Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud on Human Nature

Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud have different conceptions of human nature and different conceptions of how history develops from human actions and human nature. Marx considers human beings primarily as members of economic groups, while Freud considers human beings in terms of individual psychology and broader behaviors and psychological manifestations across populations. History for Marx is also an issue of economics, while for Freud history is shaped by the way the individual relates to his or her society. Marx centers on the economic and political and Freud on the inner life of the mind and the ways in which that manifests itself in human behavior. The two men have as their starting point a conception of human nature which shows why human beings behave as they do, and for both men the reasons for human behavior are hidden from view, hidden from the understanding of the majority of people responding to them. For Marx, the hidden force is economic and involves the relationship of the human being to labor, while for Freud the hidden force is found in theoretical constructs of the mind which govern different aspects of thought and behavior and whose interaction produces the behavior we can see.

Marx had a conception of human history based on dialectical materialism, which includes the sense that the determining factors in the development, relations, and institutions of mankind are not mystical or ideological but economic. Human actions are rooted in men's labor activities.



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