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In The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels present their view of human nature and the effect that the economic system and economic factors have on it. Marx and Engels discuss human nature in the context of the economic factors which they see as driving history. Freud, in
Civilization and Its Discontents, explores human nature through his psychological view of the human mind.
Marx states that history "...is the history of class struggles" (9).
Marx views history as being determined by economics, which for him is the source of class differences. History is described in The Communist Manifesto as a series of conflicts between oppressing classes and oppressed classes.
According to this view of history, massive changes occur in a society when new technological capabilities allow a portion of the oppressed class to destroy the power of the oppressing class. Marx briefly traces the development of this through different periods, mentioning some of the various oppressed and oppressing classes, but points out that in earlier societies there were many gradations of social classes. He also states that this class conflict sometimes leads to "...the common ruin of the contending classes" (Marx 9).
Marx sees the modern age as being distinguished from earlier periods by the simplification and intensification of the class conflict. He states that
"Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps... bourgeoisie and proletariat" (Marx 9). The bourgeoisie, as the dominant class of capitalists, subjugates the proletariat by using it as an object for the expansion of capital. As capitalism progresses, this subjugation reduces a larger portion of the population to the proletariat and society becomes more polarized.
According to Marx, the polarization of society and the intense oppression of the proletariat will eventually lead to a revolution by the proletariat, in which the control of the bourgeoisie will be destroyed. The proletariat will then gain control of the means of production. This revolution will result in the creation of a socialist state, which the proletariat will use to institute socialist reforms and eventually communism.
The reforms which Marx ou...

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(Freud 111). Freud can not offer some vision of a human utopia, but can only suggest that there is some possibility for the improvement of the human condition and society, but also warns that our success at overcoming destructive instincts may be limited.
Marx offers a radical philosophy which also sees conflict as one of the constants of prior human existence. Unlike Freud, Marx believes that the aggressive and conflict-oriented aspects of human nature will disappear under the communist society which he sees as the inevitable product of capitalism.
This is the hopeful element of Marx's philosophy. However, if communism is not seen as inevitable or the possibilities for reducing human conflict before a socialist revolution are considered, then Marx's view of human nature locks humanity into constant conflict. If the future is to be like Marx's version of history, then there is little hopefulness in this view of human nature.

Works Cited

Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. Ed. James Strachey.
New York: W.W. Norton, 1961.

Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels. The Communist Manifesto. New York:
International Publishers, 1994.
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