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Compare and contrast Marx and Engels with Mill regarding social and economic progress

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Introduction

Philosophy Coursework Compare and contrast Marx and Engels with Mill regarding social and economic progress To understand what these two different philosophies tell us about the nature of social and economic progress it is important to clearly establish, for the purpose of this essay, a definition of the word progress. Many philosophers see progress as being a positive, continuous advancement into the future where, if we do not gain full scientific and empirical knowledge of our surroundings one day, then we will at least gain a deeper knowledge of our lives than we at present possess. If we can therefore have a fuller understanding of our surroundings there leaves the further question of whether we will ever reach a stage of progression where we can have complete knowledge of the more abstract concepts of man's social and moral 'perfectibility'. Marx, Engels and Mill attempt to demonstrate how this 'perfectibility' may be reached and/or will be reached with their contrasting (Marx and Engels vs Mill) views of social and economic progress. ((The most prominent similarity of these philosophers is the emphasis that they all put on freedom as being the ultimate goal of human progress.)) Marx and Engels believe that this 'perfectibility' would be reached through a material process. They reject the views of the young Hegelians. These new Hegelian followers re-interpreted Hegel's idealist philosophy that illustrates history as the progress of the 'Mind', thus the spiritual side of the Universe, into history being an account of human self-consciousness freeing itself from the illusions that prevent it from achieving self understanding and freedom. Marx and Engels disagreed with this new interpretation and also disagreed with the idealist views of Hegel himself. They decided that it is not the ideas and thoughts of individuals or society as a whole that drives progress forward but it is the material circumstances under which people live that determines how they think and act; in their own words 'Consciousness does not determine life, but life determines consciousness'. ...read more.

Middle

However, when his father died Mill began to believe that human nature was not permanent and unchanging but was extremely modifiable. Therefore to understand about progress we can look into history and make objective views about how human nature shapes the world but we must also be aware that human nature is constantly changing and therefore no one epoch or country has the same behavioural patterns as another. In a review the critic Macaulay objected to this theory he believed that 'it is utterly impossible to deduce the science of government from the principles of human nature' we must instead 'observe the present state of the world - by assiduously studying the history of past ages... by generalising with judgement and diffidence'. This view clearly echoes the Marxist and Engelian philosophy of history where by studying the different epochs of society generalisations about the material world have been made and they have therefore established from this past information their teleological views and pre-determinist ideas. Mill believes that although there are underlying principles of human nature they are then overlaid by acquired characteristics. There are therefore principles about these original characteristics followed by principles about the acquired characteristics which lead to an understanding of the principles about how someone with certain characteristics will behave. Mill believes that instead of generalising from experience of dictators we should analyse the characteristic of the people that played an active part in history and analyse the changes that their characters underwent in the process. By doing this we will develop our understanding of human nature. Although we can understand a certain amount about progress and human nature through generalisations that we have, occurring through our understanding of human history, we must also be aware that we should apply what we know about circumstance and character and therefore not take for granted a dictator's characteristics as each leader of despotism is different. ...read more.

Conclusion

Feudal Lords and church officials took what they want from peasants by force and thus Alienation arose from three factors; the low level of productive forces, human subordination to land and the domination of the ruling class. However the one positive side to this alienation is that they remained in possession of about 50-70% of their output of labour. There were social relationships of subordination and domination which created a type of alienation but these relations were still between individuals, unlike the bourgeoisie society. Marx says, in 'Capitol', that in the Feudal times 'mutual personal relations...[were]...not disguised under the shape of social relations between the products of labour'. However in the bourgeoisie society everything is sold and bought for money; 'selling is the practice of alienation' (14). The majority are denied complete access to means of production and subsistence and therefore there was a class of landless labourers who had to submit to a new form of exploitation; wage labour 'which was a 'fundamental change in the relations between men, instruments of production and the materials of production' (15). Men became separated from the product of their labour. They could no longer enjoy the right to dispose of what they produced how they chose. There is also a further division in labour as men have to specialise in one aspect of work which does not fill potential or realise aspects of human power. Harry Braverman, writes about the consequences of this division of labour: 'While the social division of labour subdivides society, the detailed division of labour subdivides humans' Workers become dependent on capitalists who own means of production. It is impossible for workers to escape as they would their jobs and then their lives. Labour has therefore become forced labour. As Marx puts it 'labour is external to the worker, does not belong to his essential being...... he feels miserable and not happy, does not develop free mental and physical energy, but mortifies his flesh and ruins his mind..... the worker feels himself only when he is not working' (23) ...read more.

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