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Red Reviews #34 - Marx's Concept of Man


Hi and welcome to the next installment of Red Reviews. In this one Justin and I talked about Erich Fromm’s book, Marx’s Concept of Man which is a book that discusses the humanism of Marx and how the philosophy of socialism has been co-opted by anti-humanist tendencies as well as exploring the humanism of Marx.


Erich Fromm was a psychologist, a psychoanalyst in the Freudian tradition, while also reinterpreting Freud and psychoanalysis to be more humanistic and less orthodox. He had an interest in the cross section of psychoanalysis and Freud and Marxism. He was exposed to Marxism at a young age (possibly teens) and like many thinkers in the Marxist Humanist tradition he was particularly attracted to the early writing of Marx.


Marx’s Concept of Man was written in 1961 and is split in two sections. In the first half of the book is Fromm’s essay on Marx’s concept of man and the second half is Marx’s own writings, namely, Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844.




You can get a copy of this book from Marxists.org


Some quotes from the book and video


“Marx's philosophy, like much of the existentialist thinking, represents a protest against man's alienation, his loss of himself and his transformation into a thing; it is a movement against the dehumanization and automatization of man inherent in the development of western ndustrialism. It is ruthlessly critical of all answers to the problem of human existence which try to present solutions by negating or camouflaging the dichotomies inherent in man's existence. Marx' philosophy is rooted in the humanist western philosophical tradition which reaches from Spinoza through the French and German enlightenment philosophers of the 18th century To Goethe and Hegel, and the very essence of which is concern for man and the realization of his potentialities”- Fromm


“A number of disagreements do exist concerning his (Marx) sociological and economic theory, some of which I have expressed in previous work, they refer mainly to the fact that Marx failed to see the degree to which capitalism was capable of modifying itself and thus satisfying the economic needs of industrialized nations, his failure to see clearly enough the dangers of

bureaucratization and centralization and to envisage the authoritarians systems which can emerge as alternatives to socialism” - Fromm


“Another reason lies in the fact that the Russian communists appropriated Marx's theory and tried to convince the world that their practice and theory follow his ideas. Although the opposite is true the west accepted their propagandistic claims and has come to assume that Marx's position corresponds to the Russian view and practice However the Russian Communists are not the only ones guilty of misinterpreting Marx. While the Russian's brutal contempt for

individual dignity and humanistic values is indeed specific for them the misinterpretation of Marx as a proponent of a economic hedonistic materialism has also been shared by many of the anti communist and reformist socialists” - Fromm


“Marx fought this type of mechanical bourgeois materialism, the abstract materialism of natural science that excludes history and its process and postulated instead what he called, in the economic and philosophical manuscripts, naturalism or humanism which is distinguished from both idealism and materialism and at the same time constitutes their unifying truth” - Fromm


“In contrast to Hegel, Marx studies man in history by beginning with the real man and the economic and social conditions under which he must live and not primarily with his ideas Marx was as far from bourgeois materialism as he was from Hegel's idealism hence he

could rightly say that his philosophy was neither idealism nor materialism but a synthesis, humanism and naturalism” - Fromm


"Labor is the expression of human life and through labor man's relationship to nature is changed hence through labor man changes himself" - Fromm interpreting Marx


“For Marx the aim of socialism was the emancipation of man and the emancipation of man was the same as his self realization in the process of productive relatedness and oneness with man and nature. The aim of socialism was the development of the individual personality” - Fromm


“This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man” - Marx


“Crude communism is only the culmination of such envy and leveling-down on the basis of a preconceived minimum. How little this abolition of private property represents a genuine appropriation is shown by the abstract negation of the whole world of culture and civilization, and the regression to the unnatural simplicity of the poor and wantless individual who has not only not surpassed private property but has not yet even attained to it.” - Marx


“For as soon as the distribution of labor comes into being each man has a particular exclusive sphere of activity which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow. To hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman, or critic” - Marx


“Suffice it to say at the outset that this popular picture of Marx's materialism, his anti spiritual tendency, his wish for uniformity and subordination is utterly false Marx's aim was that of the spiritual emancipation of man, of his liberation from the chains of economic determination, of restituting him in his human wholeness, of enabling him to find unity and harmony with his fellow man and with nature. Marx's philosophy was, in secular, nontheistic language, a new and radical step forward in the tradition of prophetic Messianism; it was aimed at the full realization of individualism, the very aim which has guided Western thinking from the Renaissance and the Reformation far into the nineteenth century.” - Fromm


“The religious reflex of the real world can, in any case, only then vanish, when the practical relations of everyday life offer to man none but perfectly intelligible and reasonable relations with regard to his fellowmen and to nature” - Fromm


“The way that you abolish the state is by developing systems of production and distribution and human flourishing that no longer require the state”

-Justin Clark


“The meaning of private property released from its alienation is the existence of essential objects for man as objects of enjoyment and activity. Money, since it has the property of purchasing everything of appropriating objects to itself is therefore the object par excellence”. - Marx


“That which is for me through the medium of money - that for which I can pay (i.e., which money can buy) that am I, the possessor of the money. The extent of the power of money is my power. Money's properties are my properties and essential powers - the properties and powers of its possessor. Thus what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality”. - Marx


“We buy art that we think expresses who we are rather than creating art and expressing ourselves” - Cory Johnston


“Money is the external universal means and power not derived from man as man or from human society as society to change representation into reality and reality into mere representation It transforms real human and natural faculties into mere abstract representations, i.e. imperfections and tormenting chimeras; and on the other hand, it transforms real imperfections and fancies, faculties which are really impotent and which exist only in the individuals imagination, into real faculties and power” - Marx


“Marx was the productive non alienated independent man whom his writings visualized as the man of a new society productively related to the whole world to people and to ideas, he was what he thought.” - Fromm


“To those who are students of human nature it will not seem strange that this man who was such a fighter should at the same time be the kindliest and gentlest of men they will understand that he could hate so fiercely only because he could love so profoundly” - Eleanor Marx-Aveling


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