From a Notebook on Psychology (Part 2)
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Marx writes of communism as the ‘solution to the riddle of history’ and as ‘knowing itself to be so’. But what does this signify for the development of the human personality in communism and for the character of interpersonal relationships? There is an incredibly rich literature for studying this and related questions. For example, see…
Human conscious awareness is fundamentally a social creation. It is not simply a biological creation although, of course, it implicates biological processes within itself. It was, at root, the need to co-operate and communicate in the labour process which gave birth to language and necessitated the rise of consciousness itself. Language and thought are inseparable aspects of the same psychological process.
The relationship between instinct and learning found in the animal primate is transformed with the rise of consciousness. Originating conscious awareness transforms animal instinct into the human unconscious. In the course of this transformation, emerging consciousness establishes itself in dynamic dialectical 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 psychic totality of the human mind or “Consciousness” as a whole. The specific relation between instinct and learning found in ancestral primates is superseded (sublated) with the rise of consciousness which gives rise to the higher relationships and content of the human psyche as a whole.
The dialectical relationship between the conscious and unconscious sides of the psyche raises the following question : can this dialectic be resolved at a higher level in which both the conscious and unconscious sides are superseded into a higher form of the human psyche? So that the conscious (as we know it) and the unconscious cease to be? Is this dialectic between the two sides becoming resolved into a higher psychic synthesis as communist life continues to evolve? The resulting psyche is neither “conscious” or “unconscious” as we know it? Hence the human psyche ceases to be characterised by this dialectic of its conscious and unconscious sides? It becomes a “return” (a negated negation) to the pre-human form of awareness but in a higher humanised form? But not, of course, a return to the purely non-conscious awareness of the pre-human primate ancestry. The conscious and the unconscious would become only superseded moments in the overall life-process of this psyche.
The conscious and the unconscious are psychic opposites. Each is what it is only by virtue of its relation to the other. The rise of conscious awareness simultaneously engenders the human unconscious and, in the course of its origination, establishes the dialectical relationship between the conscious and the unconscious.
Perhaps the psycho-historical role of the origination and evolution of the “conscious psyche” is to prepare the ground and conditions for the emergence of this higher order of the human mind in consonance with higher, different forms of behaviour and human personality as communist humanity evolves? So that this social history is itself the unfolding of the conditions that are necessary for this ‘revolution’ in the mind? In this way, by evolving along this path, this higher psyche would be the negation of that of previous eras? This movement, of course, being expressed as a tendency in the human psyche in the course of the enduring evolution of communist society.
This return (negation of negation) could not be a simple repetition i.e. humanity cannot possibly return to the mere natural mode of life of ancestral primates. This return is also, at the same time, a real advance beyond both the natural mode of life of the animal and beyond the socio-historical periods of development of pre-class and class societies and the forms of conscious awareness corresponding thereto. In the reconciliation and synthesis of the naturalness of the ‘animal awareness’ and the conscious human social awareness is formed the higher relations of the human personality of classless society.
Human consciousness evolves and takes different forms in different epochs so that different stages in its development correspond to different stages in the history of society from its origins in the natural mode of life of animal primates through to the dissolution of class societies and the consequential emergence and onward development of classless society. But within this whole development, the dialectical relationship between the relative and the absolute is expressed in the alteration of the forms of conceptual content revolving around and integral to the enduring relationship between the conscious and the unconscious. This latter relation between the conscious and the unconscious becomes subject to a relativisation as communist life evolves with the emergence of a new fundamental absolute i.e. with the transcendence of this historically absolute relationship between these two intermediating sides within the human psyche. What are the underlying social processes driving the resolution of this dialectic within the psyche? To create a higher form of the psyche? This needs to be researched. It can only lie in the altering nature of human relations when communist life has irreversibly established itself and is evolving upon its own self-created foundations; when humanity globally as a species is so far beyond the legacies of class society that even the memory of these legacies no longer ties humanity to this distant past. Its growing realisation must lie beyond the ‘realm of natural necessity’ and within the evolving ‘true realm of freedom’
The evolution of human freedom in communism does not become subjectively acknowledged as ‘freedom’ as such. Just as communist humanity does not register psychologically its own communist nature. This is, of course, a paradox of human history. For only the truly ‘unfree’ can envisage but not directly experience such a state whereas the truly free have no need to envisage it in the direct immediacy of experience of such a state of human freedom. Truly free human beings will not be and can never be conceptually aware of their own state of freedom as a social condition. A truly free human society will be free of all concepts of freedom. A truly free human being can have no concept of freedom and has no awareness of being free. This human freedom will progressively deepen and widen, of course, but this will not be experienced negatively as the negation of an ‘unfreedom’ but positively as the augmentation and intensification of the quality of the freedom of the ‘true realm’. Only the ‘unfree’ speak of freedom. A society with concepts of freedom remains divided against itself; a society divided into classes; a society based on enslavement in one form or another.
In the transition to classless society, the forms of human consciousness, human relations and behaviour corresponding to this period of transition will continue to reflect a disappearing connection to and with bourgeois society showing that society – in this revolutionary transition phase – will not have completely disentangled itself from the psychosocial legacies of bourgeois society. As long as the historical umbilical cord connecting society to such legacies of bourgeois 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. At such a stage, the legacies of the relations of bourgeois society would continue to exert their influence, binding 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 by the legacies of the exploitative relations and legacies of the class society which is in the course of being transcended during this period of transition.
If humanity creates a state of affairs where, initially, basic needs are identified and realised, if people have access to work, good quality housing adequately serviced, education, medical facilities, recreation, mobility and new cultural experience, all of these and more and this access is universal for every man, woman and child worldwide and always improving and becoming better in quality, then this must create the basis for a society which is more worthy of our humanity than the present bourgeois state of affairs. A state of affairs where millions are subject to chronic unemployment and will never work again, homelessness, a street existence and destitution, lack of healthcare, social support and educational development or none at all, no facilities for human recreation, fulfillment and personal development, the weight of systematised threat and humiliation (implicit violence), coercion, oppression and exploitation. All these and more creating the epidemic of stress, fear, anxiety, depression, suicide and many different psychological problems arising from this chaotic, unplanned, pandaemonium state of affairs. The establishment of a socialist society will go a long way towards providing the unfolding conditions for the elimination of all these psychological problems because they are all rooted in the continuing rule of capital. It must serve to alter, for the good, the whole character of interpersonal relationships and forms of human behaviour which can serve to wreck and destroy people’s lives. The gnawing dissatisfaction of people with their conflicted, stress-filled and unfulfilling lives under the rule of capital…
Dissatisfaction with oneself is either dissatisfaction with oneself within the framework of a definite condition which determines the whole personality e.g. dissatisfaction with oneself as a worker, or it is moral dissatisfaction. In the first case, therefore, it is simultaneously and mainly dissatisfaction with the existing relations; in the second case – an ideological expression of these relations themselves, which does not all go beyond them, but belongs wholly to them.
[Marx. The German Ideology. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol 5. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1976) p. 378]
The individual ‘self’ as the ‘ensemble’ of the prevailing social relations [Marx, Theses on Feuerbach]. Even the forms of psychological self-evaluation, evaluation-of-others and personality characteristics – within which such evaluation is psychologically grounded – is intrinsic to this ‘ensemble’ and developed within these relations and ‘belonging wholly to them’.
The existence of the nuclear family articulates a division between the private and the public space in the development of children. The nuclear family as socially porous and yet existing as a Janus unit of relationships with different faces for the inside and outside. This is a barrier which individuals traverse back and forth throughout life as children, adolescents and adults. This contemporary division is itself the creation of bourgeois relations.
The life and development of the child within and outside the family make up the two sides of the conflict between its private conditions of life and its wider social conditions of life outside the family. In bourgeois society, the psychological development of the child is primarily centred in the family i.e. within the social arena where its physical and other needs are met. It is the psychosocial medium in which children form their earliest and most significant psychological attachments and dependencies. The establishment, interplay and development of these attachments and dependencies form the psychological content of the inner relationships of the nuclear family within which children’s needs are realised or not as the case may be.
The relationship between the bourgeois system of social relations and the nuclear family are ambivalent. These relations tend to necessitate, maintain and encourage the continuation of the inner relationships of the nuclear family. However, at the same time, these same conditions and relations – in the course of their development – undermine the family and even are now creating the basis for the disintegration and supersedence of the nuclear family. The relationship between the nuclear family and bourgeois social relations is contradictory, here encouraging its reproduction and now there its break down and break up.
The conflict between the ‘public’ life of the individual outside the family 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’ world and role in society is a function of the rise and evolution of private property and not something inherently human. The very notion of ‘private’ is a creation of the historical process itself.
Marx notes that there is a dichotomy in the life of each individual. He writes 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 each individual is reflected in the distinctions between the public and private psychology of the individual. This psychological contrast corresponds to the ‘cleavage’ in the social being of each individual. It is a ‘cleavage’ which is expressed in the form of the psychological contrast 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. This antagonism between the private and public sides of the human personality is a feature of human relationships in bourgeois society. The continuation of the existence of bourgeois relations serves to cultivate and perpetuate this antagonism. In so doing, it serves to fragment the personality of the individual – opposing this side or that aspect to another, etc – in his or her psychosocial relationships.
The progressive dissolution of the family in communism means and ensures that the rearing and development of children takes place on an entirely different (indeed opposite) social foundation. Children are reared within the social conditions, and through the social relationships, of the commune. This serves to resolve 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 start to disappear. Biological parents cease to have the same degree of social significance which they have for ‘their’ children reared within the monogamous nuclear family. Each child has biological parentage, naturally, but every adult becomes the social ‘parent’ (guardian) of each and every child. Hence, the traditional family-based notions of ‘parent’, ‘father’, ‘mother’, ‘brother’, ‘sister’, ‘son’ ‘daughter’, etc – which express the social relationships of the nuclear family – will vanish and be replaced by relations which express a degree of freedom impossible in bourgeois society. Child-adult relationships become transformed in the commune where biological parentage does not have or confer any special, exclusive social role upon these adults. The child is reared by the whole commune and grows to maturity without any notions of family, mother, father, brother, etc. The narrow, exclusive mode of rearing children in bourgeois society is superseded. It will signify the emergence and development of the highest possible degree of individual human freedom where children and adolescents are nurtured by the whole community. These relations will become intrinsic to the life of the commune as the individual grows to maturity.
In capitalist society…
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. ibid., p. 425]
‘The ability of children to develop depends on the development of parents’. The psychology of the child is a sensitive indicator of the general character of the social relations of the epoch. The dissolution of the nuclear family is the social transformation of the development of children in the commune. Their physical and social needs are unconditionally guaranteed and attainable outside the traditional constraining bounds of the nuclear family.
The maturation of children in the commune outside the nuclear family facilitates a higher degree of personal independence than can ever exist in bourgeois society. The psychology that is associated with the possible or actual non-attainment of needs – food, shelter, clothing, etc – 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 bourgeois society – become historically unnecessary and gradually disappear in the transition to and onward evolution of classless society. The individual that replaces the individual of the nuclear family is the ‘social individual’ who is a fully integrated and active part of the life process of the commune itself. 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, ibid., p.78]
Private property and the psychology corresponding to its existence.
The very notion of property itself must disappear with the negation of private ownership and the emergence and onward development of social relations based upon common ownership. The deep and profound significance of such a development for the human personality is obvious.
From the standpoint of a higher economic form of society, private ownership of the globe by single individuals will appear quite as absurd as private ownership of one man by another.
[Marx. Capital, Vol 3. Lawrence and Wishart, 1974, p.776]
Those personality characteristics which are intrinsically associated with the rule of private property – e.g. greed, acquisitiveness, possessiveness, etc – must and will disappear. Human relationships become free of their psychological effects.