a monogamous relationship norm is something we should all adopt,
much less enforce across the board. As we learned earlier, what is
“natural” and what is good can sometimes part ways.
Let’s take the first issue first. Is monogamy natural for our species?
As we proposed with our DNE principle, the default move, which can
be overridden as necessary, should be to adopt and promote social
scripts that are at least compatible with those aspects of humannature
H UMA N N AT UR ES 3 9
that do not respond very well to cultural suppression (in the sense
(Chapter 3 of Marx and HumanNature: Refutation of a Legend , Verso/NLB, London, 1983)
It is surely remarkable that so many have discerned, with the emergency of the materialist conception of history, a dismissal by Marx of the idea of humannature. The German Ideology , after all, setting down that celebrated conception for the first time, expressly criticizes the mistake of those who, ignoring what it terms the ‘real basis of history’, thereby exclude from the historical process ‘the relation of man to nature’, create an ‘antithesis of nature and history
humannature. Stated more bluntly, the most direct path is indirect, and, to
be more precise, conditioned by reason and law. The second strand is that it
is possible to know the conditions of reconciliation and freedom not
despite, but because of, the dynamic of systematic exclusion and coerced
integration which structures reality in all social ensembles to different
degrees. This dynamic assumes a distinct institutional profile according to
Romantic attractions and queer dilemmas (Queer as Folk)
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Only humannature after all?
Romantic attractions and queer
dilemmas (Queer as Folk)
As I noted in the introduction, in 1998 Michael Jackson, the controller of Channel 4, used Queer as Folk (1998) to imply a narrative of progress in that channel’s representation of ‘minority
groups’. A similar narrative of progress, specifically in relation to
gay and lesbian subjects, is also suggested by the article which
appears on the pages of the BBC website devoted to Tipping the
Norman Geras's work on the subject of Karl Marx's antisemitism involved significant dissent from the Marxist tradition in which he located himself, precisely because unvarnished honesty prevented him from glossing over the many troubling ideas and notions that, simply, are there. His Normblog demonstrated how Geras, as a Marxist, took on the shibboleths of the postmodern left, and in particular the relativism whose malign influence he had noted when writing his book on Marx's conception of human nature. 'The principle of self-emancipation', wrote Geras in 1971, 'is central, not incidental, to historical materialism.' This book shows how the materialist usage of 'powers of human nature', 'natural desires', 'natural character' play an important role in the formulation of Marx's theory of history. It explores Richard Rorty's various usages on the question of human nature and the tensions and anomalies as well as then theses on utopia. The book also reviews a fast-growing sector of the current literature on Karl Marx, i.e. whether Marx condemn capitalism in the light of any principle of justice, and the controversy that has fuelled its growth, and distinguishes three meanings (personal, intellectual and socio-political) of 'being a Marxist'. It discusses the significance of the Euston Manifesto, antisemitism on the left anti-Jewish stereotypes, and Marxism before the Holocaust. The book concludes with insights into the 9/11 incident, the principle of humanitarian intervention and international law for military intervention.
Thirteen writers have comprehensively explained the Renaissance scheme of physiology-psychology used for nosce teipsum, to ‘know oneself’, and other scholars have analysed key features like humours, bodily spirits, passions, reason, inner wits, soul and spirit, mystic apprehension. Only poets with epic scope, like Spenser and Shakespeare, depict human nature holistically, yet these finest poets have radically distinct psychologies. Spenser’s Christianised Platonism prioritises the soul, his art mirroring divine Creation as dogmatically and encyclopedically conceived. He looks to the past, collating classical and medieval authorities in memory-devices like the figurative house, nobly ordered in triadic mystic numerical hierarchy to reform the ruins of time. Shakespeare’s sophisticated Aristoteleanism prioritises the body, highlighting physical processes and dynamic feelings of immediate experience, and subjecting them to intense, skeptical consciousness. He points to the future, using the witty ironies of popular stage productions to test and deconstruct prior authority, opening the unconscious to psychoanalysis. This polarity of psychologies is radical and profound, resembling the complementary theories of physics, structuring reality either (like Spenser) in the neatly-contained form of particle theory, or (like Shakespeare) in the rhythmic cycles of wave theory. How do we explain these distinct concepts, and how are they related? These poets’ contrary artistry appears in strikingly different versions of a ‘fairy queen’, of humour-based passions (notably the primal passion of self-love), of intellection (divergent modes of temptation and of moral resolution), of immortal soul and spirit, of holistic plot design, and of readiness for final judgment.
(Chapter 2 of Solidarity in the Conversation of Humankind: The Ungroundable Liberalism of Richard Rorty , Verso, London, 1995)
The centrality of arguments about humannature to social and political theories is a familiar theme to students of the subject. Such arguments may be of an affirmative kind, asserting some given characteristic or behaviour pattern as generally or typically human. Nearly as often perhaps they will be self-consciously negative, denying there is anything of substance to be brought usefully under the heading of ‘humannature’. In
triumph of liberal capitalist democracy on a global scale. Some of the
inadequacies of contemporary liberalism are discussed and an estimate is
made of the future that lies in store for liberalism.
POINTS TO CONSIDER
Is liberalism culturally specific to Westernisation or is it of
universal value? To what extent is the liberal focus on the individual based on a
misunderstanding of humannature
capable of interpreting social complexity, Geras began engaging with the broader themes that were to inform his later work: humannature, specifically Marx’s conception of it; justice, examined both historically and philosophically in the context of the Holocaust; the duty to bring aid to those suffering terrible oppression, particularly at the hands of the state; and perhaps most importantly of all, the common ground between Marxism and liberalism.
In the introduction to ‘Solidarity in the Conversation of Humankind’, his imagined dialogue with the American
, for understanding a conceptual change and paradigm shift in the
history of friendship, Hobbes’s original and powerful descriptions of humannature, the state of nature and the reasons for establishing a supreme authority
are more important. As Hobbes put it in Leviathan (1651), humannature itself
generates conflicts among men. Since men are by nature equal, there are three
insuperable motives that will always cause quarrels between them: competition,
diffidence and glory (Hobbes 1992: 88). With this precondition and in the
absence of a common power that could keep