Rebellion Is Justified!: Human Reason and the Struggle against Alienation and Necessity

Monday, June 5

Human Reason and the Struggle against Alienation and Necessity

Through reason - the application of the powers of consciousness -humanity struggles to transform itself and his world. The question of the nature of human reason, in turn, leads to the question of what is the human nature, from which springs such reason. Concepts of human nature removed from historical conditions are functionally apologia for the status quo, for they impute to an ahistorical, universal human nature the effects of historically specific, oppressive social relations. Marx, in contrast to such views, postulates an essential relationship between human nature and its historical context. Reason, as such, is, likewise, not to be viewed apart from relevant historical context. This is exactly why, within the context of class society, human reason interacts with the class struggle. The ideological representation of systems of thought changes with changes in the social system. That which is constant, by contrast, is the reasoned struggle against alienation, for self-development.

Marx states that, “human power is its own end.” (1) By this, Marx stresses the ongoing struggle for human self-development, and sovereignty over the physical world. While class struggle will come to an end with the advent of communism, the contradiction between freedom and necessity will not. To Marx, this fight, to roll back the margins of necessity, represents the constant “thread,” running throughout human development, from pre-class society onward into the communist future. The human beings are not born as a tabula rasa; rather, they express their specific human character through their productive labor, and through grasping the world-at-large. Marx said that humankind must become a collection of individuals “with an all-round development, one for whom various social functions are alternative modes of activity.” (Das Kapital) If full play is given to this natural bent, then a conscious, determined fight against class oppression will be the result. Indeed, if the exercise of human reason is a process leading to the expansion of human power, then alienation of labor is its greatest hindrance.

The inherent power of human reason, spanning the stages of social development, is of a decisively revolutionary character. By apprehending social relations, and fighting the systemic causes of alienation, humanity strives to attain freedom to pursue universal (non-alienated) labor. This fight must, under present class society, tend toward communist revolution. The end result of this revolution is no utopia, no final state of fixed laws and relationships. In fact, communism is an endless series of successively higher states of human self-development, distinguished from earlier forms of society by the elimination of alienation - the “all-round development” about which Marx talks, is pursued.

In order to determine whether the view of human reason upheld by Marx, the one by which humanity apprehends the world in order to transform it, actually is “right,” or, conforms to reality, one need only point to the entirety of human history, which is a story of the struggle of humanity to become more self-aware, to become more aware of the world and the relation between the subjective and the objective realms, and finally, to transform this world and humanity itself, in order to transcend the hindering burdens of necessity and alienation.

Endnote

1. Quoted by Raya Dunayevskaya in Philosophy and Revolution 1973 (173)

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