Karl Marx and Individualism Term Paper

Pages: 6 (2442 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy

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Pages: 6

Topic: Karl Marx and Individualism

Citation Style: MLA

Bibliography: 3

Due: 2007-04-25 22:00:00

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Karl Marx is best known for his incisive analysis and acidic criticisms of

capitalism, including the ideology that reinforces and legitimizes it. Marx

is especially critical of modern theories of individualism. What is Marx's

critique of individualism as developed and demonstrated in the political

writings of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, two of the greatest champions of

individualism? Be sure to provide specific examples of individualism in

their thought as you explain Marx's critique.

**Must use these sources for bibliography**(No other sources):

1. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)

2. John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University

Press, 1988)

3. Karl Marx, Selected Writings, ed. Lawrence H. Simon (Indianapolis, IN:

Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 1994)

Message from Professor:

**Make sure you answer the question directly and thoroughly. Avoid

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directly to the question.

**You should use properly cited evidence from the readings to support your

argument. Whether you are using direct quotations or simply paraphrasing,Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Term Paper on Karl Marx and Individualism Assignment

use any outside research for this paper other than the books listed above.

WRITERS NOTE: for your exact copies of the book I used the chapters where

the quotes are from for easy access to fill in the page #

Karl Marx and Individualism

Karl Marx is known for his Communist Manifesto and Capital, writings

that would changed the course of history. His praise for and eventual call

for the doom of capitalism is his legacy. But these notions are grounded

in the thought that the individual is not as desirable as the community.

Hobbes and Locke both base their arguments on the notion that the

individual is the driving force in society. It has been that way since

man's origins in nature in which social constructions were built to protect

the individual from the forces of nature in which individualistic notions

were prevalent. Marx, on the other hand, believes in a completely opposite

view in which society created the individual. Furthermore, Marx has an

understanding of the forces at work in the world as being those based on

class, in which people unite under a common interest and not their

individual goals and needs. Society may be at war to Marx, but it is a

class war and not an individual war that has to be regulated by governing

institutions. To those who champion individualism, governments are

established by the individuals to protect the individuals, but to Marx,

governments are established to protect the capitalist class's interests

from the workers and thus Marx has a vastly different outlook on the forces

which drive history.

Marx criticizes the individualistic thoughts of Hobbes and Locke, who

both champion the individual. Thomas Hobbes wrote the Leviathon which is

known for a state of society that is ruled by a Leviathon. Notable to this

society is the fact that it is made up of individuals, each acting for his

or her own benefit. This is because a state of nature is anarchic as each

individual acts for what he or she wants. This is evidence of the

importance of the individual and the basis for which society is dictated-

that people are individuals in an anarchic world. Hobbes writes regarding

the individual that, "Nature hath made men so equal...yet when all is

reckoned together the difference between man and man is not so considerable

that one can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may

not pretend as well as he" (Hobbes Ch XIII). This means that even if there

are differences between individuals, as there naturally are, and even

though some people are more talented than others, there is not so much

difference that gives someone the right to rule over and make decisions for

someone else. To Hobbes, this power of the individual meant that only an

absolute sovereign could effectively govern because individuals are always

in a state of war with other individuals. Power must be given to the

sovereign absolutely because there is no single interest among the numerous

self-interested individuals of society. Thus Hobbes has based his theory

on the most effective governing body because of the power of the

individual. Within the state of nature, to Hobbes, man seeks to better

himself through competition and reputation, further evidence of his belief

in the individual.

Likewise, Locke's notions on the governing powers and his famous

social contract are because of his understanding of individualism. John

Locke, in his Two Treatises of Government, argues for the individual as it

is the individual that has authority. He believes in the individual and

the individual's ability to make his or her own choices. Like Hobbes,

Locke believes in a state of nature that is based on anarchistic

individualism, and although he differs from Hobbes on many issues, those

issues are irrelevant to the fact that Locke is an individualist.

Furthermore, governments arise for Locke because people are ineffective to

properly govern themselves and make the right decisions in the state of

nature. Locke writes: "We must consider what estate all men are naturally

in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and

dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the

bounds of the law of Nature, without asking leave or depending upon the

will of any other man" (Chap 2). This means that Locke's ideas about

government are based on this sole state of nature, of the individualistic

nature of man. Man then tries to secure a peaceful life through government

and this includes the right to property as man is individualistic and seeks

to protect his property from intrusion.

This classical notion of the individual is contrasted by Marx. Marx

writes in his Grundrisse that "human beings become individuals only through

the process of history," which is in sharp contrast to Hobbes and Locke who

believe that the state of nature is a state of individuals (Chap 29). To

Marx, humans become individuals as a species becoming involved in society

and engaging in herd-like activity as a means of exchange. As man becomes

tied more and more to his property he is thus becoming tied to the

community. In this way, the individual is created by the community and

this logic is backwards to that of Hobbes and Locke. To Hobbes and Locke,

the individual has property and in a state of nature without governmental

organization it is impossible to keep one's property. But to Marx, the

notion of property is created not by the individual, but by one's

interactions with the community. In this way the individual is created,

and not existing in nature as defined by Hobbes and Locke. This initial

and extremely different perspective on the individual sets Marx apart and

suggests that Marx's state of nature is much more primal than Hobbes and

Locke. What Marx is saying is that man is a species in the state of nature

and this differs from Hobbes and Locke who appear to have added some sort

of socialized man to their view of man in the state of nature.

This lends itself towards Marx's view of society based on classes.

This is in itself different than Hobbes and Locke who emphasize the

individual. By emphasizing class, Marx is stipulating that man's actions

are not individualistic, but are dictated by the forces around him. For

example, a capitalist has no alternative but to exploit workers and seek to

acquire more capital. It is by the very nature of the system, and thus

people are less free than Hobbes and Locke would assume. This is not to

say that Hobbes and Locke are identical, but that Hobbes and Locke believe

in the free will to a greater extent than Marx. Hobbes wrote on the

subject of liberty that "each man hath to use his own power as he will

himself for the preservation of his own nature" (Ch XIV). This is praise

for the individual and a man's ability to make choices for his own self

interests. While Marx does not doubt that people will act in their best

interest, they are constrained by factors that are class related. Because

there is no individual to Marx without a society, there is no individual

without class because class is a byproduct of society. Ultimately, Marx's

perception of the individual flips Locke and Hobbes' perception upside down

and Marx is able to provide for… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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