Marx and Human Nature

  • Mark Cowling


This chapter reviews one of Geras’s most important contributions to the study of Marx, his account of Marx’s view of human nature. Geras provides a relatively thin account of human nature, which he finds in Marx. It is based not on the idea of alienated man but on a series of basic human needs, of which the most obvious are food and shelter. Cowling accepts that Geras made his point well and goes on to discuss Geras’s ideas from the three main points of view. First, this version of Marx’s account of human need would probably be very widely accepted in modern society, although with varying additions and emphases. Second, human nature, including biological human nature, is perhaps more flexible than Geras takes account of. The third and longest discussion concerns a view that has become popular, namely that Geras establishes continuity in Marx. Cowling challenges this by stressing that Geras does not claim to prove that the theory of alienation persists into the older Marx. Cowling argues that there was, indeed, a break in Marx’s work in 1845. He then goes through places where the theory of alienation has been held to appear in Marx’s writings after 1845, and demonstrates that the vast majority of these by no means prove what is claimed for them.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Cowling
    • 1
  1. 1.Teesside University [retired]MiddlesboroughUK

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