Are the Scots selfish

Egoism and the Marxist image of man - Egoism and aspects of its influence on the political systems of Marxism using the example of the GDR and USSR

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2. Approaching the concept of egoism
2.a. The evolution of the concept of selfishness
2 B. The structure of egoism

3. Statements of the Marxist view on the image of man

4. The image of man in the USSR and GDR and the criticism of it
4.a. Interpretation and adaptation of a Marxist image of man in the GDR and USSR
4.b. Criticism of the image of man in the USSR and GDR
4.c. Conclusions for the failure of the USSR and GDR

5. Conclusions and lines of thought


Egoism and the Marxist image of man -

Egoism and aspects of its influence on the political systems of Marxism using the example of the GDR and USSR

1 Introduction

The reunification of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) triggered a diverse discussion about the feasibility of translating the basic Marxist ideology into a political system.

First and foremost, the question arises how the dissolution of the GDR and the failure of the form of Marxist socialism implemented in it came about. The reasons for this are very extensive and can hardly be satisfactorily explained in one article.

This work is therefore devoted to a partial aspect of the observation level. The aim is to provide an understanding of the concept of egoism and its possible influence on society in the GDR and USSR. The following will deal with the question of how egoism has contributed to the failure of the political and economic systems in these countries and what consequences this has for the current political and social conditions.

2. Approaching the concept of egoism

2.a. The evolution of the concept of selfishness

The term egotism or egotism or egomism found its general distribution in these terms in the early 18th century. The lexicon of business ethics describes egoism as the classic basic problem of ethics since ancient times. It describes the excessive self-love of the individual, through which a life in the community is disturbed or made impossible. The peaceful life in the community is therefore only possible if the relativization of the individual between necessary self-preservation and the demands of society succeeds (1, p. 210 ff). However, the weighing up and delimitation of these needs and claims can hardly be clearly defined and subject to changing external circumstances. In antiquity there was an image of the coexistence of people which should be determined by natural laws.

(1) Ed .: Georges Enderle, Karl Homann, Martin Honecker, Walter Kerber, Horst Steinmann - Lexikon der Wirtschaftsethik - Verlag Herder Freiburg im Breisgau 1993 - Freiburg im Breisgau, Basel, Vienna: Herder - 1993

The right of the strong over the weaker, which allows them to be killed and dominated. Slavery as an expression of the freedom to assert and strengthen one's own existence. Through their work, slaves created the freedom for their rulers, which enabled these early cultures to devote themselves to intellectual rather than physical work and to make their first philosophical considerations. After Christianity had established itself in Europe, the early church literature describes "amor sui", that is, self-love as the epitome of sin, while later, also ecclesiastical writings of the Reformation epoch, the "curvitas animae", the stunted "I" in itself itself, i.e. the denial of one's own needs, were also considered a human sin against the divine creation (1, p. 210 ff).

The philosophical debate of the modern age, like Kant, assigns the term egoism an ethical rather than an epistemological meaning. Kant turned against English and Scottish enlighteners who advocated eudaemonism, which raised the usefulness of an action to the criterion of its moral quality. He also rejected utilitarianism, i.e. a view of usefulness, and with his stance founded a counter-position of German ethicists to the British early liberals Adam Smith and J.St. Mill. From this opposing position, Hegel declares bourgeois society to be a “sphere of egoism” in which a permanent struggle “all against all” takes place. According to Hegel, this should be abolished by a strong, religiously founded constitutional state. Finally, Marx describes the abolition of economic individualism through the communist total communalization of the private sector towards a genre (1, p. 210 ff). Parallel to the industrial development in Europe and the increasing concentration of capital, the denominational organizations of these countries are gaining the conviction of the “social obligation of property”, i.e. a moral obligation to use acquired property for the benefit of the community (1, p. 210 ff). Against the background of Charles Darwin's findings and his thesis of the “struggle for existence”, recent advocates of free self-realization find arguments for this. Nietzsche publishes reflections that can be seen as a continuation of the writings of the early philosopher Protagoras. These raise man to the measure of all things. The state is the basis of coexistence for people who are spiritually carefree and free. Nietzsche extends these considerations to the effect that humans go through a conscious development. Morality serves the state, leads to custom, to voluntary obedience and finally to coercion through habit. God is dead, since he merely represents a narrated idea of ​​other people, which, if the listener believed it, would raise the narrator above the hearer, which is wrong. Nietzsche boldly subdivides the social principles by stating that Christianity means “one for all”, socialism “all for all” and the individualism he represents means “all for one”. Accordingly, he divides people into the powerful and the powerless, claiming that the powerful want to oppress.

(1) Ed .: Georges Enderle, Karl Homann, Martin Honecker, Walter Kerber, Horst Steinmann - Lexikon der Wirtschaftsethik - Verlag Herder Freiburg im Breisgau 1993 - Freiburg im Breisgau, Basel, Vienna: Herder - 1993

A defense of the powerless would only find their equilibrium vis-à-vis the powerful through their flowing rights. Altruism, in other words, lived selflessness, would only be hidden egoism in order to satisfy a need for moral power. In fact, however, there is social Darwinism, i.e. the struggle of people for their existence, their social position. Socialism according to Marx thus deprives the community of the strong energy of the intellect by striving for a general good life. Egoism would ultimately take the community further than socialism. In this extreme argument Nietzsche finally asserted that the people were only the basis for the possibility of breeding a superior "superman" (2, pp. 18,19,23,32).

The philosopher Max Stirner makes a clear statement about individualism. For Stirner, morality and the judgment of right and wrong are only a vision. However, this cannot be defined, any more than a color can be defined for a blind person. Therefore there is no community, only individuals with their individual considerations and subjective assessments (2, p. 70).

In the era of industrial and post-industrial society, egoism is predominantly seen as a legitimate self-interest which, within legal systems, transcends individual self-centeredness to the interests of the community (1, p. 210 ff). A not uncontroversial image of the "homo oeconomicus" (in a row: h.o.) has prevailed. It describes the person who seeks to expand his utility and the utility of the world around him. The basis for this is the scarcity of the funds and resources available to him. Pragmatically, the h.o. Solutions that bring him closer to the goals he strives for. The h.o. but also through the acceptance and relative tolerance towards the other individuals who in turn want to assert their position. This interrelationship within society has grown and is flanked and protected by a traditional, continuously changing legal system, which is supposed to bring about and protect the balance of forces between the various levels of power (1 p. 426 ff.).

2 B. The structure of egoism

In order to be able to grasp the concept of egoism independently in its structure, its connection within different research areas is necessary. Egoism is explored and assessed in different ways through philosophy, biology, sociology, psychology, and economics. This term also has an immanent connection with the work of the research branches on the terms instinct, self-preservation, aggression, personality, character, independence, individualism, freedom and self-realization.

(1) Ed .: Georges Enderle, Karl Homann, Martin Honecker, Walter Kerber, Horst Steinmann - Lexicon of Business Ethics - Verlag Herder Freiburg im Breisgau 1993 - Freiburg im Breisgau, Basel, Vienna: Herder - 1993
(2) Benedict Lachmann - Place the egoism! - 3rd edition - Mackay Society, Freiburg / Breisgau - 1978

Man is a biological being. Behavioral research has also shown instinctive behavior in humans through experiments with animals. Konrad Lorenz came to the conclusion that aggressive behavior is innate in every higher living being. However, social research has relativized this statement insofar as aggressive behavior has to be defined as harming another individual and no person can lead his life without ever harming another person. However, since the degree of damage is not objectively scalable, aggression cannot be a category, but only a regulatory-theoretical idea. Undisputedly, however, human behavior must be assigned the permanent safeguarding of its biological constitution (3, pp. 12, 17, 21, 22). This behavior is essentially shaped by instincts, i.e. subject to unconscious actions. From this it was possible to derive experiments that proved what is known as behaviorism. The wires of instincts were found that made people react mechanically like a puppet or through stimuli. However, it is undisputed that people are curious because of their evolutionary roots and the development of their spiritual potential and want to experience and experience their environment. With his senses he wants to be inextricably linked to the living world that surrounds him, to grasp it and to shape and change it creatively according to his individual needs. The nature of the needs can be based on the genetic anchoring for self-preservation or in the creative development of one's mental performance. However, the basis of living and environmental conditions has constantly changed in the course of civilization. The convincing comparison is made that we can see a hunter-gatherer of the early days as free people. He determines his life within the framework of the preservation of his existence and will experience and change his environment freely, as it corresponds to his will and his possibilities. His form of freedom, however, is not our freedom. Even if we envy the hunter-gatherer for his way of life and his independence, we will hardly succeed in this step backwards in development for our lives. But freedom that changes against the background of social changes is also of vital interest to people. If the development of the “I” is inhibited, a struggle for freedom will be the result, the intensity of which is measured by the degree of restriction. This resistance is not limited to one individual. H. Maslow described the so-called third direction of American psychology. According to this, the human personality is indivisible. Self-development and multifaceted development represent the highest value of human beings. Therefore, a need structure oriented towards “having” means the separation of the cognitive and emotional world, the division of which alienates us from our world. Adapting to such a society makes its individuals sick and leads to mental disorders.

(3) Agnes Heller - instinct, aggression, character: invitation to a Marxist social anthropology - publishing house for the study of the labor movement GmbH - Hamburg, Berlin - 1977

For the United States of America (USA) these were the results of the research by Maslow, which he carried out on the basis of the establishment of civil rights movements and the student revolts as a protest against the Vietnam War. Maslow saw in this the confirmation that a collective need can grow out of a personal need. If individuals unanimously recognize an inhibition and restriction of their free development and development, even a threat to their physical and mental health, they will organize themselves to combat and change the situation. The union has given way to egoism limited to one person in order to be able to act collectively more efficiently (3, p.14). One can therefore put forward the thesis of the existence of a latent collective egoism. A prerequisite here, however, is that, for example, freedom is an immanent need of every person and, if necessary, is also fought for through aggressive actions.


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