Category Archives: Uncategorized

Children in the Family and in the Commune [2]

Children in the Family and in the Commune [2]

The life of the child in the family and its wider life in society as a whole make up the two sides of the conflict between its private and wider social conditions of life.  In bourgeois society, the initial and informative period of psychological development of the child is centred in the family, that is, within the narrow social arena where its physical and other needs are supposedly met. In this granulated medium, children form their earliest and most significant psychological attachments and dependencies. The establishment, interplay and development of these attachments and dependencies constitute the psychological content and drama of the inner relationships of the contemporary nuclear family.

The relationship of the family structure with the capital order is a diabolical one. It both encourages its formation and continuation and yet, with each passing day, undermines its historical existence. It works both to strengthen and attenuate it, feeding its existence with idealised media representations whilst sharpening its inner contradictions. But the overall historical trajectory is towards disintegration and supersedence.

The dissonance between the ‘public’ life of the individual within society as a whole and the ‘private’ life within the exclusive coterie of the nuclear family is one which can only subsist under general conditions of social alienation. This separation between the ‘private’ world of the individual and the individual’s ‘public’ role in society is a function of the rise and evolution of private property and not something inherently human. It separates out from the primordial, prehistoric commune, positing itself like a crystallised sublimate out of a vapour, as an estranged embodiment of property and control.

This social ‘cleavage’ in the life of each person is reflected in the differences, contrasts and conflicts between the public and private psychology of the individual. The public persona of the individual on the one hand, embracing occupational and professional relationships, and the inner egoism of the private world of thought and feeling of the same individual on the other hand, is just one form taken by this conflict. The painful antagonism between the private and public sides of human individuality reaches its highest point of development in the human relationships of bourgeois society where the social relations engendered by the domination of the capital relation actually necessitate the development, cultivation and perpetuation of this antagonism. It serves to fragment the personality of the individual in his or her psychosocial relationships.

This ‘fragmentation’ is the underlying reason why people feel like ‘halfmen’ or ‘halfwomen’. They do not feel ‘whole’. They feel internally disabled. They seek this ‘wholeness’ in others so that they may be ‘complete’ in their union but only find transmogrified images of themselves in the others. Nobody really finds fulfilment. The global world of the capital order is a billions-gathering of the socially-crippled seeking salvation within the terms of the world which has produced them. To go beyond themselves, they must destroy what has created them and in the process humanise themselves and create a real livable existence.

The dissolution of the family in the global social upheaval and what follows it will mean and ensure that the rearing and socialisation of children takes place on an entirely different, indeed opposite, social foundation to the present one. Children reared through the social relationships of the global commune develop on the foundation of the resolution and abolition of the conflict between the private and public sides of the life of the individual. Children become ‘the children’ of the whole commune – are reared by the whole community – as the psychosocial relationships which characterise the internal structure of the nuclear family disappear.

Biological parents cease to have the same social significance which they have for ‘their’ children reared within the nuclear family in class society. Every adult becomes the social guardian of each and every child.  Hence, the very notions of ‘parent’, ‘brother’, ‘sister’, ‘son’, ‘daughter’ – which express the social relationships of the family –  vanish. In the real social sense, all will be brothers and sisters. Child-adult relationships become transformed in the commune where biological parentage does not have or confer any special, exclusive social role or privilege upon these adults.  The child is reared by the whole commune and grows to maturity without any notions of ‘my family’. The nature of the epoch is always summated and most concretely expressed in the character of its children. They are the human litmus of the age. To know the age, look at its children.

The narrow, exclusive, alienating mode of rearing children in bourgeois society is superseded in the commune. The maturation of children in the commune outside the social relations of the nuclear family will facilitate a higher degree of personal independence and security than can ever exist in class society. This accords with the growing intensity of human freedom that necessarily results from the establishment and development of communist relations. The fears that are associated with the possible or actual non-attainment of needs – food, shelter, clothing, etc – in class societies disappears which, further, serves to dissolve the traditional ties of the nuclear family. The psychosocial relationships of the nuclear family – which grow out of the necessity to satisfy human needs under the conditions of exploitation of class societies – become historically unnecessary and gradually disappear in the onward evolution of communal life.

Shaun May

January 2019

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Complimentary Copies of My Book

Complimentary Copies of My Book

Dear Comrades

I have 14 ‘hard’ (printed) copies of the second edition of my book, Capital-in-Crisis, Trade Unionism and the Question of Revolutionary Agency to distribute to people.

If you would like a copy, please email me at  mnwps@hotmail com

Unfortunately, I cannot pay for the package & postage. Book will be sent by first class recorded delivery which is approximately, in the UK, £10.00 for the weight of the book. A cheque for this amount will have to be sent to me. If you are requesting a copy of the book from outside the UK, the cost of postage will obviously be higher. If you are outside the UK, for example, it may be cheaper to simply order the book at your local bookstore or ask your local public library to add a copy to its collection.

Free electronic copies of the first edition of my book are available on the internet with links on this site.

The book is on sale in the UK for approximately £25.00 excluding package & postage. You, as a WordPress reader, will be charged £10.00 for the book which includes package and postage. Once the cheque has cleared, the book will be sent by first class recorded delivery to the nominated address within the UK.

Please let me know by email that you have received the book. If you do intend to buy the second edition of the book, please do not send cash by post. Cash sent through the post has a tendency to ‘get lost in the post’.

With Best Fraternal Wishes

Shaun May

Hull

East Yorkshire

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Studies in the Origination and Evolution of the Human Psyche : [3] The Rise of Consciousness

Studies in the Origination and Evolution of the Human Psyche 

[3] The Rise of Consciousness

 Sections 

[i] Learning Capacities of Ancestral Primates Preceding the Emergence of the Hominidae 

[ii] Moments of Transition to the Hominidae 

[iii] Labour Process as Basis of Transformation

[iv] Emergent Conscious Awareness as the ‘Revolutionary Agent’ in the Origination of the Human Psyche

[v] Afterthoughts : Some Questions

References

Footnotes and Memoranda

 

[i] Learning Capacities of Ancestral Primates Preceding the Emergence of the Hominidae

We have seen in the previous section how the learning capacities and activities of ancestral, hominoid, animal primates formed the behavioural and neurological basis and preconditions for the emergence of the Hominidae. Existent capacities formed the ground for the development of new skills and forms of behaviour in descendants, including into the hominid line which emerged out of the modes of life of these ancestral primates (fm1). In lower organisms the ability to successfully solve such problems is largely dependent on the appearance and subsequent selection of advantageous biological variations in a population. The capacity of primates to survive variations in life conditions is always augmented by the learning of new skills added to the existing ones but without overspecialisation.

Overspecialisation can often be a prelude to extinction, especially if the conditions of existence of the animal undergo catastrophic changes. The most advantageous forms of adaptation are not merely an adjustment to existing conditions but are also, at the same time, an expansion of the animal’s abilities (repertoire of skills) and of its potential to engage and survive a wider range of conditions. Such forms of adaptation therefore increase the animal’s ‘resources’ which are available in the struggle to survive. Overspecialisation can ‘funnel’ a species down a path towards extinction, especially if its niche is radically altered (fm2).

Humans have evolved from primates and succeeding hominids which both ‘adjusted’ and ‘expanded’ their capacities to encounter and survive a wider range of natural conditions. With such developments, what was not possible previously became possible. New forms of interaction and relationships could be established and developed with the animal’s surroundings which hitherto had not existed. ‘Adjustment’ also meant ‘expansion’ at the same time, that is, an augmentation of existing skills and the development of new ones for surviving a continuously varying and widening range of conditions (fm3).

Therefore, in the evolutionary development towards the hominid line, the ability of primates to survive and to propagate their kind becomes, increasingly, determined by their ability to acquire new skills and develop higher forms of behaviour. The need (necessity) to learn new skills and behaviour that imposed itself on these ancestral pre-hominids introduced a fundamentally new element into their struggle to survive as they began to make the transition to hominid existence. Most animals are characterised by the need to learn in order to survive. However, the more closely does primate evolution approach the hominid line, the more central and important does the capacity and process of learning become.

Implicitly, in the evolution towards and within the hominid line, it was those primates with the most advanced learning capacities which tended to survive and pass on their acquired skills to offspring. Those pre-hominids that learnt and assimilated skills that gave them a distinct advantage in the struggle for life under specific conditions became more capable of securing their means of existence such as food, fending off predators, etc. The advantaged hominoids survived to pass on their skills to their offspring and, in so doing, created a widening ‘behavioural’ gap between themselves and their less able relatives (fm4). Those groups which failed to develop the skills – which would have been necessary in order to survive according to the demands of their conditions of life – inevitably declined and tended towards extinction.

In the more advanced group or groups of primates, the development of abilities and skills – which could be utilised to solve the problems of survival in a more adequate and comprehensive way – must have given the ‘favoured’ group/s a distinct character which afforded it/them obvious advantages in the struggle for survival. Therefore, under the material conditions of their life, also involving competition with other animals and related primates, the development of such abilities must have given a definite group/s a critical advantage in the fight for survival and propagation.

The fact that such skills must have been learnt is highly significant. The ability to learn new skills (and build further on these abilities) in our pre-hominid ancestors contained, in undeveloped, embryonic form, ‘tradition’ (fm5) and the beginnings of a mode of life based on the learning, assimilation and elaboration of new skills. It was a mode of life not simply governed by, and at the behest of, biological inheritance but one in which the potential had been posited for the further onward development and enrichment of learning capacities.

The problems presented to our pre-hominid, primate ancestors by the nature of their conditions of life could only be solved through the learning and development of new skills and forms of behaviour specifically associated with changes taking place in the anatomy and physiology of these primates. In the course of the overcoming of these problems, the mode of life of these animal primates evolved into the mode of life of the very earliest hominids. The widespread use of tools in contemporary anthropoid apes indicates that the common ancestors of hominids and these apes may also have been tool users (fm6). However, both the direct line ancestors of hominids and those of modern anthropoids may have developed tool use independently as their common ancestor differentiated into two distinct lines.

[ii] Moments of Transition to the Hominidae

The sporadic, followed by the consistent, and direct use of natural objects available in the immediate surroundings as tools preceded the infrequent and later consistent and systematic production of tools. For example, to pull fallen fruit or dead animals from a river or lake, to fend off attacks from predatory animals, to drive them off a meat-laden carcase, etc. The simple fashioning of natural objects and their use for a given purpose is a characteristic of the most advanced anthropoid apes today. However, this purely non-conscious, infrequent use of tools in modern apes is not a systematic part of their mode of life. The earliest hominid ancestors of humanity (who shared, at the same time, many of the features of the ultimate form of ancestral, pre-hominid animal primate) probably made use of natural objects in this way and were, perhaps, very infrequent and sporadic makers of very simple tools. Hominids had not yet arrived at a systematic and consistent ‘culture’ of tool making which came later with more advanced hominid forms.

The sporadic use of natural objects as tools by ancestral primates followed later by the ability to make very rough, simple tools for the immediate use in attaining food, warding off predators, etc, was initially, without doubt, carried out inadvertently and under the direct pressure of immediate and impending circumstances. But such actions, in enabling a primate to use tools to perform tasks that facilitated survival, would have become associated with advantageous results and become assimilated and refined by a process of learning. If any activity actually helped a primate to survive, that is, was advantageous in the struggle for life, then its incidental character would have become altered and adapted to a more permanent status as the primate encountered similar situations in the course of its life history. The regular use of a wide range of tools – even simple implements like unworked stones and wooden branches – became the starting point for the irregular, sporadic production of tools and later the transition to regular tool-making in the mode of life of later hominids.

Learning in those primates, immediately preceding the hominid lineage, must have reached the point where tool use was a feature, if only sporadic, of their mode of life and their learning capacities must have been advanced relative to that of other primates living at the time. The earliest hominids emerged out of these advanced, hominoid primates and, over time, started to develop more advanced forms of behaviour, even early forms of co-operation and group organisation. Such ‘co-operation’ we find today in anthropoid apes. For example, the working together of a troop of Chimpanzees in hunting other monkeys or driving off predators.

Hominid characteristics start to appear, paradoxically, in creatures which are still, in all essentials, animal primates (fm7). This movement towards hominisation is the commencement of the distinction between the animal primate per se and the very earliest hominids. The systematic, intentional and consistent use and manufacture of tools specifically characterises the modes of life of later, more advanced hominids. However, in this earliest of periods of hominisation, we can, perhaps, envisage a limited growth and diversification in the use of tools and perhaps a less sporadic character in their incidental creation which further enhanced survival.

The capacity to fashion simple tools for use in definite operations would have given an advantage under changing conditions (e.g. in a period of dearth or when under assault by predators. Chimpanzees today in the forest canopy use fruit as projectiles to drive away predators) and so enabled the earliest hominids to survive where other groups perished. The acquisition of the abilities by ancestral primates to make simple tools – when the objective demands of the situation were pressing and required their immediate use – was embryonic in opening up the road to later tool use and production in hominids. The rise of consistent, regular tool-making and use in later hominids becomes synonymous with the subsequent birth and rise of human culture itself.

The life of these early ‘hominids’ (who were still umbilically connected in their mode of life to their pre-hominid, animal nature), despite its precarious character, must have been serviced by a wider repertoire of collective skills and learning capacities in comparison to their immediate and distant animal primate ancestors (fm8). The conflict between the need to expand existing capabilities in order to survive the impact of constantly changing conditions on the one hand, and the existing level of skills of the group which had developed in relation to previous conditions and needs on the other hand, had to be resolved continuously in order to move the early hominid group/s forward to avoid extinction. The lurking threat of extinction possibly served as a spur to the development of new skills and forms of behaviour and to push early hominids into modes of life beyond previous modes characterised by crises of one kind or another. The development of these new skills and behaviours served to resolve crises in favour of the evolving early hominid group/s. These ‘resolutions’, with relatively more advanced skills and behaviour, in their turn, served to produce a firmer and more stable foundation for countering later threats of extinction as and when they appeared as conditions altered.

[iii] Labour Process as Basis of Transformation

The transition from an arboreal, quadrumanous state of locomotion to ground dwelling led on to the specialisation of the forelimbs for labour and the hindlimbs for walking. Our arboreal primate ancestor walked on all four limbs, all of which were, at the same time, specialised for use as hands. The polarisation in the function of the limbs in this ancestor meant that the forelimbs became specialised as hands and the hindlimbs for walking. This lead, of course, to bipedalism. This must, at least in part, have been an adaptation to a mode of life which was becoming increasingly ground-dwelling. Although climbing itself has a tendency to encourage bipedal behaviour. Interestingly, our bodily frames still retain the capacity to freely climb and move around in trees and our feet can still be adapted as hands, for example, in people who have lost their forelimbs or use of their hands. This polarisation and adaptation was, according to Leakey,

so significant an adaptation that we are justified in calling all species of bipedal ape ‘human’. This is not to say that the first bipedal ape species possessed a degree of technology, increased intellect or any of the cultural attributes of humanity. It didn’t. My point is that the adoption of bipedalism was so loaded with evolutionary potential – allowing the upper limbs to be free to become manipulative implements one day – that its importance should be recognised in our nomenclature. These humans were not like us, but without the bipedal adaptation they couldn’t have become like us. [1]

Some anthropologists would disagree with Leakey’s characterisation as warranting the use of the term ‘human’ for all ‘bipedal apes’. However, his ‘point’ about ‘evolutionary potential’ cannot be denied. The freeing of the hand from locomotion meant that early hominids had the potential to cultivate established skills, develop new ones and bring them to a more comprehensive degree of perfection in the course of the development of the labour process (fm9). ‘Inheriting’ definite skills from their primate ancestors, hominids could, potentially and later actually, begin (with the polarisation of the functions of the limbs), at a very rudimentary level, to produce tools for use in the acquisition of their needs.

The hand itself becomes specialised as the organ of labour so that production later becomes the material basis of human life (fm10). The human hand is far more dextrous and versatile in its operational capacity than that of any ape. Anatomically…

The most obvious feature that distinguishes the ape hand from the human hand is the length of the thumb in relation to the length of the remaining digits and particularly the index digit. The ape thumb is much shorter in relation to the index digit than it is in humans and makes it difficult to oppose the pulp of the thumb to the tips of the remaining digits. This, together with the absence of asymmetry of the head of the third metacarpal and the inability to cup the palm of the hand, restricts the apes to primarily the hook grip and the pinch precision grip [2]

The evolution of the labour process is synonymous with the development of the hand, the senses and the brain itself (fm11). Their evolution takes place together and only in relation to each other. The increase in the dexterity of the hand (especially in the opposability of the thumb and forefinger) and its modification to perform a multiplicity of operations and functions in the manipulation of natural objects and materials is a definite pre-condition for the further, and later, development of the labour process in human history.

At the same time, the development of the human hand itself is a product of the history of this labour process. The changes occurring in the structure and manipulative properties of the hand – side by side with the heightening of the tactile and other senses such as detection of pressure and temperature differences (and this implies neurological developments) – meant that the structure, properties and uses of natural materials could be more widely and deeply investigated so that existing techniques could be improved and new ones elaborated (fm12). The development of an…

extensive manipulatory behaviour was facilitated by hands freed of locomotor functions, stereoscopic vision, increasing brain size and more effective hand-eye coordination. The selective pressure for extensive environmental manipulation probably grew out of increasing tool use, which was, in turn, related to increasing problems of survival. [3]

It was the emergence and development of the labour process in later hominids which necessitated social co-operation between individuals. But this, in its turn, gave rise to the need for spoken language, speech, as a means of communication. Hominids cannot produce tools as a group and co-operate systematically in various activities (hunting, foraging, firemaking, etc) without communicating with each other. And it was this ‘imperative need’ to communicate which necessitated the birth and development of language in hominids. This means that the real source of the emergence and development of human language is the labour process itself where hominids are producing and co-operating together and maintaining the integrity of the whole labour process by communicating with each other. The birth of language therefore serves an important social survival function in that it services co-operation in the production process of tools and material needs in the course of the later evolution of hominids.

As hominid evolution proceeded, the development of existing skills and the learning of new ones involving the group or troop as a whole necessitated  greater degrees of co-operation and communication. This, in its turn, gave impetus to the further development of language which, intrinsically, becomes associated with the rise of consciousness itself and the origination of the human psyche as a totality.

Contemporary palaeoanthropology does not always grasp the relations involved in the origination of language (and its practical expression in human speech) as a necessity arising out the need for hominids to communicate with each other. ‘Cognitive processes’ emerge coincident with or later subsequent to the origination of language. They do not arise prior to language and then become the ’cause’ of language. For example, Lewin writes that…

with the passage of time and the emergence of new species along the Homo lineage, stone-tool making became even more systematic and orderly. [….] This increased orderliness in stone-tool manufacture must [….] reflect an increasingly ordered set of cognitive processes that eventually involved spoken language [4]

The fact that ‘stone-tool making became even more systematic and orderly’ implies co-operation, communication and, at least, the beginnings of language in order to socially structure a more ‘systematic and orderly’ way of making tools and organising other activities. Lewin cited here inverts the actual relation. An ‘increasingly ordered set of cognitive processes’ ‘reflected’ the ‘increased orderliness in stone-tool manufacture’ and the associated origination of language itself. Lewin puts the proverbial ‘cart before the horse’.

Cognitive capacities and ‘processes’ could not have arisen without the emergence and development of language. Word and thought are different yet inseparable aspects of the same cognitive relation. The notion that ‘cognitive processes eventually involved spoken language’ implies the possibility that spoken language (speech) emerged subsequent to ‘cognitive processes’ which is clearly incorrect on the basis of our conception we are elaborating here. The following conception more correctly approaches the truth of matters when it touches on the difference between those who propose an ‘early’ or ‘late’ development of language in hominid evolution, implying ‘strong evidence for an ancient origin for language’….

The timing of language origins has important implications for the nature of mind. If it appeared recently – in anatomically modern Homo Sapiens – language was secondary to previous non-linguistic changes in the brain, possibly increased general intelligence, and there was not much time for it to influence the structure of the brain or vocal tract. If it appeared early in our evolution it probably passed through many different forms and had a major influence on the evolution of the brain and vocal tract. The multitude of language adaptations seamlessly integrated into human nature provides strong evidence for an ancient origin for language. Adaptations of early hominids to aid speech acquisition may still influence how we learn, use and understand language today. [5]

Language does not, however, merely serve a communicative function. It is intrinsically necessary for the process of thought itself and verbal interaction plays a central role in the regulation of behaviour. Thought itself is a silent form of inner speech whilst, at the same time, becoming expressed externally in the form of speech. Perception, memory and the development of cognition are all become associated with the ability to master and apply language.

The origination of language systematically developed those organs associated with and necessary for it: the larynx, tongue, lips, hard and soft palates and the volume and structure of the mouth cavity (fm13). These developments would have been impossible without all those primate neurological structures inherited from their animal primate ancestors. Hominid evolution…

has ‘recruited’ for language purposes brain structures that performed other functions in the non-human primates. In the process of recruitment they have become modified to meet different, and far more demanding, functional requirements. [….]

Although the basic organisation of human language areas has been borrowed from our ancestors, these language areas are many times larger than would be expected in a typical primate brain. Changes in the relative size of these areas has also changed their function by altering connections between structures […..]

Changes in the brain give intriguing clues about the nature and uniqueness of human intelligence. They suggest that the human brain has been shaped by evolutionary processes that elaborated the capacities needed for language, and not just by a general demand for greater intelligence. [6]

The brain of the ancestral animal primate becomes materially transformed, becoming further evolved to a new, more complex, stage of development in the course of hominid evolution under the direct influence and different consequences of the material and social relations of the labour process. The human brain is, therefore, essentially, a social product resulting from that transitional period of development between ancestral primate and human and the subsequent social modes of life of humanity. It continues to develop materially and its processes become more refined and better adapted to orientate and guide human social behaviour. The ‘plasticity’ of the brain’s processes does not end once humanity has separated itself from the animal. The detailed anatomy and physiology of the brain continues to be subject to alterations and modulations with the social evolution of humanity beyond the hominid transitional phases (fm14).

The brain in hominid evolution is not simply a product of natural selection but is a social product of that evolutionary history. The human brain is not only larger than that of contemporary apes but is qualitatively more complex. These differences are a product of the hominid transitional period within which humanity’s social nature germinated and emerged. The human brain is the outcome of both this extensive transitional period of hominid ‘social’ development and of that of the ‘sapiential’ period subsequent to it. A complete development and transformation of the cerebral region of the primate brain takes place. The size and inner complexity of the brain as a whole changes so that all the other brain functions become modified as a result of this cerebral development which is a product of the transition taking place between ‘non-conceptualising’ primates and consciously thinking humans.

The development of speech simultaneously developed and cultivated the sense of hearing (fm15). Just as the arboreal existence of humanity’s primate ancestors necessitated the emergence and improvement of mechanisms of stereoscopic vision in order to correctly judge position and distance [7] (fm16), so the development of language and speech became a spur to the improvement and refinement of auditory mechanisms. Such developments in the hearing mechanism enabled hominids to distinguish more readily and adeptly between different sounds, stresses and intonations. But words are not merely symbolic representations of concepts.  The actual meaning of thought is expressed in language, so that the structure and origins of each are mutually related and inseparable from each other.  Thought and language, taken in their unity, reflect, mutually determine each other and evolve together in their reciprocality and their mutual relationship to each other. The origination of speech and language consequent on the evolution of the labour process forms the social medium within which the rise of consciousness takes place. This is why Engels writes….

First labour, after it and then with it, speech – these were the two most essential stimuli under the influence of which the brain of the ape gradually changed into that of man, which for all its similarity is far larger and more perfect [8]

Over time, hominids increased their populations by learning and developing new skills that became increasingly more sophisticated and refined in the regular production of tools for use in the procurement of their means of subsistence. The more capable a group becomes in the production and use of tools, the more likely it is to overcome the obstacles that confront it in its daily existence. Groups producing a wider range of implements which were, at the same time, of consistently superior quality than those of their competitors would undoubtedly have possessed advantages over their competitors whose mode of life did not incorporate tool-making as an intrinsic feature or involved making tools of an inferior quality. The more adept toolmakers would have possessed a better chance of surviving the prevailing conditions and adapting to changes in them. The development of such capacities not only facilitated survival under the given conditions but also, at the same time, equipped hominids to more effectively change these conditions in such a way that the possibility of surviving and propagating their kind became enhanced (fm17). Leakey writes that…

When our ancestors discovered the trick of consistently producing sharp stone flakes, it constituted a major breakthrough in human prehistory. Suddenly, humans had access to foods that had previously been denied to them. The modest flake [….] is a highly effective implement for cutting through all but the toughest hides to expose the meat inside. Whether they were hunters or scavengers, the humans who made and used these simple stone flakes thereby availed themselves of a new energy source – animal protein. Thus they would have been able not just to extend their foraging range but also to increase the chances for successful production of offspring. The reproductive process is an expensive business, and the expansion of the diet to include meat would have made it more secure [9]

The emergence and establishment of a process – ‘culture’ – of consistent tool-making, involving the social co-operation and activity of individuals and the group as a whole, enhanced the chances of surviving adverse conditions confronting hominid groups. The impact of changing demands and conditions would have necessitated the development of superior tools. Migration to new areas and competition with other primates and animals may have been important in this process.  Additionally, the chance discoveries which must have occurred as hominids experimented with new materials and objects would have become an important source of innovation in the tool-making process (fm18). Innovation, once again, enhanced survival and facilitated the propagation of the group. Those groups that failed to innovate and remained entrenched in ways more suited to past conditions and demands would have become more susceptible to extinction.

The transmission of skills from one generation to the next ensures the survival and propagation of hominid groups. Language becomes an essential and indispensable medium for this transmission. Communication through language enables hominids to transmit and exchange techniques and other abilities without the need to recapitulate the steps in the development of technique which lead up to the acquisition and refinement of these capacities (fm19)….

Man masters verbal speech and with its help he can assimilate experience accumulated over a thousand years of humanity’s history [10]

By the combined means of demonstration and language, skills can be learnt and transmitted in a relatively short period of time. In the course of the acquisition of such skills, individuals can absorb and assimilate the lessons of the experiences of many generations. The achievements and legacies of previous generations of hominids are socially inherited and become modified and transformed by succeeding generations. The cultural heritage of hominids becomes richer – involving a wider range of, and operationally more intricate, skills – as hominid evolution proceeds. With animals, the transmission of skills occurs by means of inherent behaviour or by direct imitation, that is, through the learning involved in mimicry. However, with hominids and later humans, we have the emergence of verbal speech which enables the direct transmission and assimilation of knowledge and skills which have taken millenia of experience and practice to develop and refine.

An intermediate period of millions of years may have elapsed between the first use of a sharp stone to fend off predators and the fashioning of a delicate, razor-sharp, flint arrowhead for use in hunting. However, the ability to make the arrowhead does not require the recapitulation of the history of the labour process leading from the defensive stone to the flint arrowhead of the hunter.  The labour process of hominids had to pass through definite stages in order to develop and assimilate the skills necessary to produce the arrowhead. But the actual production of the arrowhead contains, subsumed within itself, the history of the labour process that leads up to the dextrous ability of hominids to make such implements. An aeon of experience is distilled in the simple act of producing the flint arrowhead.

The evolving material relations created by interacting with nature in the course of human activity become a source of real changes in human awareness and consciousness. The process of making a stone axe is not only mediated by, and further develops, an experiential knowledge of the techniques involved in the actual process itself. Moreover, with the later emergence of conscious awareness, such activities in themselves, at the same time, become the source of a whole range of notions stemming from the ignorance of those natural phenomena and material processes which are determining and mediating the production process of the axe itself. For example, the earliest, animistic notions of deity existent within objects and nature. The productive relationship between humanity and nature (labour process) continuously and simultaneously gives rise to and develops both technique and conceptions of nature.

These learnt skills would have become integrated into the practices and behaviour of the hominid group, enriching its repertoire of skills, and thus furthering its capacity to survive and reproduce itself. The process of tool-making and its diversification and refinement was a form of learnt behaviour which afforded those groups which developed it an advantage in the struggle for survival under the given conditions of the time. As the ‘tradition’ of tool-making was transmitted from one generation to the next and so on, it became, increasingly, a more sophisticated and efficacious process (fm20).

Toolmaking had ‘knock on’ consequences. For example, striking a stone against a flint produces a spark when making an axe. Later it is discovered that such a spark can be used to make fire from its contact with dry tinder. Knowledge of fire-making creates the capacity to keep warm both outside and under shelter in winter and the ability to tenderise food in the process of cooking it. More easily edible and digestible food means the body can assimilate nutrients more readily. This must have been important in the evolution of hominid physiology, brain and activity in general. The immediacy of the direct interaction and experience of hominids with nature in the course of their labour activities gave rise to new discoveries and their integration into their modes of life.

Tool-making and the use of tools (i.e. the labour process as a totality) becomes the basis, the foundation, upon which hominid evolution takes place and evolves towards human relations. Indeed, so much so that in relation to human existence generally, Engels asserts that labour……

is the prime basic condition for all human existence, and this to such an extent that, in a sense, we have to say that labour created man himself. [11]

The increasing augmentation of the generic learning capacities of hominids enabled them to more adequately tackle the demands placed on them by their conditions of life. This means that new forms of organisation which were intrinsic to, and necessary for, the learning and development of new and more complex skills amongst hominids – involving tool use and production – must have emerged and started to evolve. The growth in the complexity of social organisation in these groups, as hominid evolution proceeded, was, therefore, linked to the progression of tool-making to continuously new levels of sophistication and the resulting collective activities consequent on their use and deployment in various ways and in the course of the different activities of troops and groups in their struggle to survive. This made the acquisition of their means of subsistence less arduous compared to the activities of their ancestors. The historical gap between the hominid and the animal began to widen with the development of tool-making and use and the level and complexity of social organisation accompanying these activities in the labour process.

The evolution of hominids becomes characterised by a growth in the quantity, and a development in the qualitative complexity, of the labour functions. This itself implies the development of the hand as the organ of labour. The human hand, therefore, is both the organ and the product of labour. In the course of hominid evolution the hand has become specialised for labour. Indeed, so much so that the human hand itself implies the production and use of tools, labour, activity.

The sporadic use of available natural objects as tools was a feature of the modes of life of the animal, primate ancestors of hominids. But with later hominids (of the line ‘Homo’), after a lengthy period of transition, we find the systematic production of tools for pre-determined purposes, such as we find with Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, etc. It was an advance made necessary by the need to survive and overcome the impact and effects of the natural conditions under which these hominids lived. In other words, the labour process itself arises out of the need to survive and propagate under such conditions. Henceforth, all these skills and abilities learnt in the labour process offered descendants specific advantages in the struggle to survive and propagate their kind.

Co-operation enabled the group to more easily and readily secure its means of subsistence in the face of hostile natural conditions. Co-operation enhances the capacity of hominids to secure their means of subsistence. For example, in gathering activities and in the course of hunting. All those forms of behaviour and skills which facilitated or increased co-operation would have become socially assimilated as part of the ‘culture’ of the hominid group and refined according to their needs. Increases in the size of the group or troop would also have facilitated learning and the transmission of skills from one generation to the next. As Mithen remarks…

especially significant for hominids with their reliance on stone tools and capacity for strong social learning, is that as group size increases we should expect the opportunities for social learning (of whatever form) to increase. [……..] Consequently, the relative role of social to individual learning will increase. Similarly the rate of cultural transmission will increase. Individuals will be able to observe the actions of other individuals, such as their manipulation of objects more frequently and in more detail when living in large groups, due to the importance of intense kin-bonding, coalitions and the high frequency of visual monitoring and social interaction in general. This increased opportunity for observation will increase the extent of stimulus enhancement, true imitation and emulation. It may also increase the probability that individuals will engage in instructed learning [12]

Such forms of behaviour would have made the group more successful and these forms would have become structured into the relations of their social life. The effects of more efficient and productive forms of technique on the one hand, and more highly developed social co-operation on the other, motivated and engendered improvement and innovation in both areas (fm21).   Accordingly, co-operation became an indispensable part of the organisation of hominids in their struggle to survive. The unity of tool-making and co-operation in hominids formed the organisational basis for the evolution of the labour process and later for that of human society itself as a whole.

Hominids, in altering their conditions of life through the labour process in the course of the development of their interactions with nature, push themselves forward, further along the hominid line towards Homo Sapiens. We now know that different hominid species, and even different human species, emerged and which, for whatever reasons, later became extinct. Rather than the Hominidae being a ‘line’ of descent, it was more like a branching ‘tree’ of evolution in which some branches ended in extinction and the favoured one eventually made its way through the ‘tree’ to give rise to us, modern human beings. There were different intermediate forms which came and went in the course of hominid evolution, some forming part of our lineage and others ending in extinction at the termination points of their respective ‘branches’.

Thus, we can see that the labour process necessarily gives birth to wider forms of social co-operation in hominids and this, in its turn, necessitates the need for communication and the emergence of language (speech is ‘practical language’) which mediate this co-operation. As soon as language starts to originate, we have the beginnings of the communication of knowledge and ideas in speech. This, in itself, implies the beginnings of conceptualisation and of the rise of consciousness. The later emergence of humanity is, at the same time, the re-affirmation of the fundamental role of labour in the origin of human culture and the human psyche; that is, in the essential role it has played in the ‘transition from ape to man’

This was the principal, the quintessential complex which formed the basis for the transformation of the non-conscious awareness of the animal pre-hominid into the conscious awareness of human beings. Co-operation in the labour process therefore forms the driving social organisational basis upon which language and consciousness originate. In the beginnings of language is posited the germination of consciousness itself and the beginnings of the emergence of the human psyche itself as a whole (fm22). Hominid relations become increasingly subject to mediation by language and nascent forms of conscious awareness, by ‘consciousness in the making’.

[iv] Emergent Conscious Awareness as the ‘Revolutionary Agent’ in the Origination of the Human Psyche

The rise of conscious awareness is synonymous with the rise of the human psyche as a whole as a historically new, distinct form of motion. The ability of the pre-hominid ancestors of humanity to learn new skills and forms of behaviour constituted an essential pre-condition for the origination of hominid modes of life and later for conscious human life. However, the actual process of the origination of consciousness proper only commences when hominids have started to form relationships involving co-operation in toolmaking and other activities. Consciousness, therefore, can only be scientifically understood as a social product from its very earliest beginnings. Marx writes that….

Consciousness is, therefore, from the very beginning a social product, and remains so as long as men exist at all. Consciousness is at first, of course, merely consciousness concerning the immediate (Marx emphasis in bold) sensuous environment and consciousness of the limited connection with other persons and things outside the individual who is growing self-conscious. At the same time it is consciousness of nature, which first confronts men as a completely alien, all powerful and unassailable force, with which men’s relations are purely animal and by which they are overawed like beasts; it is thus a purely animal consciousness of nature (natural religion) precisely because nature is as yet hardly altered by history – on the other hand, it is man’s consciousness of the necessity of associating with individuals around him, the beginning of consciousness that he is living in society at all. This beginning is as animal as social life itself at this stage. It is mere herd-consciousness, and at this point man is distinguished from sheep only by the fact that with him consciousness takes the place of instinct or that his instinct is a conscious one. 

[Marginal note by Marx: We see here immediately: this natural religion or this particular attitude to nature is determined by the form of society and vice versa. Here, as everywhere, the identity of nature and man also appears in such a way that the restricted attitude of men to nature determines their restricted relation to one another, and their restricted relation to one another determines men’s restricted relation to nature]

Marx continues….

This sheep-like or tribal consciousness receives its further development and extension through increased productivity, the increase of needs, and, what is fundamental to both of these, the increase of population. With these there develops the division of labour, which was originally nothing but the division of labour in the sexual act, then the division of labour which develops spontaneously or “naturally” by virtue of natural pre-disposition (e.g. physical strength), needs, accidents, etc, etc. Division of labour only becomes truly such from the moment when a division of material and mental labour appears. 

[Marginal note by Marx: The first form of ideologists, priests, is co-incident] 

From this moment onwards consciousness can really flatter itself that it is something other than consciousness of existing practice, that it really represents something without representing something real; from now on consciousness is in a position to emancipate itself from the world and to proceed to the formation of “pure” theory, theology, philosophy, morality, etc. [13]

The insight and profundity of Marx’s analysis here must be noted, written, as it was, at least thirteen years before the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species and twenty-five years before his Descent of Man.

The capacity to learn becomes the capacity of a conscious being and not simply an ability determined by the demands of immediate circumstances and by the unconscious processes of nature. The learning-instinct relations and complexes of the non-conscious awareness of the ancestral primate are adequate and necessary for its purely natural relationships and mode of life. However, they become inadequate and outmoded for the emerging social relationships of hominid and, later, human modes of life.

We have seen how language and the associated beginnings of conscious awareness originate in the need for hominids to co-operate in the labour process and other activities such as gathering, hunting, firemaking and even play. But what is the nature of the transformation which takes place (on the psychic level) as the non-conscious form of awareness of the ancestral pre-hominid becomes transformed into the conscious form of awareness of humans over a very long period of transition, in truth, over hundreds of thousands if not millions of years? This is a long, drawn out transitional period of transformation and not a process which can be thought of in terms of centuries or even millenia.

We have presupposed that the non-conscious form of awareness in the ancestral animal primate is a complex (synthesis) of the instinctive and the learnt, that is, simple conditioned learning. This serves to sensuously and actively orientate the animal in the course of its life activity within its natural conditions and environment. Within this context of natural relations, it struggles to acquire its means of life in order to survive and propagate its species.

As conscious awareness originates, it comes into relation with those instincts which have arisen and evolved in the entire evolutionary prehistory of humanity’s animal ancestors. This collision of the ancient pre-human instincts, found in the non-conscious state of awareness of the animal, with an emergent conscious awareness constituted the protoconscious arena within which the first seeds of the human psyche were sown and started to germinate.

The mediation of the instinctive by emerging conscious awareness transforms the instinctive into the unconscious. An intermediation and opposition between the conscious and the unconscious arises with the transforming effects of the rise of conscious awareness on instinct. This intermediation of each by the other constitutes an integration of opposites (the conscious and the unconscious) which, once arisen, thenceforth later conditions the further onward historical development of the human psyche. Each side, in their mutual relation, conditions and determines the other and, in so doing, affects itself.

It is the impact of emergent conscious awareness on animal primate instinct which presents the emerging psyche as dichotomising (diremption) into the unconscious (which contains superseded within itself the instinctive capacities of ancestral primates) and the conscious (which contains superseded within itself the learning capacities of these primates).The relationship between learning and instinct found in the animal is transformed and superseded with the rise of conscious awareness.

This conflict (between these pre-hominid instincts and this emergent conscious awareness) could only be resolved with the positing of the unconscious as the psychic opposite of the conscious. In the process of this synthetic resolution, the unconscious thereby comes into relation with its opposite in the form of the conscious which had itself brought the unconscious into being through its mediative relationship with the ancient instincts of ancestral hominoids. The resulting synthesis, in positing the relation between the conscious and the unconscious, supersedes the relationship between instinct and learning found in the ancestral primate animal. Accordingly, the learning capacities of the animal primate are qualitatively transformed and raised to a conscious level.

This ‘fusion’ (synthesis) which takes place – in which the origination of conscious awareness simultaneously transforms the instinctive into the unconscious – as the human psyche starts to come into being, forms a very deep, organic connection between the animal prehistory of humanity and humanity as a product of socio-historical development. It is a consideration which cannot be neglected in any comprehensive theory of human development, especially in its psychological aspects. The social transformation of the biological legacy, which has been furnished by our primate ancestors, takes the form, within the psychic arena, of the relationship and interplay between the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the psyche.

The rise of consciousness is the fundamental determining agency in the process of the transformation of the non-conscious, pre-conscious awareness of the ancestral animal primate into that of hominids-becoming-conscious and later human beings. This emergence of conscious awareness gives the human psyche a self-mediating character (self-consciousness) not found in the awareness of pre-hominid ancestors. This self-mediation of the psyche also becomes integrated with the transformed biological legacy bequeathed by humanity’s primate ancestry.

The rise of conscious awareness therefore transforms the instinctive in the animal pre-hominid into the unconscious in humans as a result of the mediation of instinct by an emergent conscious awareness. An intermediation between the instinctive and the emergent conscious takes place (fm23). In affecting and transforming the instinctive in this way, the earliest forms of conscious awareness (protoconscious forms) are themselves affected and fed by the streams of instinct becoming the unconscious.

The unconscious is, therefore, that realm of the human psyche which arose as a result of the rise of conscious awareness itself with the consequent sublation and incorporation of the instinctive capacities of humanity’s animal ancestors and posited in the form of the unconscious. Since the unconscious is the supersedence of instinct, it must contain the instinctive absorbed and incorporated within itself. The psychodynamic which is the intermediation of the unconscious and the conscious becomes a fundamental dynamic in the history of this human psyche. The unconscious is integrated into the total life of the psyche so that these sublated capacities are not separated from, but are active in, the life of this psychic totality as a consequence of the origination and evolution of conscious awareness in the hominisation process.

The wholeness of the psyche means that the life of the unconscious is always being registered and expressed, in one form or another, in the field of consciousness. Reciprocally, what is taking place in consciousness is constantly mediating the whole arena of the unconscious. The intermediation of the conscious and the unconscious constitutes the life of the psyche as a singularity. Each mediates the other and cannot subsist without being in relation to the other. Each, in being the negation of the other, simultaneously and continuously reposits, determines and reaffirms the other and, in so doing, reaffirms itself and thus its own essential nature.

This becoming of the unconscious out of the transforming of instinct by emergent conscious awareness, determines and continuously reaffirms its conscious opposite in this primaeval psyche. Therefore, in creating its psychical opposite out of instinct in the form of the unconscious, this emergent conscious awareness simultaneously reasserts and reaffirms itself as the pivotal, inner ‘revolutionary’ agency in the transformation of the awareness of the animal primate into that of the hominid and later that of humans. The rise of conscious awareness thereby transforms the non-conscious awareness of the animal into the totality which is the human psyche.

The outcome of this process actually represents the transformation of one totality into another. The totality which was the pre-conscious, non-conscious form of awareness of the ancestral pre-hominid (animals are aware but not consciously aware) is completely transformed into the totality which is the conscious form of awareness of humanity (Homo Sapiens Sapiens), that is, into the human psyche as a unity of the conscious and the unconscious.

The human psyche thus arises as an identity of the conscious and the unconscious. The unconscious originates as the psychic opposite of the conscious which gives rise to the former in the course of the genesis of conscious awareness out of the non-conscious forms of awareness of the ancestral pre-hominid. Thereafter, the conscious and the unconscious exist and evolve in opposition to each other within their mutual interrelation. In their identity and opposition, they constitute the most fundamental relationship of the human psyche which becomes the ‘exponent’ of its interrelated and intermediating conscious and unconscious sides and aspects.

The intricacy and complexity of the human psyche is, in this totality, the outcome of its entire social history and biological prehistory. For example, if we take the biochemical processes which govern the human ‘body clock’ which regulates biological activities on a 24 hour cycle, we can observe the same biochemical mechanisms in all animals, even the very simplest multicellular animals. This means that the biochemistry of these ‘body clock’ mechanisms evolved at the dawn of life itself, is very ancient indeed, was ‘selected’ and dates back many millions if not billions of years ago when life forms first established themselves on the planet. These mechanisms remain, intrinsically, part and parcel of the life of the human organism today.

What humans have inherited from their animal ancestors (what has been ‘passed down’ the ages) have either become vestigial or still continue to serve vital or important functions in the life of human beings. All those aspects found in the life of animal ancestors (biochemistry, physiology, even behavioural traits, elements, etc), which are still advantageous or remain necessary for human survival, have become assimilated (not absolutely abolished) into the human organism in the course of the evolution from animal primates. The biochemical mechanisms of ‘body clock’ given above are just one example of this legacy but many more could be given which we have inherited from our distant animal ancestors stretching back many millions if not billions of years. The neurological, biochemical and physiological processes which underlie the ‘fight or flight’ response (fear, ‘stress’, anxiety) is another example.

Consciousness originates and develops as a distinctly and specifically human form of awareness which arises in the unfolding and evolution of the hominisation process over millions of years. The emergence and further development of conscious awareness is, as we have proposed in this brief study, the revolutionary agent in the origination of the human psyche as a whole (fm24). According to Trotsky, writing in his notebooks on evolution and psychology in the 1930s…

Consciousness is a quite original part of nature, possessing peculiarities and regularities that are completely absent in the remaining part of nature. Subjective dialectics must by virtue of this be a distinctive part of objective dialectics – with its own special forms and regularities. [14]

The human psyche originates and evolves as a distinct form of motion which arises and becomes posited as a higher synthesis of the neurobiological and the social. Developing historically, it becomes subject to change in both its conceptual content and in its internal ‘structural’ relations according to alterations and transformations in social and historical conditions.

The rise of consciousness marks the rise of the human psyche as a whole because the origination and development of conscious awareness completely transforms all the capacities and inner relationships of the pre-hominid, non-conscious forms of awareness in the animal primate. It raises these capacities – in the course of superseding them – to a new, higher level in the form of the conscious awareness of human beings. The emergence of consciousness implicates ‘conceptual content’ and the structuring and relations of this ‘content’. This conceptual content does not originate in the material sphere of neurobiology or within the unconscious itself. Rather it is society’s own creation, the conceptual content of thought arises ‘externally’ within the realm of social relations, their registration and reflection. The image in the mirror (or the moving imagery of a film) does not originate in the materiality of the mirror itself but rather in the object which this materiality reflects. The image cannot be formed without the materiality of the mirror but the actual content, relations and significance of the image has its origins in the object itself external to the mirror.

This content of thought mediates, and is mediated by, the neurophysiology of the unconscious. The interrelationship between thinking and the perceptible ‘registration’ which is ‘feeling’ (mood and emotion) involves the intermediation of the conscious and the unconscious (the interpenetration of the conceptual and non-conceptual). A detailed analysis of the origins of human emotion and mood is beyond the scope of this brief study. However, in passing, it should be mentioned that the emotions, and mood, are not simply neurological phenomena but are actually related to, and originate within, the nature of human social experience and life and the interpersonal relationships and behaviour constituted and developed therein (fm25). The changing nature of humanity does not preclude the possibility that certain emotions (and even moods) which characterise the human personality in the present epoch may even disappear in later epochs on the basis of social relationships which have transcended the epochs of the reign of various forms of private property and all those psychosocial phenomena which arise on the basis of this reign.

The interrelationships of thought and feeling (emotion, mood) – and the subjective registration of these in the individual – actually expresses the identity of the neurobiological and the social in the psyche. One cannot ‘feel’ at all, be a ‘feeling being’ (Marx) so to speak, without a real connection and mediative relationship existing between our thinking (which is ‘external’, social, in origin) and our internal neurophysiology. If I feel ‘anxious’, ‘calm’, ‘angry’ or ‘depressed’, etc, the given state of mind (mood) corresponds to a real neurological and bodily state actually existing inside of me, which I register subjectively as a specific ‘feeling’, ’emotion’ or ‘mood’, with all the complexity of its physiology and biochemistry involved in its manifestation and perpetuation. But as much as I may try, I cannot separate the ontology of my moods and emotions from my real social experience and the manifestation and reflection of this in my thinking and behaviour which are, respectively, intrinsically linked to the psychogenesis and outcome of these moods, etc.

The origination of beings acquiring and developing the capacity to think marks the rise of the human psyche itself as a totality. In becoming ‘conscious’ of nature and of ‘man-in-the making’, this same ‘man-in-the-making’ becomes conscious of itself and, therefore, necessarily a self-conscious being. ‘Man-in-the making’ becomes a ‘reflective being’ capable of ‘self-consciousness’. The consciousness of men of themselves in their life-activity becomes, simultaneously, a self-consciousness. A conscious being becomes conscious of itself and so simultaneously becomes a self-conscious being. Consciousness originates as self-consciousness where humans possess the ability to reflect on both nature and themselves. Self-consciousness as a psychological process is itself ‘internally dialogued’. This structurally replicates, ‘internally’, the social communication which takes place between people. The actual ‘dialogues’ between people form the basis for the existence of both the content and structure of the ‘internal dialogues’ of consciousness. Generally, social relations underlie all the ‘higher functions’ of the human psyche fm26).

The animal form of awareness found in non-human primates is ‘non-conscious’ whereas the human form is ‘conscious’. The animal is aware, is a sentient being, but not conscious and therefore not self-conscious, not ‘self-aware’. As conscious beings, humans are conscious of, and can reflect upon, themselves, their environment and each other, their capacities, thoughts and feelings. This ability to reflect on thought itself, to consider mentally the concatenation of thoughts and the passage of their contents into each other, their relations, meaning and significance, demarcates human beings psychologically from the animal ancestors from which they evolved. These characteristics distinguish the conscious awareness of the human being from the non-conscious awareness of the animal.

Humanity’s growing awareness of ‘living in society’ is itself a reflection of humanity’s association and struggle (activity) in order to survive and propagate itself. This awareness of ‘living in society’ becomes negatively expressed in humanity’s sense of the ‘otherness’ of nature which ‘confronts men as a completely alien, all-powerful and unassailable force’ (Marx). Humanity living in nature distinguishes itself from nature as ‘other’ in the course of its transforming activity of nature. This is why it becomes ‘conscious’ of ‘living in society’. Marx understands 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  [15]

And this implies the transcendence of the ‘alienation’ of ‘man in nature’ (of humanity’s sense of the ‘otherness’ of nature and, implicitly, of the sense itself of ‘living in society’?) Communism as ‘the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man’ implies the transcendence of the identification of nature as ‘otherness’ and therefore of the transcendence of the age-old sense of humanity, ‘living in society’, being distinct from nature, being ‘other’ in nature.

This sense of the ‘otherness of nature’ arises out of humanity’s subservience to, impotence in the face of, nature. Where this ‘subservience and impotence’ ends, in the ages beyond capital, lies the freedom in which humanity neither distinguishes itself from nature nor distinguishes nature from itself. Therein exists neither ‘society’ nor ‘nature’ as such (in humanity’s separation and alienation from nature) with the transcendence of this relationship of alienation but only the oneness of humanity immersed indissolubly in nature in which the ‘otherness of nature’ and the ‘otherness of socialised humanity’ has become resolved and transcended. Within this unity, this identity, this singularity, is transcended humanity’s conceptual differentiation of itself from nature and of nature from itself. Accordingly, there will be no self-identification of humanity by humanity as being ‘human’ and of ‘living in society’ and, likewise, nature is, accordingly, no longer identified by humanity as being ‘nature’.

The establishment of the relationship between the altering character of the prevailing social relations and existent forms of consciousness means that the conceptual content of human consciousness becomes subject to change and transformation on the basis of the evolution of the socio-historical process. Henceforth, the human psyche itself as a whole evolves historically in its intrinsic relationship to the development of social relations. For example, the thinking of the Neolithic farmer is animated by concerns and thoughts which are both similar and distinct from that of the modern capitalist farmer engaged in agricultural production for profit. Concerns about changing weather, disease in crops, livestock, pests, storage, etc, all preoccupied the Neolithic farmer as they do the capitalist farmer today. But the former was not concerned with the balance of the ledger book and whether rent or tax obligations can be met in the coming season because the property forms and the social relations of the two epochs are totally different. The transhistorical identities are differentiated by the specific character of distinct property forms and corresponding social relations and this dialectical relationship between the transhistorical and the historical is reflected in the different forms and modes of thought which are specific to the differentiations which distinguish and demarcate one epoch from another.

Consciousness evolves as an intrinsic, organic, mediating part of the whole socio-historical process. The historical development of the psyche – in its conceptual content, relations, structure, functions, inner complexity, etc – necessarily reflects and is reflected in the history of human society. However, at the same time, in its inner character and dynamic, it subsumes both the social and the biological within itself, incorporating them into a new psychological synthesis in the course of its psychohistorical formation and development (fm27).

Conscious thought actively mediates socio-historical relations and these relations mediate thought. There is an intermediation. The rise of consciousness (and its transforming effect on the non-conscious awareness of the ancestral animal primate) was therefore necessitated by the emergence of the social nature of hominid and later human relations. Accordingly, it started to emerge and commenced its ascent in the period of hominisation, that is, in the transition period from ancestral animal primate to human.

[v] Afterthoughts : Some Questions 

The purpose of this final section is to raise some questions and tentative propositions on the question of the future of the human personality beyond the capital era and in the evolution of the global commune.

We proposed in the previous section that the most fundamental relationship within the psyche itself is between the conscious and the unconscious. Can we envisage a resolution of the opposition between these two sides of the psyche into a higher synthesis, transcended into a higher form of the human psyche with a relatively more advanced form of awareness? The negation of the relationship between the conscious and unconscious is the positing of a higher human personality beyond both the conscious and the unconscious and their intermediation? The conscious and the unconscious become ‘superseded moments’ in the life-process of this higher order of the psyche?

Why should the evolution of the global commune encourage and facilitate this psychological resolution? Why should it become the social basis for this resolution and transcendence?

Does consciousness itself have a transhistorical role and, if so, what is this role in the history of society and the human personality? To prepare the ground and conditions for the emergence of a higher form or order of the human psyche in the aeons succeeding the global epoch of capital? For the emergence of the higher human personality of post-capital societies? The emergence of this higher human personality, this advance, is also a ‘return’ to a naturalism beyond the alienation and artifice of previous epochs? A reconciliation of all the former development, both socio-historical and natural? Where ‘fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism’ ? (Marx, Paris Manuscripts, 1844) The ‘interim’ prepares the ground and conditions for the ‘return’ which is also simultaneously an irreversible advance?

The relationship between the conscious and the unconscious perhaps conceals the secret – revealed and manifest by social development in the ages beyond capital – to the future of the human psyche. Why? Because this relationship, in its dialectics and development, mirrors the changing and transforming character of the actual relations between Man as a social being and the natural legacy which Man has inherited as the outcome of all of pre-human evolution in its fullest sense and meaning. How this relationship alters, becomes transformed and even superseded will be determined by – and serves further to determine – the character and the evolution of the future relations between people in the post-capital aeons (the ‘social individual’ as opposed to the ‘private individual’ of bourgeois society)? This new type of human being (the ‘social individual’) will stand as the outcome of human activity taking place in the course of the social development of centuries subsequent to the negation of the capital system globally.   

A most (if not the most) fundamental question that we must address concerns the nature and quality of the subjective life of the human individual, that is, active humans as ‘feeling’ beings. ‘Feeling’ is the eternal focal point around which the nature and quality of the subjective life of the individual revolves. If I am an exploited, abused, oppressed being, how does that make me ‘feel’? How does this manifest in me internally, psychologically, subjectively? And if I am free of all this, what sort of a ‘being’ am I? And what sort of relations are established between people if this becomes universal?

If I engage in activities alone or with other people which I find pleasing, pleasurable, enjoyable but my subjective experience of these activities merely serves to psychologically displace my own internal pain (mental, not directly physical) whether I am conscious of this or not, then these activities merely articulate the continuation of alienation in social relations. If I drug myself with alcohol and narcotic substances because it drowns my sorrows and smothers the subjective registration of my oppression and dejection then the ‘consolation’ which I may find in such activity is a consolation which merely serves to transmute and express my alienation as an individual in a different guise. It does not transcend it but simply reaffirms it in a new form and therefore the existence of alienation as a continuing feature of social relations in general. It means that my ‘enjoyment’ is determined by and contaminated with my pain and therefore not enjoyment unmediated by this pain. Enjoyment which ceases to be mediated as such is not the crude, painful ‘enjoyment’ as bourgeois man experiences it but of a totally different and qualitatively higher order. An enjoyment which only people freeing themselves from (or free of) the alienation of bourgeois society can truly experience. Not an ‘enjoyment’ which can possibly be known to bourgeois man in the truncated crudeness and debilitating alienation of his relationships. The enjoyments of socialised humanity are of a different nature and order to that of ‘bourgeois man’.

How real people behave and did behave depends and always did depend on the historical conditions under which they lived  [16]

If, in societies beyond the epoch of capital, social relations no longer serve as a source of anxieties and fear, how would this transform interpersonal relationships and human behaviour in general? How would this transform the way people feel about themselves and their fellow men and women? Surely it would transform the whole of human life into a realm which we today in bourgeois society would find unrecognisable and totally ‘alien’?

If I have never experienced the anxieties, fears and alienation intrinsic to bourgeois relations then I can have no awareness of their presence or absence. I am a totally different individual to that formed by these relations. The relations within which people live their lives are totally beyond the nightmare world of pain and suffering we live in and experience today Indeed, I can have no concept of these experiences, and what they mean, because they have been superseded historically in the course of social development beyond the epoch of capital. A truly free human being can have no concept of freedom and is not aware of being free precisely because s/he is truly free.

It would mean the end of aggression and cruelty between human beings and a complete transformation in our relationship with both living and non-living nature in all its manifold and beautiful creation. Moreover, would it not totally alter the whole interpersonal character of sexual relations and the actual subjective experience of joy and pleasure itself? And when the ‘artificial appetites’ [Marx] and desires created by bourgeois relations lose their grip on human relations? When the commodification of our desires and pleasures ends? These alien, reified and idealised ‘things of thought’ in the epoch of global capital no longer plague the human personality?

There is an element of truth – when specifically re-contextualised socio-historically beyond its ‘ideological form’ in Buddhist thought – in the identification of ‘suffering’ and ‘desire’. How suffering breeds desire and desire contains suffering latent within itself. Yet impossible to transcend this relationship under the conditions of the current epoch. But in later epochs?

The seeking of pleasure unconsciously motivated by pain, its realisation followed by its disappearance as the re-emergence and repositing of pain in the psyche. Pleasure as the negation of ‘pain’ and, simultaneously, as its reaffirmation in its opposite form. Pleasure and pain as the mother and offspring of each other mediated by desire? The continuous re-positing and reaffirmation of pain in its negation by pleasure and vice versa. Their dialectical movement into each other. The ‘fetishisation’ of pleasure and pain as ‘things of thought’ in the current epoch of bourgeois relations? When pleasure becomes a ‘thing of thought’ (desire) does not this relation contain within itself the ‘pain’ of its non-realisation? And, moreover, the ‘pain’ of its loss after its realisation?

our desires and pleasures spring from society; we measure them, therefore, by society and not by the objects which serve for their satisfaction.  Because they are of a social nature, they are of a relative nature [17]

And what of the ‘fight or flight’ response inherited from our animal ancestors? This must and will be retained so it can be activated in response to real, imminent, extra-human threat to prepare people to respond to the presence of real danger in their relations with extra-human, natural conditions of life. But its presence in the social and interpersonal relationships between people will become redundant. Why? Because those relations and forms of behaviour [such as violence, abuse, aggression, threat, war, etc] which have mediated its activation in previous societies will be transcended. With the advance of human knowledge, science and technology, even the possibilities of natural threats and disasters tend to increasingly diminish. If we understand scientifically the geological genesis, onset and effects of earthquakes, for example, then we are capable of developing the technology to intervene to prevent them, or to minimise their impact, and build structures which can resist the death and destruction which they cause.

The rationalist asserts that ‘where knowledge of natural processes has been demonstrated, religious notions and superstition about these processes are  rendered obsolete and unnecessary’ (Dawkins, etc). Yes, but why do people still cling to their religious sentiments, with all the social division implied, in the age of advanced bioevolutionary theory, biotechnology, particle physics and the high speed computer? In an age where belief, ignorance, religion and superstition have been driven from one refuge after another? Of course, education can serve as a lever for liberation and emancipation from religion and, indeed, does for many. Yet many millions still cling to their ideological ‘comfort blankets’ in an age of suffering, oppression and despair despite all the scientific and technological advances.

The need for consolation is only necessitated in and where human relationships are characterised by ‘suffering’ and ‘loss’. And if there is, diminishingly, no longer any ‘loss’ or ‘suffering’, what then? Moreover, if men no longer assert control and power over the lives of other men with all the coercion, threat, violence and aggression implied in such relations, how must this alter human relationships and their reflection in the psychology of people? An ‘unfettering’ of human potential in which humanity becomes free to socially develop its capacities without these hindrances, unrestricted by oppressive social relations and the fear engendered by them?

The psychological transformation of people only starts to take place in the transitional period as capital is being progressively dislodged from the social metabolism. This is the start of the coming-into-being of the higher communal individual, the ‘social individual’, the individual of the global ‘realm of freedom’. The realm where both private and state forms of property have been superseded and the new communal realm has established itself irreversibly on a global basis, developing and maturing on the social ground of its own self-created foundations. This is the realm of human beings no longer touched by the psychosocial legacies, in their various forms, of bourgeois relations and untainted by the memory of their impact and effects on people. When the very notion of ownership itself vanishes (because the Earth and the creations of human activity is truly without owners), this must serve as a liberating drive in the development of the human personality.

 

References

( given in square brackets thus [  ] )

[1] Leakey, R. The Origin of Humankind. (London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1994) p.13

[2] Aiello, L. and Dean, C. An Introduction to Human Evolutionary Anatomy

(Academic Press, Elsevier Science, 2002) p.379

[3] McKee, J.K. et al. Understanding Human Evolution. (5th Edn). (Pearson Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2005) p.21

[4] Lewin, R. Principles of Human Evolution (Blackwell, 1993) p.462

[5] Deacon, T.W. Biological Aspects of Language, Chapter 3.4 in ‘The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution’. Jones, S., Martin, R., and Pilbeam, D. (eds) (Cambridge University Press, 1995) p.133

[6] Deacon, T.W. The Human Brain.  (Chapter 3.2) in ‘The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution’. Jones, S., Martin, R., and Pilbeam, D. (eds) (Cambridge University Press, 1995) p.123

[7] See McKee, J.K. et al, Ibid, on the fossil evidence and adaptive function of stereoscopic vision originating in ancestral arboreal primates. pp.115-116

[8] Engels, F. The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man. Marx-Engels Selected Works. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1973) p.357

[9] Leakey, R, Ibid, p.40

[10] Luria, A.R. The Mentally Retarded Child. (Pergamon Press, London, 1963) p.150.

[11] Engels, F. The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man. Marx-Engels Selected Works. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1973) p.354.

[12] Mithen, S. Social Learning and Cultural Tradition: Interpreting Early Palaeolithic Technology. (Chapter 7) in ‘The Archaeology of Human Ancestry. Power, Sex and Tradition’. Steele, J. and Shennan, S. (eds) (Routledge, 1996) p.217

[13] Marx. The German Ideology. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 5. (London, Lawrence and Wishart, 1976)  pp.44-45

[14] Trotsky, L. Trotsky’s Notebooks, 1933-1935. Writings on Lenin, Dialectics and Evolutionism. (Translated, Annotated and with Introductory Essays by Philip Pomper, 175 pp) New York, Columbia University Press, 1986. p.102

[15] Marx. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1959. p.43

[16] Engels, F. From the Preparatory Writings for Anti-Duhring. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol. 25. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1987) p.605

[17] Marx. Wage Labour and Capital, Marx-Engels Selected Works. Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1973. p.83

 

Footnotes and Memoranda (fm)

(fm1) The conflict between the existent capacities of a primate in its ‘struggle for existence’ and the demands and pressures placed on it in the struggle to survive under impacting conditions. Survival may depend on the ability to learn new skills and forms of behaviour. The consequences of not doing so resulting in extinction.

(fm2) Examples of overspecialisation and extinction in the evolution of primates or hominids. Hominids with a highly specialised diet and related dentition?

(fm3) References to this concept in Primatology and Paleoanthropology.

(fm4) The ‘radiation’ (branching) of the hominid lineage and the extinction of various branches and sub-branches.

(fm5) ‘Tradition’ meaning, in this respect, to hand down skills to succeeding generations by means of a process of mimicry and learning. From the Latin, tradere, to give up or transmit.

(fm6) Examples of the fashioning and use of simple tools in contemporary Pongidae.

(fm7) The commencement of the hominisation process in the literature

(fm8) Examples of intense crises in hominid evolution which served to accelerate the evolutionary process?

(fm9) Engels in The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man

(fm10) Engels, Ibid.

(fm11) Engels, Ibid.

(fm12) The development of the hand in hominid evolution and associated neurological developments.

(fm13) How the emergence and evolution of speech (practical language) in the Hominidae modified the structure of the vocal organs, mouth, tongue, etc.

(fm14) On the ‘plasticity’ of the human brain and the alterability, reformability and deformability of its neurological structures and processes. The learning process itself involves neurons creating new pathways and networks and making new connections.

(fm15) Changes in the size, structure and complexity of the brain as a result of the hominisation process and the effects of these developments on the development of the sense organs, eye, ear, smell, taste, sense of touch/temperature/pressure, (tactility), etc.

(fm16) Studies and literature on the origins of stereoscopic vision in arboreal primates.

(fm17) Tool making provides the basis for the survival and propagation of the hominid group. Those cultivating superior skills of tool making are at an advantage and invariably are more likely to survive than less advantaged hominid groups when subject to similar ‘survival pressures’.

(fm18) Any examples of chance discoveries in tool use/making by contemporary Pongids.

(fm19) See Luria and Vygotsky on the role of language in the cultural transmission of knowledge and technique.

(fm20) Evidence, references, citations for this in the anthropology literature.

(fm21) The ‘revolutionary’ role of the innovation and development of technique and co-operation in hominids.

(fm22) ‘Psyche as a totality’ is more complex and implicated than mere ‘consciousness’ alone. ‘Consciousness’ is not absolutely identical, without difference, to ‘psyche as a totality’ which embraces the former within this totality. The human psyche embraces conscious thought but, considered as a whole, this psyche is a qualitatively more complex phenomenon than conscious thought alone. The capacity to think is an intrinsic part of the psyche but this psyche is not simply identical to thinking per se. We must recognise that the psyche possesses an animal prehistory which predates it. This animal prehistory is sublated and becomes incorporated into the human psyche with the rise of conscious awareness in the transition from the animal to the human.

(fm23) The fundamental dialectical relationship in the human psyche between the conscious and the unconscious arises in the course of the origination of the human psyche itself from the mediation of animal instinct by the emergent conscious in our ancestors. In this way, the unconscious is really the outcome of the emergent conscious, of its mediating impact and affect on the instinctive legacy of our animal ancestry.

(fm24) In this study, hominisation is understood as the broad and lengthy evolutionary process through which ancestral animal primates developed into hominids (Hominidae) and ascended to modern man (Homo Sapiens Sapiens). Anthropologists differ in their estimation of the point of ‘arrival’ of ‘modern man’. However, the partial ‘integration’ and extinction of the Neanderthal line is generally thought to indicate the pre-eminence of ‘modern man’. Recent studies suggest that Homo Sapiens Sapiens emerged in Africa approximately 200,000 years BP and migrated outwards into Asia and Europe, that is, into areas which were already populated by other ‘Homo’ species such as Neanderthals. The start of the hominisation process indicates the most primaeval beginnings of conscious awareness itself and therefore the later rise of the human psyche as a totality.

(fm25) For example, the non-existence of jealousy and greed amongst prehistoric tribes and those discovered in the Amazon, etc, in modern times.

(fm26) The concept of the ‘internal dialogue’ is associated with Vygotsky’s studies in psychology. We can describe ‘internal dialogue’ as the mental process through and by which individuals ‘converse’ and ‘commune’ with themselves within the sphere of their own thinking. When people verbally ‘talk to themselves’, this is an open manifestation in speech of this internal dialogue. In the internal dialogue, individuals monitor the unfolding and progression of the conceptual content of their own thinking and feeling. The dissociation of this internal relation of thinking monitoring itself is important in the psychogenesis and development of those mental states which the psychiatrists refer to as ‘psychotic’ or ‘schizophrenic’, etc. For example, when one ‘side’ of the dialogue identifies the other as an external other outside the thinking subject, this can manifest, for example, as hallucination, ‘hearing voices’ as ‘external’ to self, etc, in the resulting mental state.

(fm27) The psychological in this study is understood as the synthesis of the neurobiological and the social but not within the sense and parameters of the bogus scientistic doctrine known as ‘Evolutionary Psychology’.

 

Shaun May

November 2018

 

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

New Edition of ‘Capital-in-Crisis’

Capital-in-Crisis, Trade Unionism and the Question of Revolutionary Agency

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Studies in the Origination and Evolution of the Human Psyche : [2] Pre-Conditions in the Modes of Life and Learning Capacities of Ancestral Primates

Studies in the Origination and Evolution of the Human Psyche

[2] Pre-Conditions in the Modes of Life and Learning Capacities of Ancestral Primates

In so far as the human psyche is a social product of the human brain – a brain which itself has a biological prehistory and which predates the origination of consciousness itself – the pre-conditions, which were established in the modes of life and learning capacities of ancestral primates of hominids for the origination of this psyche, must be considered. It was the capacity of these ancestral primates to learn and develop new skills that constituted the most essential pre-condition for the origination of hominids and humanity, for the rise of consciousness, and thus for the origination of the human psyche itself as a totality (fm1).

In primates, the learning process is directed towards the acquisition of new skills and the innovation of new forms of behaviour which augment survivability. The process of learning in primates serves to generate new modes of behaviour and to increase the primate’s capacity to survive its conditions of life. In the primate forerunners of hominids, the ability to learn new skills and to transmit them to others in the group through mimicry was a crucial aspect of their mode of life which gave them a distinct advantage over other primates and animals in the struggle to survive under the prevailing conditions of existence. Such abilities, and their acquisition, are observable in contemporary primates where imitation is an essential vehicle for transmitting established skills to offspring (fm2). Interestingly, for example, with Chimpanzees (fm3)…

tool use is basically done by females. Males can make and use tools, but tool use is a learned and practiced behavioural tradition usually passed from mother to daughter. Sons are less apt to learn these techniques because they spend less time with their mothers and therefore have less time to observe how tools are made and used [1]

The transition to human life presupposed fundamental pre-conditions in the mode of life of these ancestral primates. Firstly the use (on a regular basis) and the capacity to fashion simple tools for use in the acquisition of the physical needs of these primates was essential (fm4). Again, with Chimpanzees, we observe the widespread making and use of simple tools for use in the acquisition of food, fending off predators, etc. To date (2005)…

It is now known that at least thirty two populations of chimpanzees make and use tools. Furthermore, diversity in tool use has been found, as well as in almost every other aspect of chimpanzee life and social organisation including hunting behaviour, fighting and social interactions [2]

Implicitly, making and using tools for various purposes in our primate ancestors must have involved the acquisition of specific skills which could be transmitted (i.e. learnt) and refined in the course of their transmission and repeated use from one generation to the next as we observe with contemporary primates in nature (fm5) [3]. This learning of new skills and the development of novel forms of behaviour enabled these ancestral primate groups to gain an edge over competitors in the struggle to survive.

This learning process equipped these primates to ‘cope’ – in a more adequate way – with the demands placed on them in their interaction with their natural conditions of life. The advanced learning capacities of ancestral primates and the transmission and refinement of acquired skills and behaviour resulting from the operation of these learning capacities were therefore essential, pre-constituted conditions necessary for the transition from animal primate to human.

This ‘culture’ of transmission of acquired skills gave such primates a distinct advantage in the struggle to survive, enhancing their chances of survival and augmenting adaptational capacities (fm6). The acquisition of these skills and their further elaboration and development into an ever-widening repertoire of skills and modes of behaviour was determined by the natural conditions of life of these primates. The demands placed on them by their conditions of life were the real determinants which governed the necessity to learn novel skills and forms of behaviour in order to counter and survive the impact of these conditions on their mode of life which was, indeed, organic to these conditions and vice versa (fm7).

In the course of developing new skills and forms of behaviour, ancestral primates must have engaged in a continuously changing relationship with their conditions of life in the course of which making adaptation an intensely active process. Changes in this relationship necessarily involved neurological developments in these primates and, as a consequence, an augmentation of learning capacities and mechanisms (fm8).

Behaviour which has been learned contrasts with those forms of behaviour in primates which are instinctive. In the former, the primate learns in order to adapt itself to and, at the same time, to actively engage its conditions of life. Therefore any adaptive activity is not simply a passive response to conditions. Such adaptations serve the primate in its active struggle to survive in the course of which it assimilates a wider repertoire of skills. In the course of its struggle, it becomes better adapted for the struggles to come in the future.

In the operation of instinctive capacities, the animal responds to the impact of its conditions of life on itself by means of the activation of innate capacities which are not learned. These innate capabilities themselves originated and evolved in relation to the conditions of existence of antecedent, ancestral, forms and have been transmitted directly, without the need to learn them, for their survival value. They serve as a collective means of survival in the struggle for life. They are, for each species, a ‘collective instinct’ (fm9) [4].

These innate responses function at all levels in the life of the animal and, by serving to maintain its survival, also facilitate its propagation as a species. However, it is in the learning capacities of the primate ancestors of humanity and in the behaviour and skills associated with them that the seeds of human consciousness must be sought and identified.

Humanity in the making inherits a legacy of ‘instinct’ from its animal predecessors. This legacy is itself modified with the rise of consciousness so that its activity as an aspect of the human psyche is distinct from its activity in the life of ancestral primates (fm10). Notwithstanding the importance of this inheritance, it is towards a consideration of the learning capacities of the ancestral primates of humanity that our attention must be directed. By ‘learning capacity’ is meant all those forms of behaviour, skills, biological and neurological mechanisms that serve the primate in its struggle to survive by a process of learning (fm11). These capacities constitute the most essential ground out of which consciousness arose and, therefore, out of which the human psyche as a whole originates in the course of the transition from animal to human.

Primates cannot survive without learning. Survival in primates depends on the development of definite forms of behaviour that are not instinctive but are learned in the course of their life activity (fm12). In the fight to obtain food, avoid or fight off predators, etc, those forms of behaviour that gave pre-hominids an advantage in the struggle to survive would have facilitated survival and been passed on to their offspring. By widening their repertoire of acquired skills and diversifying their modes of behaviour, the primate ancestors of humanity became more capable of surviving and reproducing in the context of continuously changing conditions of life.

The supersedence of a given complex of natural conditions – within which and through relationship to which definite forms of behaviour and skills had been developed – would have necessitated the alteration, or even complete transformation, of previous modes of behaviour which were adequate for survival under previous conditions but had become, with the changes in conditions, inadequate for survival. Under threat of extinction new modes of behaviour and skills had to be developed in order to continue to survive (fm13) [5]. For example, the move from arboreal to a ground-dwelling modes of life.

Therefore, whether an ancestral primate species survived or not (and evolved to a further stage of existence or into a different species) depended on whether or not it acquired and developed the necessary skills and behaviour (in the course of changing conditions) which provided it with the means of surviving the newly-posited conditions within which it found itself and struggled to maintain itself as a species.

It was the learning capacities of ancestral primates – the ability or inability to learn new skills – which gave them an advantage or disadvantage in the struggle for survival under changing conditions. The disadvantaged tended to perish whilst the advantaged or other distinct species filled their niche, in and under the new conditions (fm14). This process would have been shifted into an accelerated mode in periods of catastrophic change. For example, in the ‘extinction’ of the dinosaurs and their ‘eclipse’ by the mammals where catastrophic changes constituted the basis for this episode in the history of animal life. Or, generally, under conditions of rapid climate or environmental transformation.

In primate evolution – more specifically in those primates which immediately preceded the hominid line – the development of a wider repertoire of skills and complexity in their operation would have provided ancestral primates with an edge in the struggle to survive such catastrophes, e.g. drought, floods, disease, etc. On the road of primate evolution towards the hominid line, the ‘best’ learners tended to be the ‘best’ survivors so that survival and learning became linked. This learning necessarily precluded an overspecialisation. Rather it was the acquisition and development of generic skills (‘portable’ skills as with tools carried from place to place in later hominids) which had to be established in order to survive in a range of different (if not all) environments and conditions which were encountered on the path towards hominid evolution (fm15).

This general applicability of acquired skills in a wide range of situations and different conditions meant that the threat of extinction became lessened compared to those species that had overspecialised and thus were more vulnerable to rapid changes in their natural conditions of life. Therefore, it was not simply the ability to learn new skills – which in the evolution of ancestral primates facilitated survival – but to learn specific kinds of skills which, at the same time, had a general and enduring applicability under a wide and altering range of conditions (fm16). These generic skills could be adapted to counter demands placed on a species with alterations in their conditions of life and thus provide the necessary versatility requisite for survival.

The relatively advanced capacities of superior tool users and makers over other groups and the ability to transmit these skills to succeeding generations formed the embryonic complex out of which hominids could emerge and evolve towards modern humans. The use and fashioning of simple tools in hominoids (fm17) contained, potentially, the more advanced forms of hominid toolmaking and toolusing behaviour embracing co-operation, communication and, consequentially, the rise of language and consciousness itself (fm18)…

First labour, after it and then with it, speech – these were the two most essential stimuli under the influence of which the brain of the ape gradually changed into that of man, which for all its similarity is far larger and more perfect. [6]

Accordingly, all these acquired skills and forms of behaviour – taken in their totality and interrelation – constituted the embryonic ground out of which human society could come into being and evolve as a new, distinct socio-historical form of development. Learnt behaviour in primates which is advantageous to their survival is not ‘selected’ at the genetic level in the same way in which an advantageous change in physiology or biochemistry resulting from genetic mutation is selected (fm19). However, in the sense that a specific mode of learnt behaviour is associated with, but not necessarily ’caused’ by, the specific biological character of an organism, then the transmission of that mode of behaviour to offspring through mimicry becomes associated, inevitably, with the transmission of the general biological character which defines the nature of the species in question and which, accordingly, is associated with definite modes of behaviour.

Therefore, if learnt behaviour facilitates survival because it gives an advantage in the struggle for life, then the continued survival of a population, whilst others are perishing, means that it will be in a favourable position to reproduce. In so doing, the next generation inherits its genotype and hence displays its general biological characteristics. Where advantageous modes of behaviour ensure the propagation of a species and are associated with the given biology of an organism, the latter will be passed on to the next generation which learns and assimilates the acquired skills and behaviour of, and from, the previous generation.

A complex relation develops between acquired skills and behaviour and the biology of the species. Acquired skills and behaviour, in facilitating the survival and propagation of a species, also simultaneously and necessarily facilitate the transmission of the biological character of the species. Biology, in its turn, serves as the physiological basis for the further development of the acquired forms of behaviour and skills (fm20).

The demands placed on an animal by its conditions of life are the real determinants which govern the necessity of the animal to learn new skills and forms of behaviour in order to survive the impact of these conditions on its mode of life (fm21). This, of course, is found in Darwin’s conception of Natural Selection…

Natural Selection, as enunciated by Darwin, is a simple and powerful process that depends on three conditions. First, members of a species differ from one another, and this variation is heritable. Second, all organisms produce more offspring than can survive [….] Third, given that not all offspring survive, those that do are, on average, likely to have an anatomy, physiology or behaviour that best prepares them for the demands of the prevailing environment. [7]

In learning and developing new skills and modes of behaviour, the animal, in its turn, alters its mode of life. Survival involves the development of behaviours and skills in the animal which are not only adaptive responses to its conditions but are, at the same time, an increasing and augmenting of the capacity of the animal to more readily and effectively respond to and counteract further changes in its conditions of life.

‘Adaptation’ in living organisms is therefore a two-way process in which the animal becomes better equipped to deal with the prevailing conditions of its life whilst, at the same time, within the context discussed here, it is an assimilation and refinement of new modes of behaviour and skills that prime the animal to actively overcome problems confronting it in novel situations and changing conditions. Hence, to a certain extent, the ability to survive or win through later struggles is prepared beforehand in the course of the life activity of the animal. In overcoming previous problems, it becomes better prepared to take on and overcome those obstacles yet to come.

For example, consider the origins of the nervous system of mammals out of the earliest neural structures in ancestral organisms and the development of these nervous systems into the complexities of the brain and nervous systems of primates. Leakey remarks that in relation to brain size…

The pattern of change through time is quite striking: the origin of major new faunal groups (or groups within groups) is usually accompanied by a jump in the relative size of the brain, known as encephalization. For instance, when the first archaic mammals evolved, some 230 million years ago, they were equipped with brains four to five times bigger than the average reptilian brain. A similar boost in mental machinery happened with the origin of modern mammals, 50 million years ago. Compared with mammals as a whole, primates are the brainiest group, being twice as encephalized as the average mammal. Within the primates, the apes have the biggest brains; they are some twice the average size. And humans are three times as encephalized as the average ape [8]

A correlation exists between the size and complexity of nervous systems on the one hand and the capacities of the animal to learn and develop new forms of behaviour and skills on the other hand. Generally speaking, the more complex the nervous system, the greater the ability of the animal to learn novel forms of behaviour and acquire new skills (fm22). Studies in contemporary primatology have more or less confirmed this general conception [9]. However, developments in neurological organisation and the increase in the complexity of nervous systems stems from the necessity to meet and surmount the ever-changing demands placed on the animal in its life activity under definite conditions in nature. Such neurological developments are driven by the demands of ‘external’, environmental factors and relations in the conditions of life and activity of primates. They do not simply arise and become established without these ‘external’ mediations.

Nervous systems become more intricate and tend towards a more complex level of organisation because, in the struggle of the animal to survive, the animal is subjected to ‘selection pressures’ to meet such demands. Those with the necessary neurological organisation which enables them to learn new skills and modes of behaviour, and which enables the animal to effectively meet and surmount the specific demands placed on them by changing conditions, will tend to survive (fm23). Those animals which are deficient in this respect will tend to lose out and be at a disadvantage in the struggle for survival. Any advantageous increase in the complexity of the animal’s nervous system will augment its capacity to learn new skills and modes of behaviour that serve it in that struggle.

Accordingly, it is the continuously changing conditions of existence on the one hand, and the advantage or disadvantage that specific modes of behaviour give the animal in relation to these changing conditions on the other hand, which determine whether or not any corresponding changes in its nervous system are ‘selected’ at the molecular and physiological levels. If behaviour is advantageous, then associated structures in the biology and neurology of the animal will be selected and transmitted to the next generation (fm24). In this way, the next generation possesses the appropriate biological structures that enable it to mimic established modes of behaviour and learn new ones. Established modes of behaviour can be both passed on and modified according to the changing needs of ancestral primate as the relationship between itself and its conditions of life changes.

Therefore, the relationship between biology and behaviour develops under specific conditions of life of the animal and cannot be understood in isolation from these conditions (fm25). For example, consider the ability of chimpanzees to use a stick in order to obtain food of one sort or another. This ability, often observed by primatologists, has been learnt and elaborated in the struggle to survive and is biologically conditioned only in so far as it is hunger that motivates the need to feed and, secondly, that the primate needs to possess the pre-requisite anatomy of forearm and associated neurological mechanisms, etc, which enable it to co-ordinate its movements. Therefore, in these respects, its biology must come into play. But it is a relationship between biology and learnt behaviour which enables the chimpanzee to use the stick to acquire food and feed itself and its offspring.

The manipulation of the stick to attain food (for example, wetting or licking the stick and then poking it into a nest of termites or ants) implies a necessary anatomy and dexterity of hand and forearm which is intrinsically associated with the biological inheritance and characteristics of the individual animal as being part of a definite species. However, whilst taking such biological mechanisms as a pre-condition for the development of new skills, it is the actual skill and capacity to use the stick to obtain food which has been learned and which confers an advantage in the struggle to survive. In situations where food is scarce such a skill would give an invaluable advantage over those which had not developed this skill and therefore would be a critical aid to survival. Such behaviour could be passed on to the offspring of the species group, thereby facilitating the survival of the group as a whole (fm26).

We can see that the ability of primates to learn new skills and modes of behaviour is an essential and necessary condition in their struggle to survive in changing conditions. Where this ability fails the primate, it inevitably loses out in its struggle to survive when and where changing conditions require the learning of advantageous skills and behaviour to survive. This development of new skills increases and widens the animal’s adaptational capacities in relation to its changing conditions of existence. The acquisition of new skills additionally raises the animal’s sensuous awareness of its environment to a different level, giving it a richer, more complex, conditioned awareness of its surroundings (fm27).

The behaviour of our ancestral primates was, therefore, a synthesis of the instinctive and the learnt. Their behaviour necessarily involved both simultaneously. Instinctive responses are selected at the physiological level of the organism because, in operating automatically and without the need to learn them, such responses are biologically indispensable for the survival of the species. If it were necessary to acquire instinctively-driven behaviour by a process of learning then animals would not be able to deal with the most immediate impacts of their conditions of life on themselves as living organisms and they would perish before they had time to mature.

For example, the mechanisms that biologically regulate drinking and reproduction in animals are instinctive. They do not have to be learnt. Instinctive mechanisms operate in order to maintain or realise the biological needs of an animal. An animal may have to learn to drink or eat in a certain way but it does not have to learn to be thirsty or hungry. For example, when an animal learns to associate the presence of a predator with threat, this learning process simultaneously involves instinct when it is threatened by that predator. Learning and instinct operate together in co-ordination with each other (fm28). The hedgehog, for example, learns that an inquisitive fox or badger can be threatening. However it does not have to learn to curl up into a protective prickly ball in order to defend itself against it. Likewise, it learns to discriminate between edible and inedible morsels of food but it does not need to learn to be hungry nor to regurgitate unpalatable food which it has learned to recognise as toxic. Spurred on by hunger, both learning and instinct are at work together.

A child does not have to learn to rapidly withdraw its hand from something that causes pain. Such an action is an automatic reflex i.e. it is an instinctive response which the child does not need to learn. However, a child does learn to associate particular situations or objects with danger (potential or actual) to itself and possible injury. In this process of learning, it acquires and develops a conscious knowledge of such situations and can modify its behaviour for its own safety. In the former instinctive case, a need to learn would mean certain injury or death whereas in the latter case a deficiency of learning could result in the same. Learning and instinct are not mutually exclusive; they involve each other, operate together and mutually determine each other.

Likewise, the behaviour of primates involves both instinct and learning and this must have been the case in the ancestral primates of humans. Learning in primates involves the acquisition of new skills and forms of behaviour which serve to facilitate their survival. However, learning does not take place independently of instinct and vice versa. Primates acquire their material needs by means of behaviour and actions which are conditioned and mediated by both instinct and learning at the same time. Learning becomes necessary for the primate in order to survive. The learning capacities of the primate become integrated with its instinctive inheritance in the course of its lifetime.

The neurological results and modifications involved in and associated with learning new modes of behaviour become synthesised with instinct at the neurophysiological level so that the latter can be affected by learning whilst instinct, in its turn, conditions the learning of new skills and behaviour (fm29). This coalescence of instinct and learning functions to provide the primate, in the course of its life activity, with a means of orientating its behaviour and developing its skills and actions in the struggle to survive under prevailing conditions. The non-conscious awareness (fm30) of the ancestral pre-hominid primate – mediating the life activity of the animal – is a synthesis of instinct and learning acquired in the course of its interaction with its conditions of life. This awareness orientates it in its life activity. This relationship between instinct and learning becomes transformed with the emergence of consciousness and, simultaneously, the human psyche as a whole.

Psyche as a whole is a product and outgrowth of the social development of hominids out of their pre-hominid, animal ancestors. This means that this lengthy process of evolution from the animal to the human does not absolutely abolish the animal legacy of human ancestry. Rather, it ‘conserves’ it in a higher, human form in the actual process of transforming it. For example, in order to survive, the animal ancestors of humans developed responses for dealing with the threat of predators. These same responses also served the animal in its struggle to acquire its means of subsistence. Such responses involved the capacity to evade or confront dangers which the animal encountered in its continual struggle to survive. In these situations, the response of the animal was mediated by an awareness of threat i.e. an awareness of when it was in danger of being attacked by predators. Its behavioural response to such threats involved the co-ordination of both instinct and learning (an awareness of the immediate, surrounding conditions of life acquired in the course of their life activities) (fm31). This legacy remains with us today in the form of the ‘fight or flight’ response to confronting danger. Humans have inherited these powers for dealing with threat from ancestral primates.

In the evolution of mammals and their forerunners, the constant threat of predators must have been a most important selection pressure in the development of instinct. Indeed, selection would have taken place at the biochemical level where the co-ordination of the activities of the nervous system and hormonal systems is vital in order to maintain the survival of the animal in the face of threat (fm32). Accordingly, instinct must have evolved in order to facilitate survival. Over a long period of natural development, instinctive responses must have originated, evolved and become more highly developed in succeeding generations in response to the changing conditions of life (fm33). In the immediate precursors of hominids, learning and instinct become more closely integrated and mediate each other. In the case of threat, animals learn to associate specific situations with danger. Such associations activate those instinctive responses which are inherent and prepare the animal to deal with possible or actual threat. It is the animal’s immediate awareness of threat which activates those instinctive capacities which prepare it to deal with threat, to run or to fight. Those responses that served to maintain the survival of the ancestral primates of human beings in the face of such threats from predators would have become part of the behaviour of the individuals of the group. Learnt behaviour that enabled a primate to effectively counter threat, by adopting one form of behaviour or another, facilitated its survival and became an intrinsic part of its life activity.

These powers therefore predate the history of the human psyche (fm34). With the rise of the human psyche, i.e. of beings possessing the capacity to think consciously, these powers – incorporating the so-called ‘fight or flight’ response – become integrated into the operation of this psyche. This integrating of instinct with emergent conscious awareness in early hominids enabled these ancestors of ‘modern man’ to more readily survive and counter the hostile impact of their conditions of existence on their life activities.

Those hominid ancestors of modern humans which possessed these instinctive capacities but which did not learn new modes of behaviour and skills, as established and changing conditions demanded, lost out in the struggle to survive and inevitably perished (fm35). As conditions changed, the need to acquire the material means of life demanded, at the same time, the modification of established practices and the development of new skills and modes of behaviour.

The punctuation of gradual changes in conditions by catastrophes of various kinds would have necessitated very rapid adaptations – involving an accelerated rate in the learning of new skills, etc – to changed circumstances on the part of hominid groups. Those groups that were more appropriately adapted to tackling and overcoming the constraints imposed on them by the new conditions resulting from such catastrophic changes would have survived. Therefore, any increase in the learning capacities of a given group of early hominids, especially the development and transmission of novel skills, would have given them an advantage over other groups in the struggle to survive.

In the course of the evolution of hominids, as one generation succeeded the next, the repertoire of skills and behavioural characteristics would have become widened and enriched. Older established skills became refined in the course of their historical usage and assimilation as well as becoming modified and diversified into new forms (fm36). This diversification and multiplication of basic skills and modes of behaviour into a wider range – quantitatively more numerous and qualitatively more complex – enabled hominids to survive within a widening spectrum of conditions and circumstances. The accumulation of ‘portable’, adaptable generic skills (with tools which could be carried from place to place), which were transmittable to succeeding generations, enabled hominid groups to spread out into previously unexplored regions (fm37).

Within the African ‘cradle’ itself….

from what we can gather, our human ancestors – and the australopithecines before them – had already left the forest (where the apes still live) and inhabited areas similar to the modern Savanna: tropical grasslands with tall vegetation, bushes, and scattered trees inhabited by large quadrupeds and a wide variety of plant and animal species. About two million years ago, Homo Erectus began to travel and colonize Asia, Europe and virtually all the Old World during a period of hundreds of thousands of years. This expansion probably was possible because tools were more evolved and intelligence greater (Erectus brain was more than twice the size of an australopithecine’s) [10]

The development of the relationship between instinct and learning in the ancestral primates of hominids (ancestral pre-hominids) provided the basis for the attainment of a wider repertoire of skills in the course of their evolution. The greater the capacity of a primate to learn and assimilate new skills and develop a wider range of behaviours to ‘deal’ with the different and changing conditions of its life, the more capable it becomes in its efforts to secure its material means of life and thus to survive and propagate its kind. However, it is the rise of consciousness itself which transforms the relationship between the instinct and learning capacities found in the ancestral pre-hominid. The beginnings of this transformation marks the beginning of the emergence of the human psyche as a whole with historically new features and relations.

Those ancestral pre-hominids (animal hominoid ancestors) – that immediately preceded the emergence of the specifically hominid line of evolution eventually leading to ‘modern man’ – were characterised by the highest possible form of non-conscious awareness. That is, by a form of awareness which stood on the threshold of the beginnings of conscious awareness whilst still retaining its character as a form of animal non-conscious awareness. This state of affairs constituted the transition phase between the two distinctly different forms of awareness which corresponded to the transition between the evolution of the ancestral animal hominoid and the beginnings of the lineages of the Hominidae.

The physical and sensuous interaction of these pre-conscious hominoids with their conditions of life took place on the basis of the unity of their instinctive capacities and acquired learning about their environment. This conditioned learning about their conditions of life in itself results from the interrelationships of the animal with its natural environment. What the animal learns about its life conditions mediates the activities and interrelationship of the animal with its conditions of life. Moreover, this learning must have involved ‘memorisation’ of one kind or another in which the animal’s immediate experience of its surroundings, the learning of new skills specifically, are ‘registered and stored’ neurologically, and not forgotten but can be replicated as and when required. For example, in the use and simple making of tools to acquire food, fend off predators, etc (fm38). Memory, therefore, is not a specific feature found only in hominids but also characterised their primate hominoid ancestors.

The ancestral pre-hominid’s capacities and activities were, accordingly, mediated by a state of non-conscious awareness which arises out of the evolutionary legacy passed on to it by its antecedents. This highest possible state of non-conscious awareness stands on the threshold of a move forward into the beginnings of the very earliest, primaeval, primordial forms of conscious awareness characterising the very earliest hominids as they began to emerge from their animal hominoid predecessors. This state of non-conscious awareness in these immediate ancestors of the hominid lineages stands as the highest possible synthesis of instinct and learning developed in animals in which the capacity to be aware of and ‘know’ their environment, and to be orientated by this awareness in the relationship with their conditions of life, is developed in these animal primate ancestors of humanity (fm42). Beyond this stage lies the beginnings of the hominid lineages and thus the primaeval beginnings of consciousness itself.

Next Section : The Rise of Consciousness

References (given in square brackets thus [ ] )

[1] McKee, J.K. et al. Understanding Human Evolution. (5th Edn). (Pearson Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2005) p.94

[2] McKee, J.K. et al, Ibid, p.93

[3] See, for example, Pereira, M.E. and Fairbanks, L.A. (eds) Juvenile Primates: Life History, Development and Behaviour. (University of Chicago Press, 2002). Also the article by Whiten et al, Cultures in Chimpanzees. Nature, Vol 399, pp.682-685

[4] See, for example, Toole, G. and Toole, S. Understanding Biology. (Stanley Thornes Publishers, Cheltenham, 1995) p.549

[5] The work of Stephen Jay Gould and others is important in this area. For example, Gould’s The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (Harvard University Press, 2002) and Bintliff, J. (ed) Structure and Contingency: Evolutionary Processes in Life and Human Society (Continuum International Publishing Group, 1999)

[6] Engels. The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man. Marx-Engels Selected Works. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1973) p.357

[7] Lewin, R Principles of Human Evolution. (Blackwell, 1993) p.30

[8] Leakey, R. The Origin of Humankind. (London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1994) p.142

[9] See, for example, Reader, S.M. Relative Brain Size and the Distribution of Innovation and Social Learning across the Nonhuman Primates, Chapter 3 in The Biology of Traditions: Models and Evidence. Fragaszy, D.M. and Perry, S. (eds) (Cambridge University Press, 2003) p.56ff

[10] Cavalli-Sforza, L.L. and Cavalli-Sforza, F. The Great Human Diasporas. The History of Diversity and Evolution. (Helix Books, Addison-Wesley, 1996) p.44

 

Footnotes and Memoranda (fm)

 

(fm1) The development of learning capacities and new skills in primate ancestors of humans.

(fm2) Learning through experimentation and mimicry in primates.

(fm3) Chimpanzees are part of the taxomomic family of Primates known as the Pongidae (sometimes called ‘Anthropoid Apes’) which are biologically related to humans, including the gibbons, orang-utans, and gorillas.

(fm4) The use of natural objects then later fashioning of simple tools for use in acquiring food, fighting off rivals, predators, etc.

(fm5) The transmission of acquired skills in primates through mimicry and learning : human ‘culture’ in embryo.

(fm6) Advantages (enhanced capacity to survive changes in conditions) conferred by learning and transmission of new skills in ancestral primates.

(fm7) How established conditions, and gradual or rapid changes in them, impel primates to develop new skills or to perish.

(fm8) The relationship between learning and neurological changes.

(fm9) Instinct. A particular form or tendency of behaviour found in animals which is innate for a given species. Such forms of behaviour are not learnt but may be mediated and affected by learning and vice versa. Instinctive behaviour arises and evolves in animals directly in relation to the confronting and impacting conditions of the mode of life of a given species. Natural Selection acts on definite forms of behaviour to which a given species is biologically pre-disposed and, in so doing, the phenotypic characteristics intrinsically associated with these forms of behaviour in an organism are selected. Concomitantly, the genotype of the organism (at the molecular level of the DNA) – underlying the ‘selected’ anatomy and physiology of the phenotype – is simultaneously selected.

Instinct does not emerge and evolve in isolation from learning and vice versa. In their unity, each mutually conditions and affects the development of the other. For example, nidification (nest-building) in birds takes different forms according to the material conditions of life of a given species. In the process of nest-building, a bird must also learn various skills involving the use and manipulation of different materials and construction technique. If one observes a bird constructing its nest, one can actually see it making ‘errors’. But these errors are the source of it learning to build a strong and stable nest for its hatchlings. It literally ‘learns from its errors’. Nidification is instinctive in birds but they must also learn in the actual process of building their nests. Thus, in nidification, both instinctive and learnt capacities are at work simultaneously. Therefore, animal instinctive behaviour is an inherent or innate pre-disposition towards certain forms of behaviour for a given species and directed towards the realisation of a specific objective or aim (non-conscious purposefulness) which can be mediated and affected by learning and vice versa.

(fm10) Consciousness and Instinct. How the rise of the former in hominids affects and transforms the latter.

(fm11) A more detailed and elaborated definition of ‘learning capacity’ is required.

(fm12) The critical importance of learning in primates for survival.

(fm13) Catastrophic changes in Nature and the need for rapid adaptation to the resulting new conditions. Evolution ‘in leaps’ (Gould, transformation, dialectics).

(fm14) Examples of this in primate evolution? For example, rapid climactic or environmental changes causing extinctions and rapid evolutionary changes.

(fm15) The disadvantages of overspecialisation (funnelled into a narrow niche existence) and the relative advantages of generic, ‘portable’, adaptable skills and behaviour in rapidly changing natural environments.

(fm16) The ‘survival value’ of developing generic, widely applicable and alterable skills in the primate ancestors of humanity.

(fm17) Hominoid. A member of the Hominoidea superfamily of primates including the anthropoid apes (pongidae) and their extinct progenitors. The classification system of biological science includes the Hominidae (i.e. modern man and extinct ancestral and extinct relative forms) as a sub-group.

(fm18) Tool use and making in the immediate primate ancestors of hominids later developed into their more advanced forms in hominids. This, of course, becomes significant for the later co-operation, for language and the rise of consciousness in hominids.

(fm19) For example, as with the selection of skin colour according to ambient levels of ultraviolet light or density of body hair according to the ambient environmental temperatures. People in sunny climates tend to have more Melanin in their skin (darker skins) for protection against the mutagenic effects of ultraviolet light and people in cold climates more body hair for insulation against the cold. For example, a comparison of sub-saharan black Africans and white northern Europeans.

(fm20)The unity and interaction of biology, behaviour and the learning of skills.

(fm21) On the Origin of Species. Charles Darwin.

(fm22) The correlation between the size, complexity and organisation of nervous systems and the ability to learn new behaviours and skills.

(fm23) Neurological evolution. The evolution of nervous systems.

(fm24) The ‘selection’ of neurological variations at the molecular (biochemical) and physiological levels inseparable from behaviour and advantages conferred by it in the course of the life activity of animals.

(fm25) The evolution of the relationship between biology and behaviour in animals takes place on the ground of the specific activities of animals under their natural conditions of life. Ethology.

(fm26) Illustrations of this from primatology?

(fm27) If an ancestral primate learns and develops a new skill in its struggle to survive then this enriches its experience of its surrounding conditions of life and simultaneously alters its awareness of these surroundings.

(fm28) The close relationship between learning and instinct, their interaction, and mutuality.

(fm29) Examples of this from animal biology, primate biology and ethology.

(fm30) Non-Conscious Awareness of immediate surroundings and their impact and stimuli is the form of awareness found in animals not involving conceptualisation as opposed to the conscious awareness specific to humans. Non-conscious awareness underlies the general mode of learning in all animals. From insects which communicate with each other by means of Pheromones, for example, to the more advanced forms of communications and learning found in primates.

(fm31) The biochemical and physiological basis of the ‘fight or flight’ response in anthropoid apes (alarm, fear) is essentially the same as that in humans. Cortisol, Adrenaline, etc.

(fm32)The biochemical and physiological relationships between the neurological and the hormonal in the ‘fight or flight’ and other responses.

(fm33) How did instinct arise and evolve in animals, in their primaeval ancestors? At the dawn of life and afterwards?

(fm34) How far back does the ‘fight or flight’ response go? Reptiles? Therapsids, etc? This response, it seems to me, must be very ancient and

dating back many millions of years into the age of the dinosaurs and perhaps before.

(fm35) The different lineages and branches of the Hominidae.

(fm36) The modification and diversification of toolmaking and other skills.

(fm37) The ‘radiation’ of hominids into different regions of the planet and the resulting later emergence of different ‘sub-types’ of humans such as Sapiens, Neanderthals, Denisovans, Floriensis, Archaic Africans in central Africa, etc

(fm38) Studies in memory in contemporary primates.

 

Shaun May

October 2018

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Labour Process, Co-operation, Language, Consciousness, Psyche

Labour Process, Co-operation, Language, Consciousness, Psyche

Consciousness emerges as a socially necessary form of awareness out of the need to co-operate in the origination and development of the organisation and relations of the labour process of hominids. This is its ontological ground and mediating basis  The development of language and speech originate pre-conditionally and side by side with consciousness. The labour process in hominids necessarily involves social co-operation. This co-operation must involve the co-ordination of activities by means of intercommunication so that language, accordingly, asserts itself as a social necessity within the actual origination of the labour process itself. Language emerges because human beings must communicate with each other and speech – even in an emergent or rudimentary form – implies thought (consciousness or its beginnings). Language is externalised thought and conscious thought is internalised language. Practice (activity) necessarily gives rise to word and concept. In the beginning was the deed. From the point of their origination, word and concept mediate each other’s development and the totality of social activities. The need to co-operate and communicate in the labour process therefore gives birth to language and this, in its turn, necessitates the rise of consciousness itself and its development alongside and in relationship with language. Thenceforth, consciousness mediates social relationships and evolves with language within the context of changing socio-historical conditions.

The historic origination of consciousness is simultaneously the origination of the human psyche as a totality out of the non-conscious awareness of our animal primate ancestors. This period of transition took place over millions of years. The human psyche is not simply identical to consciousness. This psyche is more complex than mere consciousness alone. The rise of consciousness simultaneously engenders the unconscious as an intrinsic part of this psyche. Herein lies the fundamental distinction between consciousness and the psyche as a whole.  Consciousness is an integrated form of awareness in the life of the psyche as a whole but to identify consciousness per se as the psyche is incorrect and denies this complexity of the whole. Its life-process is qualitatively more complex than that of consciousness alone. The different aspects of the psyche must be considered in their relation to each other. In this way, the nature and function of each aspect is understood as being a part of, and intrinsic to, the life of the whole. Each aspect, function and facility affects and mediates the activities of all the others, constituting a psychic whole which is higher than a mere aggregation and ‘interaction’ of parts.

The relationship between instinct and conditioned learning found in the animal primate is transformed with the rise of consciousness. Originating consciousness transforms animal instinct into the human unconscious. In the course of this transformation, emerging consciousness establishes itself in dynamic relation to its psychic opposite (the unconscious) to which it has given rise in the course of the transforming of instinct by the rise of consciousness itself. Each – the conscious and the unconscious – therefore arise and evolve as mediating the life of each other and, in so doing, constituting the human psychic totality. The relation between instinct and learning found in ancestral primates is superseded with the rise of consciousness which gives rise to the higher relationships and content of the conscious and the unconscious within the human psyche as a whole.

The natural mode of life of ancestral primates is mediated – in the forms of interaction and relations which constitute it – by the synthesis of a conditioned learning and instinct which form the basic elements of the simple, non-conscious (pre-conscious) awareness of these ancestral animal primates. The origination of consciousness transforms the relationship between instinct and learning in the primate ancestors of humanity into the psychological relationship between the conscious and the unconscious. The origination of consciousness is therefore synonymous with the origination of the human psyche as a whole.

The unconscious is the realm of the human psyche which arose in the hominisation process as a result of the rise of consciousness and the supersedence of the instinctive capacities of humanity’s animal primate ancestors. The instinctive in these primate ancestors becomes transformed into the unconscious in humans in the course of the hominisation process with the rise of consciousness. The intermediation of the conscious and the unconscious becomes a fundamental dynamic in the evolution of the human psyche.

The conceptual content of the psyche does not originate in the unconscious but this content mediates, and is mediated by, the neurophysiology of the unconscious. For example, the interrelationship between thinking and feeling  involves the intermediation of the conscious and the unconscious (the interpenetration of the conceptual and non-conceptual).

The unconscious contains superseded within itself all those instinctive capacities formerly possessed by humanity’s primate ancestors. The unconscious is integrated into the total life of the human psyche so that these superseded (sublated) capacities are active in the life of this totality as a consequence of the origination and evolution of conscious awareness in the course of the hominisation process.

Is this relationship between the conscious and unconscious sides of the psyche an eternal feature of its structure and content? Or will this opposition be resolved into a higher synthesis in which both sides are sublated in the course of later social developments beyond the epoch of capital? Does consciousness have a ‘hidden’ psychohistorical role? To prepare the ground and conditions for the emergence of a higher order of the human psyche?

The transition between the animal and the human is the process of an aware yet non-conscious natural being becoming conscious of itself and of nature. A process of transition between the mode of life of the animal primate and the earliest modes of human existence. Reflection – i.e. thought consciously monitoring its own movement – is an exclusive property of the human psyche not found in animals or in higher primates. Animals are aware (sentient) but non-conscious and do not possess the capacity to reflect. For example, when an animal encounters its image in a mirror it merely sees the image of its physicality, itself as an object. When a human being looks into a mirror it observes not only a physicality but also the ‘me’ or ‘I’. For the animal there is no ‘I’ to which this physicality is intrinsic. ‘I-ness’ is a function of the reflective capacities of conscious beings. Consciousness itself, as distinguished from the simple awareness of animals, is a social product of the human brain embracing and incorporating within itself an awareness of the ‘self’ involving the capacity to reflect.

Animals are aware but, unlike humans, do not possess the capacity to reflect on the external world or their ‘inner world’. Humans possess the capacity to conceptually monitor the movement of their own thoughts and feeling. This capacity (self-consciousness, reflection, reflexive thinking) arises in the course of the transition from animal primate to human, developing and becoming richer and more elaborate in the inner complexity of its content, structure and relations with the unfolding of the socio-historical process. Human consciousness is demarcated from the simple, non-conscious awareness of the animal in both its structure and content (which in contradistinction to the animal is conceptual) and which, unlike in the animal, is reflexively involved with itself and thus internally dialogued (Vygotsky) in the process of its development.

Within the ‘internal dialogues’, the individual (the self) ‘converses’ and ‘communes’ with his/her own thinking and feeling. Individuals monitor the unfolding and progression of the conceptual content of their own thinking and feeling. Vygotsky further proposes that the ‘inner dialogues’ of consciousness are intrapsychological transpositions of the dialogues and social interactions between individuals. These interactions are psychologically internalised in the form of ‘inner dialogues’ thereby reflecting the social structure and content of the actual relations between human individuals. The social and the psychological are, within this conception, not separable.

This conception of ‘internal dialogue’ also forms an important element in our understanding of so-called ‘mental illness’, that is, in the psychogenesis and development of those mental states which the psychiatrists refer to as ‘psychotic’ or ‘schizophrenic’, etc. For example, the dissociation of one side of a dialogue from the other and the identification of one side (the ‘external other’) by the other side of the dialogue (the subject, the ‘I’) as coming from an external source outside of the thinking subject’s own mental process. For example, in what psychiatry refers to as schizophrenia, ‘hearing voices’, etc.

The learning-instinct relations and complexes of the pre-conscious, ancestral animal primate are adequate and necessary for the natural relationships of the modes of life of these primates but become inadequate and outmoded for the emerging social relationships of hominid and, later, human modes of life.  Accordingly, this form of awareness must be and is superseded (sublated) into the higher formed structures, relations and functions of the human psyche. As this psyche originates, it dichotomises into the unconscious (which contains sublated within itself the instinctive capacities of ancestral primates) and the conscious (which contains sublated within itself the learning capacities of these primates).

It was the emergence and development of the labour process which necessitated social co-operation and which, in its turn, gave rise to the need for language as a means of communication. These were the most fundamental conditions that formed the ground upon which the non-conscious awareness of the animal primate became transformed into the conscious awareness of the human beings. This was the essential transformative element which formed the active basis for the origination of the human psyche itself as a whole. The rise of consciousness transforms the non-conscious awareness of the animal into the human psyche. The basic ‘conscious-unconscious’ structure and relations of this psyche originate in the course of this transitional period.

As human consciousness originated, it became integrated with the neurological legacy inherited from our primate ancestors. For example, those neurological and biochemical processes which prepared the primate ancestors of hominids to counter threat or evade danger; mechanisms which are intrinsic to the mode of life and biology of all primates. This meant that the human psyche in the making integrated all those neurological, physiological and biochemical processes from its animal ancestry which were necessary for the functioning, development and survival of hominids at a definite stage in their evolution and under the conditions of the origination of this psyche. This was passed on in later developments with the emergence of human beings proper. This ‘integration’ simultaneously alters this animal legacy, rendering it ‘human’.

The human psyche is, therefore, a complex synthesis of the social and the biological. This is illustrated by human emotional states where, at a physiological level in the brain, they are correlated with definite neurological states which come and go with alterations in mood. The emotional life of the individual expresses the specific character of the particular social relationships of the individual in a given society at a definite stage in its historical development. But this does not deny the ‘neurological aspects’ which reflect these relations. Moreover, the psyche of each particular individual represents, in one form or another and no matter how unique it is in its specific characteristics, the general character of the human psyche of a given society formed directly under the conditions and influence of its prevailing social relations. This general representation in each individual does not exclude the accentuation of particular aspects of the psyche which are only over-developments of such aspects, e.g. introversion, extroversion, ‘psychopathy’, etc, due to the specificity of the history of the individual’s social experience and its peculiar psychological internalisation. Each individual, irrespective of his or her psychological nature, has been formed under and within the complexity of the prevailing social relations which are organic to and condition the character of all interpersonal relationships.

human beings become individuals only through the process of history 

[Marx. Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy. (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1993) p. 496. Notebook V.]

The particular uniqueness of each individual always embodies and expresses, in one way or another, the universal characteristics of the social relations and ‘social personality’ of the age. Each individual is a unique, and therefore differentiated, manifestation of these universalities and therefore expresses the universal relations of the age in and through the distinctness and particularity of their unique individuality.

A most (if not the most) fundamental question that we must address concerns the nature and quality of the personal subjective life of the human individual i.e. humans as ‘feeling’ beings.  Feeling is the eternal focal point around which the nature and quality of the subjective life of the individual revolves.

If I engage in activities alone or with other people which I find pleasing, pleasurable, enjoyable but my subjective experience of these activities merely serves to psychologically displace my own internal pain (mental, not directly physical) whether I am conscious of this or not, then these activities merely articulate the continuation of alienation in social relations. If I drink or drug myself because it drowns my sorrows then the ‘consolation’ which I may find in such activity is a faux consolation because it merely transmutes and expresses my alienation as an individual in a different guise. It does not transcend it but simply reaffirms it in a new form and therefore the existence of alienation as a continuing feature of social relations in general. It means that my ‘enjoyment’ is determined by and contaminated with my pain and therefore not enjoyment unmediated by this pain. Enjoyment which ceases to be mediated as such is not the crude ‘enjoyment’ as bourgeois man experiences it but of a totally different and qualitatively higher order. An enjoyment which only people freeing themselves from (or free of) the alienation of bourgeois society can truly experience.

How real people behave and did behave depends and always did depend on the historical conditions under which they lived 

[Engels. From the Preparatory Writings for Anti-Duhring. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol. 25. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1987) p. 605]

If, in societies beyond the epoch of capital, social relations no longer serve as a source of anxieties and fears, how would this transform interpersonal relationships and human behaviour in general? How would this transform the way people feel about themselves and their fellow men and women? Surely it would transform the whole of human life into a realm which we today in bourgeois society would find unrecognisable and totally ‘alien’?

If I have never experienced the anxieties, fears and alienation intrinsic to bourgeois relations then I can have no awareness of their presence or absence. I am a totally different individual to that formed by these relations. Indeed, I can have no concept of these experiences, and what they mean, because they have been superseded historically in the course of social development beyond the epoch of capital. A truly free human being can have no concept of freedom and is not aware of being free precisely because s/he is truly free.

It would mean the end of aggression and cruelty between human beings and a complete transformation in our relationship with both living and non-living Nature in all its manifold and beautiful creation. Moreover, would it not totally alter the whole interpersonal character of sexual relations and the actual subjective experience of joy and pleasure itself? And when the ‘artificial appetites’ [Marx] and desires created by bourgeois relations lose their grip on human relations? When the commodification of our desires and pleasures ends? These alien, reified and idealised ‘things of thought’ in the epoch of global capital?

There is an element of truth – when specifically re-contextualised socio-historically beyond its ‘ideological form’ in Buddhism – in the identification of ‘suffering’ and ‘desire’. How suffering breeds desire and desire contains suffering latent within itself. Yet impossible to transcend this relationship under the conditions of the current epoch. But in later epochs?

The seeking of pleasure motivated by pain and the disappearance of its realisation as the re-emergence and repositing of pain in the psyche. Pleasure as the negation of ‘pain’ and, simultaneously, as its reaffirmation in its opposite form. Pleasure and pain as the mother and offspring of each other mediated by desire? The continuous re-positing and reaffirmation of pain in its negation by pleasure and vice versa. Their dialectical movement into each other. The ‘fetishisation’ of pleasure and pain as ‘things of thought’ in the current epoch of bourgeois relations? When pleasure becomes a ‘thing of thought’ (desire) does not this relation contain within itself the ‘pain’ of its non-realisation. And, moreover, the ‘pain’ of its loss after its realisation?

our desires and pleasures spring from society; we measure them, therefore, by society and not by the objects which serve for their satisfaction.  Because they are of a social nature, they are of a relative nature

[Marx. Wage Labour and Capital, Marx-Engels Selected Works. Lawence and Wishart, London, 1973. p.83]

The need for consolation is only necessitated in and where human relationships are characterised by ‘loss’ and ‘suffering’. And if there is no longer any ‘loss’ or ‘suffering’, what then? If men no longer assert control and power over the lives of other men with all the coercion, threat, violence and aggression implied in such relations, how must this alter human relationships and their reflection in the psychology of people? An ‘unfettering’ of human potential in which humanity becomes free to socially develop its capacities without these hindrances, unrestricted by oppressive social relations and the fear engendered by them?

But what of the ‘fight or flight’ response inherited from our animal ancestors? This must and will be retained so it can be activated in response to real, imminent, extra-human threat to prepare people to respond to the presence of real danger in their relations with extra-human, natural conditions of life. But its presence in the social and interpersonal relationships between people will become redundant. Why? Because those relations and forms of behaviour [such as violence, abuse, aggression, threat, war, etc] which have mediated its activation in previous societies will have been transcended. With the advance of human knowledge, science and technology, even the possibilities of natural threats and disasters tend to increasingly diminish.

The psychological transformation of people starts to take place in the transitional period as capital is being progressively dislodged from the social metabolism. This is the coming-into-being of the higher communal individual, the ‘social individual’, the individual of the global ‘realm of freedom’. The realm where both private and state forms of property have been superseded and the new communal realm has established itself irreversibly on a global basis, developing and maturing on the social ground of its own self-created foundations. This is the realm of human beings no longer touched by the psychosocial legacies, in their various forms, of bourgeois relations and untainted by the memory of their impact and effects on people. When the very notion of ownership itself vanishes (because the Earth and the creations of human activity are truly without owners), this must serve as a liberating drive in the development of the human personality.

Shaun May

September 2018

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Studies in the Origination and Evolution of the Human Psyche : [1] Introduction

Studies in the Origination and Evolution of the Human Psyche 

[1] Introduction

The point proceeds towards a place which is its future, and leaves one which is its past; but what it has left behind is at the same time what it has still to reach: it has been already at the place which it is reaching. Its goal is the point which is its past

Hegel   Philosophy of Nature

It comes about that each step in the progress of further determination in advancing from the indeterminate beginning is also a rearward approach to it, so that two processes which at first may appear to be different (the regressive confirmation of the beginning and its progressive further determination) coincide and are the same.

Hegel   Science of Logic (Vol. 2)

 

The transition from the mode of life of ancestral animal primates to that of hominids, and later, human modes of life takes place on the basis of definite natural pre-conditions foremost amongst which is the associative behaviour of ancestral primates in their natural environment and their advanced ability – relative to the rest of the animal kingdom – to learn from their experience in the course of their interaction and relationship with each other and to their surroundings and to acquire and develop new skills for dealing with these surroundings. This learning in our primate ancestors involved the refinement of those skills that enabled ancestral primates to gain an edge in the struggle to survive (fm1) (fm2) (fm3) (fm4). In relation to contemporary primates, their social behaviour…

is keenly important for understanding primate adaptations and evolution. Because of the highly social nature of nonhuman primates, we must view natural groups, as well as individuals, as the adaptive units of the species. Primate young are born relatively immature; they need the protection and care afforded not only by their mother but also by the social group. The pattern of prolonged immaturity, coupled with a relatively large brain size, means that life in a primate social group provides many opportunities for learning. Social living places a premium on learning. Most of the primate behavioural repertoire is learned, resulting in substantial individual behavioural plasticity that allows flexibility in response to environmental challenges and gives the primate an evolutionary advantage, especially in changeable environments. Primates can, for example, respond to changing environmental conditions almost instantaneously by modifying their behaviour. This behavioural flexibility has relevance for understanding human evolution. To understand the habitat shift that occurred among our ancestors, we must be cognizant of the behavioural background of monkeys and apes. This successful habitat shift obviously involves behavioural plasticity, that is, the ability to adapt to new surroundings, and a constant curiosity leading to the acquisition of new traits to meet new environmental challenges, such as new foods and new predators. [1]

This learning capacity of the ancestral primate must be considered in order to form a starting point for understanding the origination of human society and therefore of the human psyche as a totality (fm5). Accordingly, the human psyche is not exclusively a product of social development but is the outcome of its entire prehistory of natural and social development. To put forward a ‘starting point’ would be to deny that this ‘entire development’ It is a complex synthesis of natural and socio-historical elements. It is a social product of the brain containing both its natural and social history superseded within itself. But this also applies to human sense perception of the world which is never a purely neurophysiological process but involves the thinking, active, cognising, feeling human subject consciously ‘experiencing’ the world (fm6). Mental life is an active, essential and intrinsic ingredient in this conscious human ‘experience’ of the world. In human sensation, an interaction of the neurophysiological and the psychological is always taking place. These inner relations of the human psyche express the unity of the social conditions of life of people (as manifest in the psychological) and the neurological substratum of the psyche itself.

The psyche is a product of the brain because without the living, functioning physiology of this organ, thinking is inconceivable. Different forms of damage to the brain and forms of poisoning invariably result in psychomotor, perceptual and cognitive disturbances and thought disturbances (fm7). This demonstrates that the human psyche has neurophysiological and neurochemical presuppositions which are not simply determined by the social conditions of existence. However, thought is also a social product of the brain because the conceptual content of human thought arises out of the history of humanity’s social being which is social activity (fm8). However…

Natural science, like philosophy, has hitherto entirely neglected the influence of men’s activity on their thought; both know only nature on the one hand and thought on the other. But it is precisely the alteration of nature by men not solely nature as such, which is the most essential and immediate basis of human thought, and it is in the measure that man has learned to change nature that his intelligence has increased. The naturalistic conception of history…… as if nature exclusively reacts on man, and natural conditions everywhere exclusively determined his historical development is therefore one-sided and forgets that man also reacts on nature, changing it and creating new conditions of existence for himself. [2]

Indeed the physiology of the primate brain itself undergoes changes with the transition from ancestral primate to hominid. It not only becomes larger. It is changed qualitatively, becoming more complex (fm9). It has been found, from a study of brain endocasts, that…

the increase in brain size between australopithecines and early Homo increased the number of folds in all parts of the cerebral cortex. These new folds may simply be an effect of this overall size increase rather than a specific change. These hominids may have been the first to use Broca’s area for language but endocasts alone are not enough to prove it [3]

Broca’s area is that part of the human brain that is necessary for the development of language. It is a scientific (perhaps we might say empirical) reservation in the extreme to postulate that such quantitative changes might take place without any corresponding (if only minor yet significant) qualitative changes in the degree of complexity of the brain resulting from these developments. Even if these changes involved a mere increase in the quantity of neural interconnections and networking, only the most untheoretical and scientistic of palaeoanthropologists might deny the possibility of qualitative changes as the the brain of early Homo developed out of its australopithecine predecessors.

Hominids begin to develop the ability to think through the use of concepts i.e. humans in the making develop consciousness which emerges in the transition to, and further onward social development of, hominid modes of life. Attempts to explain the origins of the human psyche on biological grounds alone are always deficient. Although it sometimes denies an exclusively biologistic approach to human psychological evolution, the much vaunted, fashionable and recently mushroomed area of ‘Evolutionary Psychology’ does emphasise the biological over the social and, in so doing, tends to neglect the centrality of social relations in the evolution of the psyche (fm10). According to Mithen, two of the ‘leading lights’ of Evolutionary Psychology (Cosmides & Tooby)…

argue that we can only understand the nature of the modern mind by viewing it as a product of biological evolution. The starting point for this argument is that the mind is a complex, functional structure that could not have arisen by chance. If we are willing to ignore the possibility of divine intervention, the only process by which such complexity could have arisen is evolution by natural selection. In this regard, C & T treat the mind as one treats any other organ of the body – it is an evolved mechanism which has been constructed and adjusted in response to the selective pressures faced by our species during its evolutionary history  […]  C & T argue that the mind consists of a Swiss army knife with a great many, highly specialised blades; in other words it is composed of multiple mental modules. Each of these blades/modules has been designed by natural selection to cope with one specific adaptive problem faced by hunter-gatherers during our past [4]

Firstly, let us acknowledge the elements of truth in this description. Only those completely ignorant of evolutionary theory might deny the importance of the struggle for existence, genetic mutation, phenotypic variation and natural selection in the origination and development of human neurology out of those neurological structures of its many ancestral progenitors. After all, the human psyche is inconceivable without that material organ known as the brain and the brain as a biological organ has an evolutionary prehistory of many millions of years. And, of course, by implication, chance alone cannot account for the origination of this psyche. However, to view the “modern mind” itself within this biologistic framework is to deny its intrinsic social nature i.e. that the biological is superseded (but not annihilated) within its social character. Human beings learn to think only by ‘being in society’ and what is ‘mind’ without thinking? The ‘Swiss army knife’ model with ‘multiple mental modules’ is a mechanistic conception in the extreme. It is most fitting to the most formalistic and positivistic modes of thinking of some scientists who do, indeed, conceptualise the human psyche as just ‘any other organ’ for empirical study.  Contrast this with Hegel’s conception (writing at the beginning of the nineteenth century) of ‘mind’ in which he develops the thesis that..

our own sense of the mind’s living unity naturally protests against any attempt to break it up into different faculties, forces or, what comes to the same thing, activities conceived as independent of each other [5]

Scientific theories which deal with the nature of living matter can only be applied, without qualification, to formations which are exclusively biological in character. Likewise, the application of chemical theory and technique in order to understand living matter can only be made on the basis of the premise that living systems are not simply a ‘complex mixture of chemicals’ but represent a qualitatively different, more complex form of organisation of matter.  Therefore, speaking generally, the application of the body of knowledge and methods of a ‘lower’ sphere of matter (e.g. physics or chemistry) to the material and relational complexities of a ‘higher’ (e.g. biology or social relations) sphere, in order to gain knowledge of it, can only be made under specific conditions and with qualifications which take into account the distinct organisation and characteristics of the ‘higher’ formation which is being investigated (fm11). Without these qualifications, scientific thinking invariably falls into reductionism and thereby steps into a highly circumscribed, limited mode of ‘scientific’ investigation. It is a mode which is more abstract, emptier in its content, more divorced from the truth of its subject. If this is so much so in the relation between the chemical and the biological, in the study of human culture the effects are even more marked and profound. Richard Jones, in his study on reductionism, writes that…

When a reductionist says “A is really only B” the movement is always towards smaller parts or more general realities. Reductionists “reduce the more valuable to the less valuable, the more meaningful to the less meaningful”, and never the other way around. The more individual and special is devalued and absorbed into something broader. Simply put: things are less than they seem. If things are reducible to a reality below the surface, then much of human life loses its value. The effect on our lives is to undercut the reality of what is specific to being human – consciousness, free will, personhood, our cultural relations. What seemed special about humans is dissolved into nothing but lifeless and soulless matter. [6]

Therefore to understand the human psyche as a totality it is insufficient to focus exclusively on its biological side. Its origins and development as both product and producer of social conditions and relations that have themselves come into being historically need to be considered.

Psyche – an intrinsic and essential part of human social development – is not merely ‘its own result’ as Hegel maintained (fm12). However, this latter assertion contains an element of truth. Thinking human beings are simultaneously both producers and products of history. In the course of the development of human society…

Not only do the objective conditions change in the act of reproduction, e.g. the village becomes a town, the wilderness a cleared field, etc, but the producers change too, in that they bring out new qualities in themselves, develop themselves in production, transform themselves, develop new powers and ideas, new modes of intercourse, new needs and new language. [7]

Consciously-acting humans create the conditions that form the ground for the development of consciousness (fm13). Human activity and the social relations corresponding to these forms of activity become mediated by definite, historically-determined forms of consciousness. This implies that ‘human nature’ is mutable and subject to transformation in the course of people’s activities over the ages.

This contrasts with the conception in Evolutionary Psychology of an eternal basis of ‘human nature’ (fm14) which has been (since the dawn of humanity) and will be for all time and places. Moreover, we see in the general approach of Evolutionary Psychology an ingrained scientism displayed in reductionist and functionalist forms [8]. The ‘modular’ conception of ‘mind’, which characterises Evolutionary Psychology, contrasts with relatively recent developments in the neurosciences in which…

..the insight is growing that the brain does not consist of a collection of circumscribed areas, responsible for highly specific cognitive functions. Rather we should think in terms of “interlocked neuronal (functional) networks” in which for the execution of particular functions certain circumscribed areas may be necessary, but not sufficient. To quote a statement by Lopez da Silva (2000, p29) “Even today, a general tendency is to think that because a certain area has a given anatomical name, it should correspond to one function, i.e. one anatomical name = one cognitive function!”. In Lopez da Silva’s opinion a strict correspondence might be true for a very few simple functions, but this certainly does not hold in general [9]

Evolutionary Psychology ‘explains’ social relations and behaviour on the basis of the principles of Darwinian evolution (fm15) and, more specifically on the basis of so-called “adaptation” [10]. However, such notions of “adaptation” – which are more appropriate to the evolution of animals alone and not the more complex history of humanity  –  do not grasp the human personality as something that has come into being and has been formed under the direct influence of, and shaped by, the forces of the history of human society through time and place; something that is, and must be, subject to further alteration and transformations as human society evolves. In other words, such notions which we find in Evolutionary Psychology convey the idea that fundamental change in social relations can never fndamentally alter “human nature”. In other words, all the major features, behaviour and characteristics of the social relations and mental life of contemporary human life – which are explained by Evolutionary Psychology through the conception of “adaptation” – are essentially insurmountable. Humanity can revolutionise its social conditions of life, but must, insists Evolutionary Psychology, continue to live with social relations which are manifestations of evolution’s ‘hardwired’ ‘computer programming’ of the human brain. Revolutionise as much as you like but humanity’s fate is sealed. In other words, such notions which we find in Evolutionary Psychology convey the idea that fundamental change in social relations can never alter ‘fundamental human nature’ (fm16). The religious undertones and undercurrents are palpable. Man is competitive, selfish, greedy, possessive, brutish, homicidal, evil and nasty. He is ‘hardwired’ to be so. Live with it. Or turn to God for consolation.

‘Human nature’, like the precepts that seek to absolutise it, is subject to change and transformation. Changing social relations (changed by thinking-acting human beings) and conditions alter social consciousness so that even ethical ideas become reformed and adapted to the new conditions and relations. Moralities – which are not ‘installed’ by evolution, natural selection and ‘adaptation’ into human beings like ‘computer programmes’ or ‘software’ into a ‘hard drive’ –  become transformed so that what was understood as ‘moral’ in one period appears as ‘immoral’ in the succeeding one and vice versa.

Social development is continuously shifting the ground from underneath prevailing forms and established systems of morality (fm17). In this historical flux, categorical imperatives and absolutes in the realm of ethics are revealed to be relative forms which begin to become transformed or even vanish completely as new social relations eclipse the old, necessitating the emergence of new forms of morality which serve to justify and perpetuate the establishment of the new social relations in opposition to the old.  Likewise, the forms of human social behaviour are not immutable aspects of human relationships. Rather.. 

How real people behave and did behave depends and always did depend on the historical conditions under which they lived. [11]

The way ‘real people behave’ is no more eternal than the social relations and conditions that engender their forms of behaviour.  If, for example, the social and historic conditions which form the mediating ground and give rise to wars between people are superseded, then men will no longer engage in those forms of conflictual behaviour which we see on our TV screens every day in the epoch of capital. The gun will disappear to be melted down into and truly replaced by the ploughshare. The human personality – at different times, periods and places in human history – is an organic part of the unfolding of the historical process and this is reflected in the changing conceptual content of the human psyche (fm18) so that…

socio-historical shifts not only introduce new content into the mental world of human beings; they also create new forms of activity and new structures of cognitive functioning. They advance human consciousness to new levels. [12]

Therefore even…

higher cognitive activities remain socio-historical in nature, and that the structure of mental activity – not just the specific content but also the general forms basic to all cognitive processes – change in the course of historical development. [13]

 

Next Section : Pre-Conditions in the Modes of Life and Learning Capacities of Ancestral Primates

 

References

(given in square brackets thus [  ] )

[1] McKee, J.K. et al. Understanding Human Evolution. (5th Edn). (Pearson Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2005) pp.90-91

[2] Engels, F.  Dialectics of Nature.  Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol 25. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1987) p.511.

[3] Deacon, T.W. The Human Brain, chapter 3.2 in  The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution. Jones, S., Martin, R., and Pilbeam, D. (eds) (Cambridge University Press, 1995)

[4] Mithen, S. The Prehistory of the Mind : A Search for the Origins of Art, Religion and Science (London, Phoenix, Orion Books, 1998) pp. 42-43

[5] Hegel, G.W.F.  Philosophy of Mind. (Clarendon, Oxford, 1971) p.4

[6] Jones, R.H. Reductionism. Analysis and the Fullness of Reality (Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Bucknell University Press, 2000) pp.14-15

[7] Marx. Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy. Notebook V. (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1993) p.494.

[8] See, for example, Evolutionary Psychology’s general conception of ‘human nature’ in Falger, V.S.E. Evolutionary World Politics: The Biological Foundations of International Relations in Evolutionary Interpretations of World Politics. Thompson, W.R. (ed) (Routledge, 2001) p.36

[9] Kalverboer, A.F. and  Gramsbergen, A. Brain-Behaviour Relationships in the Human – Core Issues in Handbook of Brain and Behaviour in Human Development. Kalverboer, A.F. and Gramsberger, A. (eds). (Springer, 2001) p.8

[10] See, as an example of this conception, Barkow, J.H., Cosmides, L. and Tooby, J. The Adapted Mind. Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture. (Oxford University Press US, Cary, NC, 1992)

[11] Engels.  From the Preparatory Writings for Anti-Duhring.  Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol. 25. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1987) p.605

[12] Luria, A.R. Cognitive Development: Its Cultural and Social Foundations (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1976) p.163.

[13] Ibid, p.8

 

Footnotes and Memoranda (fm)

(given in brackets thus (fm   ) )

 

(fm1) Studies in Paleoanthropology

(fm2) Studies in Primatology

(fm3) Hominid. Any member of the Hominidae including modern man and the extinct hominid ancestors or relatives of mankind e.g. Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, Homo Heidelbergensis, and Homo Neanderthalensis. Modern man (Homo Sapiens Sapiens) is the only extant species of the Hominidae. Recent discoveries have shown that the ‘radiation’ of hominids out of Africa into Asia and Europe also produced other human types such as the ‘Denisovans’ and ‘Floriensis’ besides Neanderthals. Also the existence of a distinct type of human (‘Archaic Africans’) in central Africa, differentiated from modern man, has also been discovered by researches in Genetics and Molecular Biology. It is thought that these different types sometimes came into contact, mixed and interbred as evidenced by the presence of specific DNA markers found in the modern human genome. The remains of more types of humans, resulting from the radiation and evolution of Hominids out of Africa, are possibly waiting to be discovered across the globe.

(fm4) Primates. The order of mammals that includes the prosimians*, monkeys, apes and extinct animal primate ancestors of hominids and of contemporary animal primates. The primates possess flexible hands with opposable digits which are necessary for dexterity. They have stereoscopic vision and developed brains which are structured and differentiated into interrelating parts performing a diversity of complex functions. Most primates are arboreal and anatomically unspecialised. They generally inhabit warm climates. The behavioural organisation and relations of the different species within the order are characterised by a trend of increasing complexity and increasing capacity to learn. (*Prosimians. The lower sub-order of primates (and their extinct primate ancestors) which includes the lemurs, tree shrews, tarsiers and lorises.)

(fm5) Learning. The process of acquiring and developing knowledge, skills, abilities or novel forms of behaviour found in animals and raised to the cognitive level of consciousness and reflexive thinking (self-consciousness) in humanity. A highly developed capacity in primates in general. Conditioned knowledge is knowledge acquired by primates, and animals in general, in the course of their interactions (experience) with their conditions of life throughout their lifetime.

(fm6)  Interaction of the psychological and neurological in sensation; role of psychological factors in sense perception.

(fm7) How brain injury impacts cognition/perception.

(fm8) Marx and Engels on the relationship between Thinking and Being

(fm9) Changes in the size and complexity of the brain in the transition from ancestral animal primates to hominids and humans.

(fm10) The conception of the origins of the human psyche, its evolution and character on the basis of Evolutionary Biological Theory alone gives this conception in ‘Evolutionary Psychology’ its flawed and faux character. Bogus pseudoscience.

(fm11) Biopoiesis : the origins of life. Life is more, a qualitatively higher sphere of nature, than a mere complex mixture of chemicals. The biological is not simply identical and ‘reducible’ to the chemical no matter how complex the latter may be.

(fm12) Hegel – Philosophy of Mind (Encyclopaedia)

(fm13) Marx and Engels – The German Ideology and Theses on Feuerbach.

(fm14) The ‘ Evpsychies’ ‘ conception of an ‘eternal human nature’ based on their scientistic mis-extrapolations of Bioevolutionary Theory.

(fm15) See Barkow, Cosmides and Tooby. Reference [10]

(fm16) Ditto. See Barkow, Cosmides and Tooby. Reference [10]

(fm17) How social transformation changes moral conceptions and is, indeed, motivated by them.

(fm18) Luria and Vygotsky : Conceptions alter with socio-historical ‘shifts’. But this also applies to ‘mental structures’ and relations as well. This opens the path to the real social evolution of the human psyche in the ages beyond the capital relation.

Shaun May

September 2018

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Children in the Family and in the Commune

Children in the Family and in the Commune

In his work The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Frederick Engels traces the origins and historical development of the different forms of the family. The evolution of its later forms, especially the monogamian patriarchal forms, is closely connected to the development of private property. Engels summarises the relationship between production, the family, private property and the state in the preface to the first edition of the text… 

According to the materialist conception, the determining factor in history is, in the final instance, the production and reproduction of immediate life. This again, is of a twofold character: on the one side the production of the means of existence, of food, clothing and shelter and the tools necessary for that production; on the other side, the production of human beings themselves, the propagation of the species. The social organisation under which the people of a particular historical epoch and a particular country live is determined by both kinds of production: by the stage of development of labour on the one hand and of the family on the other. The lower the development of labour and the more limited the amount of its products, and consequently, the more limited also the wealth of the society, the more the social order is found to be dominated by kinship groups. However, within this structure of society based on kinship groups the productivity of labour increasingly develops, and with it private property and exchange, differences of wealth, the possibility of utilising the labour power of others, and hence the basis of class antagonisms: new social elements, which in the course of generations strive to adapt the old social order to the new conditions, until at last their incompatibility brings about a complete upheaval. In the collision of the newly developed social classes, the old society founded on kinship groups is broken up. In its place appears a new society, with its control centred in the state, the subordinate units of which are no longer kinship associations, but local associations; a society in which the system of the family is completely dominated by the system of property, and in which there now freely develops those class antagonisms and class struggles that have hitherto formed the content of all written history. (emphasis in the original)

(Engels. F., The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. Preface to the First Edition. Penguin, 1985. pp.35-36)

The family in its earlier forms foreshadows the rise of private property and in its later forms becomes an intrinsic part of the different social systems of private property. Engels traces the origins of the monogamian nuclear family in previous forms of the family, reaching its latest stage of development in bourgeois society. Today, under the impact of the unfolding of the contradictions and crisis of the capital system, we are witnessing the break up of the family, its widespread dissolution as the traditional unit for ‘the propagation of the species’. Millions across the globe are now living alone or in ‘experimental communities’ which lie outside the traditional structure and orbit of the nuclear family. In the United States and Western Europe the so-called ‘extended family’ is more or less extinct. The internal conflicts which are shaking the family unit today reflect and are part of the wider and deeper crisis of the whole capital system across the world. All this, of course, is having repercussions for children, their development, lives and welfare. In Europe and North America, the number of children ‘taken into care’, that is, under the guardianship and supervision of the state power, is increasing every year. This, in itself, indicates that the nuclear family is in many instances an unsuitable place within which to rear children.

The life of the child in the typical nuclear family today (parents and children) and its wider life in society as a whole make up the two sides of the conflict between the child’s private conditions of life and its wider social conditions of life. In bourgeois society, the psychological development of the child is centred in the family, that is, within the social arena where its physical and other needs are putatively met. Not exclusively so, of course, with the profound encroachment of the ‘outside’ into the ‘family lives’ of children. However, the nuclear family is the social medium within which children form their earliest, most significant psychological attachments and dependencies.  The establishment, interplay and development of these attachments and dependencies form and condition the psychological content and conflicts of the inner relationships of the nuclear family.

The socio-economic conditions and parameters which prevail in capitalist society necessitate, maintain and encourage the continuation of the inner relationships of the nuclear family and their inherent contradictions. However, at the same time, these same socio-economic conditions, in the course of their development, create the basis for the disintegration of the nuclear family. This is especially the case today with the unfolding of capital’s structural crisis which must have the most profound impact on the family institution as it intensifies.

The conflicts between the ‘public’ lives of individuals and their ‘private’ lives within the exclusive coterie of the nuclear family can only subsist under conditions of social alienation. This separation between the ‘private’ world of the individual and the individual’s ‘public’ role in society is a function of the rise and evolution of private property and not something inherently human. Marx notes that…

Individuals have always proceeded from themselves but of course from themselves within their given historical conditions and relations, not from the “pure” individual in the sense of the ideologists. But in the course of historical development, and previously through the fact that within the division of labour social relations inevitably take on an independent existence, there appears a cleavage in the life of each individual, insofar as it is personal and insofar as it is determined by some branch of labour and the conditions pertaining to it. 

(Marx. The German Ideology. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol 5. Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1976.  p.78) 

This social ‘cleavage’ in the life of people is reflected in the conflicts within their internal psychological worlds. For example, in the form of the relationship between the public persona of the individual on the one hand (embracing occupational/professional relationships, etc) and the inner egoism of the private world of thought and feeling of the same individual on the other hand.

Such antagonisms between the private and public sides of people’s lives are necessitated, cultivated and perpetuated by the social relations of the capital system itself which serve to ‘fragment the personality’ of the individual in his or her personal relationships. This social process of splitting the human personality into a ‘divided self’, under the conditions of alienation in the age of capital, commences very early in childhood. This, for example, can be seen in the problems and conflicts which emerge in disaffected children within the school system.

The development of children within the structures of the nuclear family takes place within a microsystem of self-enclosed, inward looking, socially claustrophobic relationships which today are displaying a tendency towards rapid break down, often very soon after they have been established. This itself is a manifestation of the unstoppable invasion of social crisis directly into the very depths and heart of the nuclear family. The dissolution of the nuclear family is a tendency of social development in the age of capital’s structural crisis.

The rearing of children takes place on an entirely different (indeed opposite) social foundation in the commune. The fundamental precondition for this altered way of nurturing children is the abolition of private property. The very notion of property disappears with the negation of private property. Those human characteristics which are intrinsically associated with the rule of private property, such as greed, acquisitiveness, possessiveness, etc, in both things and personal relationships, gradually disappear. Human relationships become free of their psychological effects. This means that children are no longer seen as ‘the children’ of specific individuals but are reared within the social conditions, and through the gregarious social relationships, of the commune. This tends to resolve and abolish the conflict between the private and public sides of the lives of children. Children become ‘social individuals’ as opposed to infantile versions of the ‘private individual’ of later adult existence in the age of capital and commodity production.

Children become ‘the children’ of the whole commune. They are reared by the whole commune as the relationships which characterise the internal structure of the nuclear family disappear with the evolution of the commune on the basis of its own self-created foundations. Of course, all this is anathema to the ideology of the bourgeois, nuclear family. It would mean that biological parents cease to have the same degree of social significance which they have for ‘their’ children reared within the monogamous nuclear family. Every adult in the commune becomes the social ‘parent’ (guardian) of each and every child. All children see each other as ‘brothers and sisters’  Hence, the very notions of ‘parent’, ‘brother’, ‘sister’, ‘son’ ‘daughter’, etc, which express the narrow social relationships of the nuclear family will vanish. Child-adult relationships become transformed in the commune where biological parentage does not have or confer any special, exclusive social role or privilege upon these adults. The child is reared by the whole commune and grows to maturity without any notions of ‘my family’, ‘my mother’, ‘my father’, etc. The narrow, exclusive mode of rearing children in bourgeois society is superseded. The socially claustrophobic way of bringing children to maturity within the nuclear family ends. Children will be safe to wander under adult supervision, to inquire and be educated by many, to stay and live in the different locations of the planet, within communal relations in which they are completely safe, cared for and nurtured in their personal development by each and all.

These contrasting ways of rearing children relates to what Marx meant when he wrote that… 

the ability of children to develop depends on the development of their parents and that all this crippling under existing social relations has arisen historically, and in the same way can be abolished again in the course of historical development. Even naturally evolved differences within the species, such as racial differences, etc,…can and must be abolished in the course of historical development. 

(Marx, The German Ideology. p.425) 

The psychology and behaviour of children is a sensitive indicator of the general character of the social relations of the epoch. Vygotsky proposed that the development of the individual involves the psychological assimilation of the dominant social relationships and modes of behaviour. Specifically, relative to child development, he writes that…

Any function in the child’s cultural development appears on the stage twice, on two planes, first on the social plane and then on the psychological; first between people as an interpsychological category, and then inside the child, as an intrapsychological. This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory and to the formation of concepts. The actual relations between human individuals underlie all the higher functions.

[Vygotsky, L.S. Development of Higher Mental Functions. Psychological Research in the U.S.S.R. (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1966) pp.44-45.]

This implies that children’s subjective experience of people and the world (how they think and feel about each other and themselves) is largely conditioned by the psychological internalisation of the social relationships within which they are reared.

The maturation of children in the commune outside the social relations of the nuclear family facilitates a higher degree of personal independence in children than can ever exist in bourgeois society. This accords with the human freedom that necessarily results from the establishment and development of classless, communal social relations beyond the epoch of capital.

The dependencies and attachments (‘family ties’) which characterise the nuclear family of bourgeois society must disappear with it as a social formation. The abolition of private property and the evolution of the commune forms the social basis for the dissolution of the nuclear family. People’s needs become unconditionally guaranteed (‘to each according to their needs’) and attainable outside the bounds and parameters of the traditional social unit of the nuclear family. It becomes historically redundant and obsolete as a social structure.

If the needs of children in the complete sense of the term (and not simply material needs like food, shelter, clothing, etc) are unconditionally guaranteed by society as a whole, then this must further serve to dissolve the traditional ties of the nuclear family based on the existence of private property. This must also transform children subjectively in terms of their internal psychological world and in their relations with each other and adults. For children, as with adults, it is only within the commune that each individual has…. 

the means of cultivating his gifts in all directions; hence personal freedom becomes possible only within the community. In previous substitutes for the community, in the state, etc, personal freedom has existed only for the individuals who developed under the conditions of the ruling class, and only insofar as they were individuals of this class. The illusory community in which individuals have up till now combined always took on an independent existence in relation to them, and since it was the combination of one class over against another, it was at the same time for the oppressed class not only a completely illusory community, but a new fetter as well. In the real community the individuals obtain their freedom in and through their association. 

(Marx. The German Ideology. p.78)

Shaun May

September 2018

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Art in the Commune

Art in the Commune

Marx writes that the ‘narrowness’ of the ‘professional development’ of the artist expresses ‘his dependence on the division of labour’. Ultimately, the ‘exclusive’ character of Art is a function of this division of labour and is an expression of the fact that society continues to be divided into opposed classes.  Art remains under the sway of these class relations with their division of labour and, in its completeness and diversity as an activity, is essentially inaccessible to the overwhelming majority of people.

This social appropriation and monopolisation of Art takes place on the basis of, and is motivated by, the economic and cultural conditions of bourgeois society, intrinsic to which are its educational systems and institutions. The division of labour is a necessary feature of the organisation of bourgeois society in contradistinction to later post-capital, classless societies where the separation between manual and mental forms of labour is superseded with the end of class relations. 

Art, in particular, becomes an integrated part of these newly-posited social relationships in the commune. It becomes intrinsic to the life of each and every individual and not something alien or distinct from this life. Art is not identified or distinguished as a separate or distinct sphere of human activity as it is in bourgeois society. The social appropriation of Art in bourgeois society – its transference (estrangement) into and monopoly in the hands of specific social strata – is overcome in the commune. Under capitalism, Art is a medium through which the alienation of humanity is and can be expressed and, at the same time, a means of protesting (sometimes unconsciously) against those social conditions which necessarily produce human alienation in its different forms.

In bourgeois society – where the division of labour fragments labour into different manual and mental forms – Art itself becomes a distinctive sphere of human activity which is a sphere of activity monopolised and controlled by distinct social strata, groups or even ‘talented’ individuals. Thus, in The German Ideology, Marx writes that….

The exclusive concentration of artistic talent in particular individuals, and its suppression in the broad mass which is bound up with this, is a consequence of the division of labour. Even if in certain social conditions, everyone were an excellent painter, that would by no means exclude the possibility of each of them being also an original painter…..with a communist organisation of society, there disappears the subordination of the artist to local and national narrowness, which arises entirely from the division of labour, and also the subordination of the individual to some definite art, making him exclusively a painter, sculptor, etc; the very name amply expresses the narrowness of his professional development and his dependence on the division of labour. In a communist society there are no painters but only people who engage in painting among other activities. 

(Marx. The German Ideology. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol 5. Lawrence and Wishart, London,.1976. p.394)

Every individual in the commune will be artistic without being an ‘artist’. There is art but there are no ‘artists’.  Art becomes an expression of the free life of humanity in the commune and integral to its development, unconditioned by the ‘enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour’.

 (Marx. Critique of the Gotha Programme. Marx-Engels Selected Works. Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1973. p.320)

Shaun May

September 2018

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

On the State Power of Capital

On the State Power of Capital

The tribal communities of prehistory lived without any alien state power directing their lives. The social cohesion, solidarity and interests of the community as a whole were maintained by its communal activity and control which produced its material needs and served in its struggle to survive the impact of its natural conditions of life or in its battles with other tribes or peoples e.g. during disputes, war, etc. These forms of social control existed in order to facilitate the survival and propagation of a community as a whole; to defend the material interests of the whole community against any natural or human encroachments that threatened its welfare.

The proposition that forms of social control predated class societies may seem to be without any social logic. For, after all, were not the earliest human societies without private ownership in land, and based on an egalitarian association and a common access to the fruits of nature and human labour? These early societies – without class structure and class relations – have often been conceptualised as being without forms of social control. However, the primeval character of the humanity-nature relationship at this early stage of development necessitated social consensus amongst people. This ‘consensus’ had to be arrived at and agreed by the group as a whole in order for it to survive and manage its affairs. Intrinsic to this consensus were forms of social control which furthered the social cohesion of communities in their daily struggle to survive. Consensus was arrived at by means of the popular democracy of these communities. It is only later, in class societies, that social control becomes institutionalised in the form of the state which embodies and maintains the interests of a ruling class in opposition to those of the subjugated class or classes.

The rise of private property – reflected in the rise of class societies – transforms the nature of social control from actually representing the general popular interest in tribal society to only appearing to do so in class societies. The actuality of class rule in the latter societies means that the forms of social control must, inevitably and ultimately, represent and serve the interests of the ruling class. The need for state power and control over society only arises at that point in human history where the communes of prehistory begin to socially dichotomise, to fragment and split up, into opposed classes. This commences as a determinate historical process when the productivity of labour arrives at that point where a surplus product over and above the immediate needs of the community has been produced.

This production of a surplus is necessarily accompanied by the division of labour into manual and mental forms and becomes manifest in the rise of an elected, and then later hereditary, priesthood out of the egalitarian relations of the commune. The origination of hereditary priesthoods is the first historical symptom that the ancient communal relations have started to break up and the transition to the new forms of class society with their state structures has commenced. These state structures arise, are established and develop historically on the basis of definite social relations (slave, feudal, bourgeois, etc) and are reproduced and perpetuated as the highest political embodiment of the interests of the ruling class of the epoch.

In the epoch of capital, the state power not only defends and justifies the continuing hegemony of the ruling capitalist class. In so doing, it performs a trick of history, by asserting itself as the representative of ‘society’ in general. In defending the interests of its class, it defends and legitimises its own existence as the ‘general social interest’. This phenomenological presentation serves to conceal the class character of the state power itself. All state power is the direct political articulation of the interests of the ruling class of the day. The state power is the political power of the ruling class. The important role and power of ideology is intrinsic to this process of class domination. And, in this respect, the state power of capital itself ideologically presents itself as the highest representation of the abstract ‘general social interest’ which serves to disguise the true articulation of class interest.

Accordingly, the state power of capital, whilst appearing to represent the ‘general interest’, in essence really functions to guard the particular interests of the class of the owners of big capital. This state form of class rule is presented as a social ‘consensus’ which dresses itself in the ‘rule of law’. This, in turn, serves to mask the reality of class rule in a veil of legalistic and ideological forms. These ideological aspects are of central importance which facilitate the capitalist class to legitimise its reign over society. Today, this is especially the case through its mass media which is owned and controlled by this ruling capitalist class and its servants in the state power. The reality of class rule is presented as a social consensus.

Through its ownership and control of the means of production and the state power, the capitalist class controls the social process of the production and realisation of the material means of life. Its mass media plays an indispensable role in this whole process of social control. This ownership and control of the whole social metabolism by capital becomes, with social development, institutionalised in the form of the state. This state of affairs becomes backed up by systems and forms of ideology, serving to maintain the grip of the ruling class on the whole social metabolic process.

An apparent consensus attempts to hide the real class nature of social relations thus enabling the ruling class to legitimise its reign. Ideology arises and is developed historically and specifically for this purpose. The emergence and development of an ideology corresponds to and expresses the material appropriation of the means of production by a given class i.e. the struggle of a caste or class for social power and hegemony based on its ownership and/or control of the means of production. The evolution of class society through its different phases of development modifies the forms of social control and their ideological expression so that they correspond to and represent the interests of a class in the ascendant or in power.

All societies with class or caste hierarchies throughout human history have always created state structures in one form or another to maintain the social interests of the ruling class or caste. The ruling class or caste of the day, and its state power, have owned and/or controlled the means of life and, in so doing, have been able to determine the survival or extinction of individuals or whole peoples. This has always been supported by ideology. ‘The ruling ideas of the day are those of the ruling class’ (Marx)

In class societies, control is exerted and reinforced by the ruling class through its ideological dominance and state institutions which are its ideology and institutions. Thus, in the historical development of the class struggle, opposed ideological positions function as representations and social expressions of contending class interests. They become a means of maintaining or abolishing the rule of a given class, of fighting out the class struggle to a standstill or towards the abolition of the reign of the old ruling class and its replacement with the new. Contrarily, in the communal relations of pre-class societies, ideology served as a medium within and through which the social integrity and solidarity of the commune was maintained in opposition to the encroachments of other peoples (e.g. tribal land use, rights, etc) and in the commune’s struggle to survive against the hostile forces of nature. In class societies, ideology (including morality) serves an indispensable role and function in the class struggle.

The state power of capital exists to maintain the rule of capital in the reproduction of the whole social metabolism. Its own existence as a power is conditional on the maintenance of this form of social reproduction which, as Istvan Meszaros writes, is becoming increasingly more destructive of nature and humanity as its endogenous ‘structural crisis’ unfolds and intensifies. The state power of capital functions politically and militarily to ‘maintain order’. This is the primary, ‘default’ role of the police and armed forces : for ‘internal control and repression’ and not for ‘external and foreign wars’ which is the usual myth and deceit peddled by the ideologues of capital and its media mouthpieces and chatterboxes. The state power of capital does not simply ‘administer’ the rule of one class over another through its government bureaucracies but actually maintains class rule by means of threat, violence, deceit and coercion.

A vital role of the state power of capital is to maintain the proletariat in a state of economic dependency on capital. In this respect, it supplements the direct, socio-economic role of capital itself within the working and turnover of the social metabolism. This involves, necessarily, coercion and oppression which impacts the lives of people at the personal level. The psychological internalisation and assimilation of the exploitative, compulsory, coercive, oppressive character of bourgeois social relations denotes the control of man over man, class over class and its state power over the whole of society. In the transitional phase from bourgeois to classless society, the producers democratically organise the regulation and control of society over itself. It becomes self-regulating. In the epoch of capital, the state power and its agencies confront the producers as alien social structures ruling over it on behalf of capital itself. State power, in one form or another, is always implicit or actual threat. State power is always violence waiting to happen (or actually happening) against those who threaten the social relations which constitute the basis of its own existence as a state power. This applied no less in second century Rome under the Antonine emperors as it does today in the age of globalising capital under the various state powers of capital. These state powers trade in fear, fear of loss, fear of humiliation, fear of death, etc. And all this must have psychological impacts at the personal and interpersonal levels such as anxieties, depression, social withdrawal and isolation, etc, and what the psychiatrists refer to as ‘mental illness’ and ‘personality disorders’. But all this ‘psychology’ is a social psychology which reflects, and articulates on a personal level, the exploitative, coercive and oppressive character of social relations in the epoch of capital and the dependence of people on this socio-economic relation.

If the individual tries to resist this relation as an isolated individual, s/he is countered with established or innovated mechanisms of control. For example, in the workplace, on the street in ‘public space’, in the ‘benefits (welfare) culture’, etc. You fight back simply as a solitary individual and capital and its state power disciplines you. You are threatened (as if by an armed gangster or mobster against his unarmed victim) because the realisation of your immediate needs are conditional on you working within and accepting the economic and social parameters and criteria laid down by the capital system. A system and regime of coerced subservience to capital pertains and maintains you in a state of dependent subsistence. Intimidation and fear is intrinsic to such a regime which uses them as a means of controlling people. It cannot survive without them.

However, such mechanisms of rule and control can only be employed, and are only effective, within definite social parameters, that is, only under definite socio-historical conditions which actually permit their effective operation and imposition.  Beyond a certain point of social development, the needs of people can only be realised on the condition of the destruction of those social relations which are maintained and perpetuated by such forms of social control and state power.  The conflict here between the needs and interests of opposed classes (capital and labour) is therefore expressed here, in particular, in the form of the dynamic conflict between the imposition of and resistance to systems and mechanisms of social control by the state power of capital.

In the classless ages which lie beyond capital and all state power, the comprehensive needs of human beings become socially and unconditionally guaranteed. The forms and systems of exploitative social control of previous class societies become unnecessary and disappear. Consequentially, those forms of human behaviour and corresponding ‘psychologies’ which are the outcome of the exploitative relations of bourgeois society must also die away. Those psychological forms that are necessarily associated with these relations begin to lose their grip on the mind and vanish. The social exploitation of man by man disappears. Accordingly, those compulsory characteristics of interpersonal relationships which grow out of the various forms of exploitation in bourgeois society must perish with its social relations.

The exploitative forms of social control and coercion, which are a necessary feature of class societies in general and of capitalist society in particular, find their highest expression in the form of the state power which always embodies a definite class nature according to the historical conditions of its actual origination and development. The state – in whatever form – always represents the interests of a ruling caste or class. It is the product of the developing antagonisms of the given class society. With the dissolution of bourgeois society in the transition to higher human communal relations, the state begins to wither away.

The state power only becomes necessary with the differentiation of society into opposed classes with the dissolution of the communal relations of prehistory. It becomes socially ‘unnecessary’ with the dissolution of the final form of class society and gradually ‘withers away’ since there are no class interests to defend subsequently in the resulting and succeeding eras of classless societies. The character of social relations no longer gives rise to or necessitates the existence of the state. When the state has vanished from the human landscape, notions of freedom must vanish with it. A truly free human being can have no concept of freedom. Such concepts are the products of the social relations of class societies with their enslaved classes and peoples, oppressions, conflicts, state powers, etc.  Thus, a truly free human being has no awareness of being free just as communist humanity will not categorise itself as ‘communist’.

In the course of this mighty historic transition beyond the epoch of capital and its state powers, the forms of human consciousness corresponding to this period of transition will continue to reflect a disappearing connection to and with bourgeois society (specifically with the alienation within this dying society). This will show that society – in this revolutionary transition phase – has not completely disentangled itself from the legacies of bourgeois society. So long as the historical umbilical cord connecting people to the social legacies of this form of class society – and the human memory of them – has not been completely severed, then human society has not re-founded and re-developed itself as an association of free human beings. In the course of this necessary transition, the legacies of the relations of bourgeois society would continue to exert their influence, connecting humanity (at least psychologically) to the forms of social antagonism of the past.  Accordingly, under these conditions, the thinking, feeling, behaviour and interpersonal relationships of people would continue to be conditioned, however tenuously, by the legacies of the exploitative relations of the class society of the past.

The state power of capital, and not the broad mass of the people, rules and makes all the important decisions regarding social development. Humanity will not survive if this state of affairs continues. These state powers are leading society down an increasingly destructive path towards more death, barbarism and annihilation. Humanity must find a way out of this impasse in a transition to a new order which eclipses the epoch of capital and replaces it with a sustainable system of production based on meeting human needs rather than private profit. A transformation of the whole ‘social metabolism’ is required in order to create the new society beyond capital. Political and military changes alone will be inadequate to go beyond the epoch of capital and its state powers.

Very deep and profound ‘social metabolic’ changes and transformations will be required in order to progress beyond capital and its state powers. Movement beyond one is not separable from movement beyond the other and vice versa. The historical precedence of the formation of the necessary forms of revolutionary agency asserts itself here. The decision-making processes must be transferred to ‘social bodies’ of the proletariat in the course of challenging and dismantling the state powers of the capital order. From the very ‘metabolic bases’ of society to its highest ‘superstructural forms’, the proletariat must reorganise the whole of production and society on a new socialist and sustainable foundation. Progression to the elimination (‘withering away’) of the state power is an intrinsic part of this mighty historic process of transition.

The path to human freedom is opened up by means of the negation of the global domination of capital, of the negation of the reproduction of capital dominating the whole of the planet’s social metabolism and ecosystems. The character of this overthrow – whether it is peaceful, violent, etc – stems inevitably and directly from the degree to which capital and its state power offers resistance to the struggle for human emancipation from its rule. By peaceful means if possible. By war if necessary.

Shaun May

September 2018

mnwps@hotmail.com

http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com

https://spmay.wordpress.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized