal-being’), humanity (in the sense of ‘human-being’) is not a given, naturally present in each isolated individual: it is the human social world and each natural individual becomes human in being ‘humanised’ through his real life-process within social relations. All psychologists well know this. But this therefore means that between psychology and historical materialism there exists not at all in fact a ‘homology’ sanctioning the transfer of ‘models’, but a primordial essential articulation requiring a conscious theoretical articulation of the former with the latter.

In generally failing to recognize the crucial importance that historical materialism has for it, the psychology of personality fails to use to advantage what it nevertheless knows perfectly well about the on of the human essence. As an instructive example let us look at the interesting work of a professional psychologist, Joseph Nuttin, who teaches at the University of Louvain, La structure de la personnalité. After giving an exposition of and analyzing in detail in the body of the work a number of conventional conceptions of personality from Spearman to Sheldon, Cattel to Kretschmer and from Heymans to Jung, the author writes at the beginning of a final chapter that each of these theories may undoubtedly ‘throw some light’ on the subject but that the latter ‘still largely eludes us’. Starting from this essentially critical assessment the author then comes round to developing his own idea in a final chapter, that, ‘the reality from which one must start as a basic fact in psychology is not the personality or the organism but the schema of concrete or potential interactions at either level of complexity between the two poles of the psycho-physiological biosphere: the ego and the world, or the organism and the environment’, and that ‘the world of our psychic life constructs our personality as much as the hereditary factor’. 

This spelling excentric]rather than the more usual ‘eccentric’, is chosen for the following reasons The proposition that the human essence is excentric (excentrée) is central to Sève‘s theatrical position but its connotations are, perhaps, not so immediately clear in English. Basically Seve uses the term and its cognates to distinguish his position from (i) that of speculative philosophical humanism, for which the human essence is in the centre, i.e., in the individual subject, and (ii) that of those versions of structuralism and theoretical antihumanism which assert that there is no essence, often put by saying that the human subject is decentred (décentré). Translator’s note.

This relational and non-substantialist concept of the personality governed by the ‘Ego-World structure’ may at first seem satisfactory. and to be in agreement with the spirit of everything we have shown so far. But then, if the structure of the personality is constructed through its relations with the ‘world’, it is clear from the standpoint of psychology alone that one will only be able to move forward in the scientific investigation of this structure by relying on a scientific investigation of the ‘ego’s’ relations with its ‘world’, in other words, on the science of social relations: whether one likes it or not one here comes up against the necessity for the articulation of the psychology of personality with a real science of history and economics. What is essentially striking in reading J. Nuttin’s final chapter is what must be called the utter poverty of the remarks concerning these relations, the absence of any serious examination of the concrete historical forms and content of these ‘Ego-World relations’. All the richness of real social relations disappears behind the most poverty-stricken abstractions, ‘th World’, ‘the Other’, which are the ‘Ego’s’ only known associates in the network of its relations. And as it is obviously impossible to account for all the actual richness of individuality by means of its relations with  all-purpose and shallow abstractions, psychological substantialism comes charging back, reducing the attempt to construct a relational concept of the personality to a mere pious wish. One is left with a ‘preexisting structure which constitutes the core of the functional personality’ as the ‘requirement and active potentiality of some types of~ interaction and communication with the world’. One can understand~ that on the last page of his book the author has the feeling that the theory of personality has still not gone beyond the stage of ‘preliminary exploration’.

What does this attempt which starts with such promise end in  abortion? The reason is that the basic lesson of historical materialism  and the materialist meaning of the 6th Thesis on Feuerbach have not been learned. The author has not taken seriously his own assertion according to which it is man’s social relations with the world in which he lives which construct his personality. Consequently he is not really interested in understanding the objective logic of these social relations. Far from actually recognizing ‘the objective and social world’ as that by way of which the personality is constructed, the author writes that it is ‘the objective and social world’ which is ‘constructed by our psychic activity’: pure sociological idealism. The ‘fact’ that ‘personality of human behavior has transformed “nature” into “culture” and “civilization” ‘, he calls ‘striking’, without understanding that, on the contrary, it is really the objective social process transforming ‘nature’ into ‘culture’ which has also transformed the archaic natural individual into a developed historical-social personality. He thinks that ‘in our society’, ‘the basic source of human conflict as a whole lies the variety and complexity of possible paths of actualization for the personality’ without even saying a word about the social division of labour, the division of society into classes, as the real objective source of this ‘variety’. In the end, it is the old speculative abstraction of philosophical humanism, Man in general, which is presented to us as the deus ex machina of ‘Ego-World’ relations.

At birth, man is so poorly equipped that it is impossible through his own means to achieve the forms of communication with the world which are necessary  for him to stay alive. This almost complete lack of pre established integration in what one might call the biological condition of his freedom and individual personality. Indeed, owing to this lack, man himself is bound to construct the behavioral forms which will constitute his integration in the world and consequently his own personality.

In this way one conceals behind the individual’s lack of biological equipment at birth the fabulous wealth of his excentric social ‘equipment, one transforms the crying fact of the individual’s total preestablished insertion in a determinate world of social relations into an ‘alrnost complete lack of pre-established integration’, and thereby the necessity, of individual life-processes disappears behind the antiquated myth of the freedom of an ‘Ego’ which so-called scientific psychology borrows uncritically from traditional philosophy. Is it not time to consider the lesson there is to be drawn from this sort of failure? No genuinely relational theory of personality, no effective surpassing the impasses of psychological substantialism and naturalism and therefore no really scientific theory of personality are possible so long as one does not take Marx’s crucial discovery absolutely seriously :j in reality the human essence is the ensemble of social relations within which  men not only produce their subsistence but are themselves produced.

What has happened most often until now is that when it proclaimed the altogether determinant role of social factors in the development of the human personality, psychology thought it had largely taken the social sciences, indeed historical materialism itself, into account — a highly naive and painfully contradictory proclamation in actual fact since, owing to the mere fact that one regards man’s social world, social relations, as external factors in development – as the ‘environment’ of an individual, consequently conceived as naturally pre-existing them, one makes clear that one just has not understood that social relations are not external factors in development but the very essence of the personality. Until now, all the inferences from this idea are far from having been drawn in psychology, even in those works which appeal to Marxism. Thus Marx never stopped showing from beginning to end in his work that human needs are historical and social in their very essence; this may therefore seem a well-known truth. However one may read in an unpublished and most interesting research text on sexuality — most interesting owing to the mere fact that it was a fundamental psychological investigation based on Marxism — that ‘in order to be satisfied, sexual need has need of the Other (sex): it is therefore social and socialized in its essence’ — whereas as far as other needs supported by biological functions are concerned ‘social mediations are never fundamental’, and as for need to eat, for example, social mediations at most influence ‘its forms and norms’ but not ‘the fundamental exercise of the alimentary function’. I regard this thesis as a remarkably instructive example of the fact that the illusions of speculative psychology are alive even at the heart of the greatest efforts to rethink it in the light of Marx’s most essential ideas.

Actually, like every human need, human hunger is social not only in its forms and norms  — ‘the hunger gratified by cooked meat eaten with a knife and fork is a different hunger from that which bolts down, raw meat with the aid of hand, nail, and tooth’ — but in its essence. The illusion that this is not so comes here from considering in need only the act by which it is satisfied, i.e. the side of consumption, while simply neglecting Marx’s essential discovery in this respect, that in man consumption is inseparable from production, or rather that production is the productive source of consumptive activity itself. If one considers the need for nourishment and sexual need merely from the side of consumption’ i.e., if one presupposes that there object is already given, already present –food, ‘the Other — it is quite true up to a point that the later then appears as basically implying other people whereas the former does not.  All the same, one ought then be disquieted by the fact that, made in these terms, such an analysis would be as true of animal sexuality as of human sexuality, and this in itself allows one to state that in this way one must still not have grasped the most specific essence of the latter. But above all man is an animal who socially produces his means of subsistence., i  order to eat., drink, clothe himself etc. he has to work, to earn his living in the world of a social division of labor, and accordingly he basically needs ‘the Other’ to produce the object of his need.  In this sense, not only does the need for nourishment appear as being fundamentally in need of others, but its sociality is even deeper than that attributed by the analysis discussed here to sexual need, since this only takes into account the not really social but merely inter personal need of an other at the level of consumption, whereas the need for nourishment needs others for the very production of what it wishes to consume and, as we shall see, it is deeply by this production.  One can see the harm done by the ‘1844 psychology’ quite clearly here. Indeed, behind this analysis of sexual need it is not difficult to recognize showing through the impressive analyses in the 1844 Manuscripts on man’s relation to woman as the most significant relation of man to man, indicating how far ‘man’s needs have become human needs’ and consequently ‘how far the other person, as a person, has become one of his needs’. But as a matter of fact the limitation of these 1844 analyses, which are far from being without value, is that they describe the effect of social relations not yet understood scientifically, whereas mature Marxism yields the scientific theory of the production of these effects. This is why to proceed no further than the level of the 1844 psychology always implies that one lacks the decisive factor of the development of the personality and consequently that one at least partly remains prisoner to substantialist, i.e. speculative, illusions.

One can see how the articulation of the psychology of personality with historical materialism is not only an offer of assistance which Marxism is led through its own logic to make to psychology but reciprocally a call for help which psychology clearly has to send to Marxism if it takes its own firmly held beliefs about the ultimately relational character of the human personality wholly seriously. This means that while being a specific science, the science of personality is in a position of deep-seated epistemological dependence with regard to historical materialism in general and Marxist political economy in particular. This point is of the greatest importance and needs to be carefully gone into. In the first place it is quite clear that if one fails to recognize this dependence, a position which is very widespread until now and which basically means that the human essence is more or less considered abstractly and is insufficiently identified with social relations, this makes the solution of basic problems impossible. However it is not correct either to describe the personality as a superstructure of social relations (not even in the broad sense of the term) on the plea that the base of a social formation is also the base of the forms of individuality which are produced in it; for the concept of superstructure figures in the classics of Marxism in two distinct senses. In a narrow sense (the only one which one remembers as a rule, wrongly) it refers selectively to the legal and political institutions which arise on the base of the relations of production and correspond to them, excluding ideologies (also a term with complex meaning) and forms of social consciousness. But on the other hand, as a much broader historical concept, it refers to any structure (formation) which appears on the base of another and its internal contradictions; which, while exhibiting new aspects and relatively autonomous mode of development, is functionally determine by them and reciprocally plays a regulating role with regard to them which disappears if its base is destroyed, not immediately an mechanically of course but nevertheless inevitably; but which in certain cases may also gradually assimilate its own base and take its place. It in this sense that the term superstructure sometimes refers to the ensemble of institutions, ideologies and forms of social consciousness —hence, formidable ambiguities. It is in this sense that, in a letter in 1879 to Danielson, Marx writes that ‘where capitalism was confined to a few summits of society’ the railway system allowed and forced States ‘to suddenly create and enlarge their capitalistic superstructure’, and late evokes ‘the financial, commercial, industrial superstructure, or rather the façades of the social edifice’ in the France of Louis XIV an Louis XV. And it is in this same sense that in 1919 Lenin wrote: ‘] Marx said of manufacture that it was a superstructure on mass small production, imperialism and finance capitalism are a superstructure on the old capitalism. If its top is destroyed, the old capitalism is exposed’.

It is clear for two reasons in particular that even in this broad sense the concrete individual is not a superstructure of the social relations. In the the first place, while being radically functionally determined by the social base, social individuality does not occupy a superstructural position with regard to it, since it is an integral part of this base and its process of reproduction; the basic individual life-processes do not appear on the basis of social relations, they are a part of them. In the second place, social individuality itself develops within biological individuals who as such are not at all the product of the social base and its contradictions but a quite distinct reality. Thus  although they are functionally determined by the social base (and its superstructures) quite as much as the superstructures themselves, individuals do not arise off this base with superstructural characteristics but are as it were laterally meshed in with it and become wholly subordinated to it – although it is not their actual source.  To designate this specific type of essential connection, which does not solely occur with individuals moreover, I suggest the concept juxtastructure. It is vital not to confuse the purely external connection of two structures, which are independent in themselves, a connection which therefore tends towards equalizing reciprocity, with what I call here a juxtastructural relation in which, although its support has an independent existence and source one of the structures is entirely subordinated to the other, their necessarily reciprocal functional determination then having the form of an oriented circularity: one of the structures is always the determinant structure in the last instance.  The reduction of the individual’s juxtastructural relation with the social base simply to a relation of external connection is the basic approach of speculative humanism and vulgar psychology. Conversely, the confusion of this relation with a superstructural type of relation is more or less covertly present in all antihumanism, in the one— sided interpretation of the phenomenon of the excentration of the human subject.

This possibly helps in understanding why although the psychology of personality clearly depends on facts independent of historical materialism, particularly biological facts, it can nevertheless only become fully developed scientifically on the crucial condition of being articulated with the science of social relations: the psychology , of personality is in a juxtastructural position with regard to historical materialism. Only historical materialism provides the general topography of the terrain on which it must be constructed and thereby enables it to expose the theoretical pitfalls concerning the concept of the individual into which it is otherwise very likely to fall from the word go. As a matter of fact, in so far as one wishes to express the specificity of psychology with regard to the social sciences as a whole, nothing is more natural than to put forward the concept of individuality, the distinction between the individual and society. In a sense this is a quite correct approach, which we will come back to. But it is only a step from this to defining psychology as a science of the isolated individual, to thinking of the individual-society dichotomy as having an absolute, natural significance, the individual-society contradiction as a basic contradiction, etc., from then on inevitably biologising historico-social individuality. If one takes this step one is decisively led astray from the very outset. If, on the contrary, one has understood that the developed human individual is not fundamentally a substance which is independent in relation to social relations, then one grasps at the same time that a psychology of personality which is not itself a science of social relations, in a sense to be made clear, would necessarily fail to capture the essence of its object and would be bound to be a false science. And it immediately becomes obvious that it is precisely the great abstractions with capital letters, the Ego, the World, the Other, Philosophical entities of which a psychology nevertheless avid for ‘Positive science’ significantly proves to be fond, which one must undertake to radically criticize and scientifically surpass if one wishes in the end to arrive at a scientific theory of personality.

Regardless of any question of initial ‘ideological sympathy’ with Marxism, one can therefore say how little the psychologist will be wasting his time in giving up the laboratory for a moment in order to read the great texts of historical materialism and proceeding from that to reconsider the foundation of psychology on that basis. Once the principle of its articulation with the theory of the individual is made clear, everything in historical materialism must appear to him as extraordinarily fruitful heuristically. After all it is not stressed enough that, although always briefly, Marx and Engels themselves often and explicitly pointed the way from the standpoint of the social formation to the standpoint of the individual, i.e. presented historical materialism as a pilot-science in relation to the science of personality. In fact Marx points the way, in relation to a problem as vital as that of the infrastructure-superstructure dialectic, in the basic exposition of historical materialism provided by the Preface to the Contribution.

Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge … a period of transformation by its consciousness,’ but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production.

It seems that, in as much as attention has been paid to this at all, it has generally been seen until now as a sort of literary comparison, a stylistic flourish or, at least, a psychological commonplace, whereas after all the foregoing one will undoubtedly see more clearly a theoretical pointer of great importance in this ‘Just as … ‘, which leads one to reflect very seriously on the following problem: is the fact of having superstructures, conscious superstructures, incorporating elements such as ideological representations, cultures, languages, etc., into institutions, generators of corresponding problematics (problems of functionality and objectivity, of going from the unconscious to consciousness, of displacement, survivals and anticipations, etc.), solely a characteristic of social formations? Is there not a need to reflect on a possible theory of superstructures of the personality in connection with social superstructures? And is it not precisely  such a possible research which Engels was still imagining when he remarked in Ludwig Feurbach,

As all the driving forces of the actions of any individual person must pass through his brain, and transform themselves into motives of his will in order to set him into action, so also all the needs of civil society — no matter which class happens to be ruling — must pass through the will of the State in order to secure general validity in the form of laws.

Is it not similarly a spur to deep psychological reflection to read for example in the 1857 Introduction: ‘Whether production and) consumption are viewed as the activity of one or of many individuals,  they appear in any case as moments of one process, in which production is the real point of departure and hence also the predominant moment’, (which contains a decisive lesson on the relations between needs and activity); or, in the Grundrisse, this theme to which Marx returned so often: ‘The less time the society requires to produce wheat, cattle, etc., the more time it wins for other production, material or mental. Just as in the case of an individual, the multiplicity of its development, its enjoyment and its activity depends on economisation of time’, an observation which, as we will show in the final chapter, in a sense contains precisely the solution to the problem of the theory of personality; or again, in Capital, this observation which shows to what extent Marx always remained concerned with anthropological problems:

In a sort of way, it is with man as with commodities. Since he comes into the world neither with a looking-glass in his hand, nor as a Fichtian philosopher, to whom ‘I am I’ is sufficient, man first sees and recognizes himself in other men. Peter only establishes his own identity as a man by first concerning himself with Paul as being of like kind. And thereby Paul, just as he stands in his Pauline personality, becomes to Peter the type of the genus homo,’

a note into which it is difficult not to read implicitly the 1844 analyses on the relation between man and the ‘other man and which provides an underlying clue to the source of substantialist illusions in the conception of the individual. In view of all these texts it surely must be agreed that one cannot indicate to psychology more clearly that it and its own bases are what are at stake in this alien guise of historical materialism. For all things considered one might say that the psychology of personality required by Marxism has existed right from the start, although it seldom appears in psychological form. This being so the articulation between the two domains, does not only imply, as any articulation would, theoretical constraints on psychology in relation to historical materialism, but also a theoretical support and interchange: the life-blood flows from historical materialism to psychology. A remarkably promising new path therefore opens up for thought about the fundamentals of the theory of personality: that which lies in setting Out from each essential aspect of historical materialism and in investigating what it teaches us, what it urges us to discover in the juxtastructure of the individual. One would start, of course, with what the whole of Marxism has established as primordial from the standpoint of the very production of social man: the economic analysis of labour.

The central point: the Marxist analysis of labor

Here, indeed, is the central area in the articulation, of which we hay now taken stock, between the psychology of personality and Marxism. All things considered this is such an elementary truth that one might even be surprised that it is not the greatest commonplace today. Politzer already pointed it out forty years ago.

No psychology whatsoever is possible unless it is set in political economy. And this is why it presupposes all knowledge obtained by dialectical materialism and must constantly be supported by it.

There is no doubt whatever that when it is a question of the auxiliary sciences of psychology, psychologists consider medicine above all, whereas from the standpoint of psychology’s basic orientation and organization it is the significance of political economy which is really basic.

Certainly, modern psychology is no longer unaware of the existence of political economy. On the contrary the relations between these two disciplines seem more in fashion then ever: is not ‘economic psychology’ held out here or there as one of those pivotal-sciences which everyone knows characterize the current trend in knowledge?’ But in this perspective, in actual fact, it is merely a question of external relations and of the mutual service which two sciences conceived as independent and separate in their essence might do each other. The problem stated here is quite different: it is the problem of the internal connection of the essence of their objects. Psychology is a science of man. And in the most general sense of the question, what is man? A being who produces his means of subsistence and thereby produces himself. Certainly, we saw earlier, this concept of production in general, labour in general, is still much too abstract to serve by itself as the conductor to scientific knowledge. None the less it is a ‘rational abstraction in so far as it really brings out and fixes the common element and thus saves us repetition’.

It is all that we need here, since it is merely a question of situating the central point of the articulation between psychology and Marxism, and not to undertake thereby a concrete scientific investigation. If man is a being who produces himself in social labour, it is at once obvious that’ the psychology of personality is founded on the analysis of social labour or it does not exist.

In relation to this how are we to explain that in the by now protracted confrontation of principles between Marxism and psychoanalysis this crucial point has so infrequently been taken for a starting-point, thereby putting a full stop to a certain number of utopian hopes? That in a sense, under certain conditions, psychoanalysis can be assimilated by historical materialism, i.e. reworked (reprise) critically and within certain limits on the basis of its own concepts, is obvious — an obvious fact that it will have taken much time and effort on various parts to bring out clearly, but which today seems almost established, particularly in France. But it is impossible that psychoanalysis, while retaining its identity in substance, could become the theory of personality which is required by Marxism, or even its basis. And I will even say that this impossibility is an obvious fact too — or should be. For, in psychoanalysis the subject does practically everything that a real human being can do: he desires, consumes, enjoys and denies himself; he feels, wishes, speaks, dreams; he moves in the sphere of corporeal, familial, political and even religious and artistic life. In short, there is just about only one thing which does not find its appointed, i.e. central, place in the psychoanalytic model: social labour. This is where psychoanalysis has been lacking from the very beginning as a potential — and no doubt, moreover, reluctant — candidate for a general theory of the human personality. In its most penetrating forms psychoanalysis is possible, is undoubtedly one of the more essential statements about the concrete individual, so long as one still neglects his most essential aspect. How could a science which in principle neglects labour and therefore the determinant role of the relations of production be the general science of that being who is defined in his very essence by his labour, who is produced in his very essence by these relations o production? All attempts to make psychoanalysis the basis of the scientific theory of personality articulated with Marxism, even the most ingenious and lyrical, come to grief on this radical impossibility. This alone is enough to show that all Freudo-Marxism is a falsification of Marxism and, for that matter, of psychoanalysis too. Psychoanalysis has been built up by considering the human being outside the sphere of labour, not for merely empirical reasons but in principle; and indeed this is why it strives so profoundly to interpret the individual’s life in the language of his childhood. A psychoanalyst very significantly writes: ‘The psychoanalysis of children is psychoanalysis’. On the other hand one has to record the constitutional poverty of everything offered to us by psychoanalysis when it is a matter of tackling the problems of adolescence and adulthood in themselves, with everything specific which they contribute to the development of the personality. While it might seem rash to speculate about the future of an existing discipline on the basis of a still purely conjectural science, one could even ask the’ question: as ‘human anatomy contains a key to the anatomy of the ape’,will not the scientific psychology of the working adult also contain a key to the psychology of the child who does not yet work, and is what psychoanalysis tells us about him destined to remain definitively autonomous in relation to such a psychology or is it rather in its turn be articulated with it while enriching it at the same time?

Whatever the answer to this problem may be, and it is obviously impossible to go into it more deeply at this stage of this analysis, one can say that it is the basic attitude with regard to social labour which is the overriding criterion which makes it possible to determine whether a theory, or more simply a psychological view, throws light on the problem of the foundations of  psychology of personality which is truly scientific and which is correctly articulated with Marxism — which comes to the same thing. And if one confronts not only psychoanalysis but the whole of what today professes to be psychology with such a criterion, it must certainly be acknowledged that the result is very poor. After forty years we can unfortunately repeat Politzer’s profound observation with hardly any qualification: ‘We have still not seen a single textbook in general psychology which starts … off with the precise analysis of the different aspects, factors, conditions of work occupations, etc.’.

How can one not see from this that the effective failure to recognize social labour as the basis of the developed human personality precisely the major reason for which the only directions in which psychological theory has been successful up to now are those which deal with the human being who does not work or in so far as he does not work — child psychology, psychopathology, and the psychology of behavior considered irrespective of its concrete integration in labour, not to mention animal psychology. Yet it is important to emphasize that even in these conditions the conclusion of all that is best in child psychology and in particular in psychiatry is that even where one do not encounter social labour directly, it is nevertheless, in the broadest sense and albeit precisely by its absence, an irreplaceable element theoretical understanding and indeed in practical intervention.

Nothing enables one to see more clearly either what start old fashioned ‘popular’ psychology has, in a sense, over advance scientific psychology. For if there is one thing to which attention is pal in order to know a man in the best of this popular psychology and particular in that which has been developed empirically by the worker movement, if there is one thing which is taken into account with the greatest care, for example when selecting a cadre, it is his work, the way he works, his attitude to work and to the social relations as a whole which are directly linked to this work. Any experienced person with responsibility in the workers’ movement knows that labour in the broadest sense is the best measure of what an individual is basically capable of but provides anyone who knows how to interpret it with an X-ray of the structure of his personality, its strengths and weaknesses. In the vast majority of cases modern psychological science does not really seem to understand this, even though it no less than a basic truth. Better still, if one may say so, apart from the works of a small number of researchers whose reflections are based on Marxism or at least inspired by it, the ‘psychology of work’ is conceived with bizarre blindness, as a small specialty on the margins of general psychology or at best is assumed to be one of its particular branches. One can even see the expansion of a ‘science of work’ — ergonomics — which seriously sets itself the problem of throwing light on human behavior at work starting out language is to say social relation, which gets us much further into the actual essence of man. But why stop after such a good start? Once it is recognized that the problem of the individual should be stated not in terms of instinct but in terms of social relations, why abstract the relation language from all the other social relations, if not to avoid arriving at the relations of production? And if linguistics can contribute something to psychology, which is not disputed, why not look with all the more reason at what political economy can contribute to it?

But for psychology to be able to learn from political economy it must also be capable of reading political economy and recognizing in it those things which concern it. It is precisely here that one comes up against a seemingly insurmountable difficulty which masks the articulation of the two disciplines and may even make it seem impossible. For in relation to its apparent interest for psychology, i.e. in relation to what Marx called concrete-labour, ‘the expenditure of human labour power in a special form and with a definite aim’ producing ‘use-values’,” Political economy tells us very little about labour. Generally speaking, this aspect of labour does not in itself happen to concern political economy but the natural and technological sciences. And if it does happen to refer to it, as it does in various passages in Capital, it does so only, we recalled earlier, in as much as concrete labour is among the consequences of its economic arguments, since these are not based on the consideration of concrete labour in itself. Marxist political economy begins when the concept of abstract labour, ‘expenditure of labour-power in general’,the measure of values, regulator of exchange and further the key to surplus value, is distinguished from and contrasted with the concept of concrete labour, the specific expression of a living person’s abilities — i.e. it seems, just at that moment when it simultaneously turns its back on psychology by introducing an aspect labour as a central element among other things from what a psychology which knows nothing about work tells us about the personality: it really is the world turned upside down. 

Let us note in passing that it is not only in psychology but in all the~ human sciences, in the whole of anthropology and even in philosophy, that sympathetic understanding of Marx’s immense work, great as it now is, still often stops short of the main point, the determinant role of social labour and thus of the relations of production. We have thirty years of ideological disputes behind us to prove it: in spite of their merits, which are anyway very uneven, all attempts at an anthropological surpassing of Marxism — based on Sartrian existentialism, Teilhardian spiritualism, Lévi-Straussian structuralism — rest in the last resort on the enduring pre-Marxist failure to recognize what can be called the reality of the human essence. For theoretical surpassing obeys strict laws or it is merely a show. However ‘dialectical’, however ‘materialist’, how could Sartrian totalizing praxis Teilhardian neogenesis, Lévi-Straussian structuration succeed in surpassing Marxist anthropology and therefore in setting it on a more fundamental basis when in varying degrees they are determined to ignore the primordial role of the relations of labour in the genesis social man? Hence also, their always forced way of making scientific facts, which in themselves are perfectly valuable — psychoanalytic, biological, linguistic facts, for example — play a completely disproportionate role: one has to try hard to fill the huge theoretical void created at the heart of anthropology by the absence of politic economy. Moreover if their meaning is not distorted these facts themselves lead back to the economy, to the relations of production. The fact that the unconscious is presented to us as structured like a language, for example, undoubtedly represents a considerable advance  compared with the original Freudian conception in which it is structured like a biological organism, for to say which to all appearances has no concrete psychological reality. This is clearly what Marx seems to say when, for example, from the first pages of the Contribution, he emphasizes that the labour-time which determines the exchange-value of commodities, ‘is the labour-time of an individual, his labour time but only as labour time common to all; consequently it is quite immaterial whose individual labour time this is’.

In the same way, in the Grundrisse, Marx criticizes Adam Smith who ‘considers labour psychologically, as to the fun or displeasure it holds for the individual’, explaining:

Smith’s view of labour as a sacrifice, which incidentally correctly expresses the subjective relation of the wage worker to his own activity, still does not lead to what he wants — namely, the determination of value by labour-time. An hour of sacrifice may always be an equal sacrifice for the worker. But the value of commodities in no way depends on his feelings.

Here we have precisely the line of rupture between the ideological humanism of bourgeois economy and the Marxist conception which proceeds not from the concrete individual but from social relations. But this rupture is obviously the major reason why psychology, even the best disposed toward Marxism, did not see clearly exactly where the theoretical treasures were that — too rarely, moreover — it had been promised in the field of historical materialism and also why, less persevering than the farmer’s children, it has consequently usually given up digging for treasure so that, in M. Dufrenne’s turn of phrase, ‘the psychology of work has still not found its Freud’. And this also explains why psychological theorizing which claims to be Marxist nearly always relies in fact on those texts in which Marx shows the connection between human abilities and the development of the productive forces — such as the 1844 texts on ‘the open book of man’s essential powers which constitutes industry’.  On this path there is every likelihood of ending up with a historico-social conception of psychic functions which remain conceived in themselves in the ordinary psychological way, i.e. basically remaining prisoner to speculative naturalistic illusions about ‘man’, even while the attempt is made to give them the form of historical materialism: this is something, but it is quite clear that we are still a long way from the real solution to the problem.

For this solution to become possible, for psychology actually to discover the huge wealth of what Marxist political economy can in fact contribute to it, it must be understood that far from being just beyond the boundaries of psychology, the distinction, the dialectical opposition between concrete and abstract labor is, on the contrary, the starting point from which all investigations into the personality can really begin.  Indeed, how could abstract as opposed to concrete labour only concern the economist and not at all the psychologist if it is really true, as Marx very clearly points out in Capital for example, that ‘strictly speaking, there are not two sorts of labor in the commodity’ — nor, it goes without saying, in the man who labors either — but that concrete and abstract labor are two sides of the same labor which is opposed to itself. How could the essential unity of these two contradictory aspects of of labor exist in a commodity but not in the personality of the producer? The concept of abstract labor as such also corresponds to a concrete psychological reality:     This is the solution to the riddle. Abstract labour is not psychological in so far as it is supposed that psychology is identical with the science of the concrete aspects of individual behavior and with them alone. But it is this identification which does not correspond to the reality of individual life, which abstracts from everything in it whereby it is engaged in its very essence with social relations. If one does not understand this, if one does n grasp that, far from concerning only political economy the contradiction between the two aspects of labour is at the very root of man living and working in conditions of this economy and consequently is at the root of his personality — in short, if, to give an elementary example, one sees in a man’s occupational activities only the acts of which this labor concretely consists (which is obviously the only thing one can investigate in a psychology laboratory) but not at the same time and contradictorily this labour as corresponding with a wage (and with profit for the capitalist), as if this second aspect ought to interest the economist but remain irrelevant to the study of the personality — the one has lost every chance from the very outset of founding a psychology which, in the words of the 1844 Manuscripts, is truly objective an ‘rich in content’, a psychology of personality articulated with Marxism. For anyone who has set out in this way in search of such a psychology, ‘the open book of man’s essential powers’ and principal human contradictions seems very thin. The real meaning of the 6th Thesis of Feuerbach escapes: instead of being understood as the essence of man’s social relations assume the appearance of a mere external expression individuality — its ‘interaction with the environment’ — and needs abilities, activities, simply become natural functions open to external social conditioning: albeit between historicist banks, psychological naturalism comes flooding in. The fetishism of psychic faculties reign supreme. The end result is that the ‘psychology of work’ ceases to appear as having a central importance and in the end evokes only ‘on word — “need” — vulgar need’. Where is the Marxism in all that.

If, on the contrary, one understands that in given economic conditions man’s concrete social labour is intrinsically a bearer of its opposite, abstract labour, which can obviously not be taken for a ‘natural faculty’ nor studied as such in any laboratory but overtly refers to social relations, the social division of labor, the structures and contradictions characteristic of the corresponding social formation, the 6th Thesis on Feuerbach can become an effective psychological truth; beyond their biological conditions, which there is no question of overlooking, all psychic activities are seen to be a product of social relations in their very essence and also therefore in the internal determinism of their development. The ideological illusion on which psychological naturalism rests, vanishes. At the same time one can see working hypotheses abounding on all points of the Marxist horizon, opening up research prospects in all quarters of real life. What Marx writes about commodity fetishism, for example, can be seen as the economic side of a general theory of objective social illusions, the psychological side of which must be constituted by the analysis of the fetishism of the personality and its functions. The whole dialectic of the objective contradictions of social labour in Capital, the fully-developed economic theory of that which was alluded to by the adolescent philosophy of alienation, can be seen to be the means of constructing the fully-developed psychological theory of the dialectic of contradictions within the personality. Like the categories of bourgeois political economy ‘expressing with social validity the conditions and relations of a definite, historically determined mode of production’ which, Marx says, are destined to vanish in ‘other forms of production’, the categories of the bourgeois conception of the human personality — primacy of needs, innate inequality of abilities, opposition of mediocrity and genius, etc. — are divested of their speculative character of natural eternity and reveal their essential historical transitoriness. Psychological theory catches sight of its meeting point with the stirring human perspectives of communism. In a word, from this one brief example, it seems one can see beginning a real science of personality.

Of course, at the same time as one can see working hypotheses and research prospects one can also see difficulties and objections abounding. It will be said right away, for example, that capitalist social relations are not the only thing in the vast human world and therefore in psychology — that labour assuming the abstract form is not the only thing even within capitalist social relations — and above all that while one may grant that labour is important in the life of individuals, it is absurd to want to reduce man to it — etc. These objections, and others as well, will be gone into in their turn, at least within the limits of what is Possible in this book which is not at all an extensive treatise but simply an essay. Nevertheless, even at the level of what in this chapter are still only preliminary remarks, I wish to point out that these objections are similar to the ones to which historical materialism itself has never ceased to be exposed, coming from those who have not understood it or who challenge its basis. Historical materialism has been and still is accused of resting on an improper generalization of characteristics peculiar to capitalism, of merely conveying a much too narrow view of social relations in capitalism itself, and above all of mechanically reducing the complexity of social life simply to productive labour, simply to economic considerations. In actual fact, if one divests them of their often naive form, these objections do correspond to real problems, but these are problems which really only find their solution within historic materialism itself.

And this is also true of the objections just alluded to against principle that was outlined of a psychology of personality which articulated with historical materialism. The fact that not all hum personalities are developed within capitalist social relations does n constitute an objection to the views presented here but, quite on contrary, the starting-point of an enquiry which promises to exceptionally fruitful, and for which one finds invaluable suggestions precisely in Marx, from The German Ideology through the 1857—59 economic works to Capital: the enquiry into the historic transformations of the structures and laws of development of human personalities in conjunction with the transformations of social relations, an enquiry of theoretical and practical interest of the first order which obviously only a psychology thus conceived could launch in an essential way. The fact that there are activities even within capitalist social relations which do not — or not directly — take the abstract form analyzed in Capital, on the other hand, does not constitute any more of an objection but, on the contrary, an inducement to reflect on the variety of forms which activities, and consequently the contradictions in human personalities, assume in relation to the diversity of social. relations and aspects of the division of labour — including, for example, domestic labour, without the objective investigation of which every conception of the family and as a result every theory of personality, as far as the latter is constituted in familial relations, is fundamentally unsound. Here again, the predictable fruitfulness of this psychological theorizing can be gauged by the breadth and variety of the new problems which it makes it possible to pose, and perhaps to solve. Finally, it is obvious in a sense that one ought not to reduce the whole wealth of aspects of the human personality to the single dimension of, social labour, therefore to social relations of production: one will see later on that such a reduction is no more implied in the act of grounding the psychology of personality on the analysis of relations of social labour than the reduction of the whole wealth of aspects of social life to the economic base alone is implied by the bases of historical materialism. But it is amusing to see psychology guarding itself against the fearful risks of an ‘over-estimate of the role of labour’ when the real state of affairs today consists of an extraordinary and almost universal failure to recognise anything of what only the scientific analysis of the relations of social labour can contribute to it. This misrecognition is so much a part of what ends up by appearing to us at present as the definitive and permanent psychology that, to give only one example, what Makarenko wrote on the subject of children, in which one often finds the simplicity of real depth, concerning the vital relations between their play and labour or the primary role of the parents’ practical attitude to social labour in the development of their relations with their children, and in the development of the children themselves — in short, everything which the central standpoint of labour can make visible as far as concerns the actual bases of the personality of an individual who does not yet work but who none the less lives in a world in which labour is the real basis in every respect, all this today remains more or less entirely hidden from view by psychoanalysis — when it is not, to a far less degree, by characterology or biotypology — to such an extent that the mere project of also throwing light on the infantile development of personality through the analysis of labour and its relations runs the risk of being accused straight away of ‘overestimating the role of labour’. It is a fact that history only truly became a science on the basis of the theoretical revolution carried out by Marx with the foundation of the science of the relations of production. Is it not necessary for the psychology of personality in search of its adulthood to reflect very seriously on this?

Whatever one thinks of these replies to some of the immediately possible objections, it is quite clear that the idea of a psychology of personality articulated with historical materialism as it is outlined here is open to critical scrutiny like any other. But simple incomprehension can prove nothing against the consistency and importance of the research programme which it seems to indicate. Moreover, after all these introductory reflections on the site and form of the articulation between psychology and Marxism, it is time to proceed to proofs by now tackling the crucial problem head on: that of the definition of a fully-developed scientific psychology of personality.

 

source: http://www.marxists.org/archive/seve/works/1974/ch2/2_0.htm

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