Materialism and the Power of Competition In Darwin’s Origin of Species and Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto

Topics: Marxism, Bourgeoisie, Social class Pages: 4 (1299 words) Published: June 8, 2014
Materialism, the belief that the natural world, as well as man’s social and economic circumstance were governed by inexorable laws and phenomena, is at the heart of nineteenth century philosophy. For these men, the discovery of principles like gravitation and thermodynamics, which govern the natural world, prove that an understanding of the universe is within man’s grasp. The investigation of the natural world would no longer be constrained by religious dogma or moral certainty. Instead, a reliance on man’s powers of observation, as well as his rational faculties could guide him to a comprehensive understanding of the physical world, as well as the progress of human society. Marx’s historical materialism and Darwin’s evolutionary theory of natural selection are examples that reflect this philosophical trend. Both views describe a progress, which is historically inevitable. Progress within the natural world, as well as human society, would no longer be divinely guided. In a universe no longer governed by divine force, history could no longer be explained as moving inexorably toward final divine judgment. Rather, history and human progress must now be explained by an internal self-directed energy. The nature of this force had been anticipated a generation earlier by Thomas Malthus. It is the power of competition. For Darwin, this competition between animals of different species and among members of the same species was a competition for both for scarce resources, as well as reproductive dominance. This was an example of survival of those best adapted to their environment, or what he termed survival of the fittest. For Marx, similar competitive forces were at work throughout human history. He argues that all facets of humanity are attributable to mans’ material circumstances. Consequently, he argues there would be a natural antagonism between those who controlled the means of production and those who labor for them. This competitive tension, which he termed class...
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