Mon Apr 3rd, 2006 at 03:55:45 PM EST
The phantoms formed in the human brain are also, necessarily sublimates of their material life process, which is empirically verifiable and bound to material premises.
Karl Marx "The German Ideology"
Marx Revisited: The enslavement of the individual by Materialism
Materialism has guided human progress in each stage of our development, and yet at the same time limits us as individuals due to its basic and vacuous premises. The term, as understood and analyzed by Marx, has to be comprehended as "the totality of relations of production that constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness."1
Although many opponents of Marx would argue that his works have not endured the test of time and history, his ideas reversed the liberal notion that man is master of himself and unfolded the vision that the individual has actually become a slave of his/her materialistic behavior. Since the establishment of the concept private property the people have subconsciously fallen victims of their own artificial creation in the constant strive for gaining more and more possession. Nowadays in a global society marked by profit-race and consumerism, the imposition of Materialism eradicates gradually the modicum of moral values and norms that are our most precious legacy from our ancestors. The people are judged by what they possess, not by their inner virtues and qualities.
These very same virtues in the past have been the cornerstone for a meaningful life; competition within the society for a better status or for a woman was a challenge and honor at the same time. On reverse, today terms like competition and material status are simply "carnivorous" qualities that debase the individual's primordial strive to overcome his "bestial" nature. Marx is even harsher in his arguments when criticizing the impact of Materialism on human development:
"The competition turned into a bitter struggle, which is now being extolled and interpreted to us as a revolution of world significance, the begetter of the most prodigious results and achievements."2
Moreover, Materialism is influencing every sphere of human interrelation and creates a vacuum as men through their deeds have indirectly chosen this very Materialism to shape their lives. Even people who do not regard themselves as materialists and pretend (as most of us do) to have higher values and perceptions are swept by the power of the majority, by the "affliction of the spirit with the curse of being burdened with matter."3 The defenders of the assertion that market economy fosters human progress forget that each action could have a counteraction. Humanity may be well-to-do in satisfying needs and demands, but it is definitely robbed of what distinguishes people from all other species- thought and spirit. Why and how our thought and spirit have been robbed? Marx has found an answer 150 years ago that is still valid today:
"The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men. Conceiving and thinking appear as the direct efflux of men material behavior. The same applies to mental production as expressed in the language of politics, laws, religion..."4
On the other hand, obviously, Materialism is necessary (in the pure form of means of subsistence) but should not be leading and guiding in men existence. Consciousness, ideas, and conceptions have to overcome this burden, as they are the clearest and most distinct attributes of human beings. This very process of overcoming will elevate us toward the goal of fulfilling our true destiny to be humans and spiritual species. Otherwise, we will remain slaves of our greed for material well-being. "As a Japanese Zen master once said to his disciples as he was dying- I have learned only one thing in life: how much is enough."5
1.The German Ideology
2.The German Ideology
3.The German Ideology
4.The German Ideology
5.The Market as God