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Transhumanism and Marxism: Philosophical Connections

James Steinhoff

24(2) May, 2014

Link to article

There exists a real dearth of literature available to Anglophones dealing with philosophical connections between transhumanism and Marxism. This is surprising, given the existence of works on just this relation in the other major European languages and the fact that 47 per cent of people surveyed in the 2007 Interests and Beliefs Survey of the Members of the World Transhumanist Association identified as “left,” though not strictly Marxist (Hughes 2008). Rather than seeking to explain this dearth here, I aim to contribute to its being filled in by identifying three fundamental areas of similarity between transhumanism and Marxism. These are: the importance of material conditions and particularly, technological advancement, for revolution; conceptions of human nature; and conceptions of nature in general. While it is true that both Marxism and (especially) transhumanism are broad fields that encompass diverse positions, even working with somewhat generalized characterizations of the two reveals interesting parallels and dissimilarities fruitful for future work. This comparison also shows that transhumanism and Marxism can learn important lessons from one another that are complementary to their respective projects. I suggest that Marxists can learn from transhumanists two lessons: that some “natural” forces may become reified forces and the extent to which the productive apparatus is now relevant to revolution. Transhumanists, on the other hand, can learn from Marxist theory the essentially social nature of the human being and the ramifications this has for the transformation of the human condition and for the forms of social organization compatible with transhumanist aims. Transhumanists can also benefit from considering the relevance of Marx’s theory of alienation to their goals of technological advancement.


Posted by GamerFromJump  on  05/28  at  12:11 AM

Transhumanism is the ultimate expression of self-ownership, the exact opposite of Marxism’s state ownership of persons, who exist only as members of classes with wholly known desires and beliefs.

Posted by TheWatermellon  on  06/10  at  02:02 PM

GamerFromJump, far from it. Marx was highly concerned with the nature of the individual. What he understood, however, is that an individual exists in context of the society they live in. You should check out his stuff on Alienation. What Marx proposed was not state ownership of persons, but collective ownership of production. Contrary to popular belief, Marx and Marxism have very little to do with equality- that word, in fact, is never used by Marx, Engels, or any of their predecessors (Blanqui, Rosseau, Proudhorn, Freurbach, etc. etc.)- Marx’s work is dedicated not to understanding distribution, but the actual production of things. Essentially, Marx’s idea is that there are two kinds of value- use value, where an item or position is determined by its actual usability, and Abstract value, where value is assigned based on social conditions and beliefs. Marx’s vision of a post-capitalist society was one where those who produced Use-Value, factory workers, scientists, teachers, farmers, etc. Would control that value and that the actualy use-value of a product would take precedent of arbitrary and abstract value like capital prospects and stock value along with all these other ridiculous ways of measuring value in a capitalist economy.

Posted by instamatic  on  06/28  at  04:31 PM

Don’t know about Marx as economist, but as philosopher he is relevant. Even conservatives don’t grasp his,

“change comes when all other possibilities are exhausted.” [paraphrase]

Problem I have with conservatives and the religious (religious is not always synonymous with conservative) is when they don’t know what to think/do, they resort to the invisible hand of the marketplace and or divine intervention. Thus when conservatives are impatient for conservative change (e.g. revanchism) they aren’t aware how *all*other possibilities have to be exhausted. Which isn’t, BTW, making every mistake until doing things correctly.

Posted by instamatic  on  06/28  at  06:08 PM

...needs some clarification.
Conservatives claim progressives are unrealistic/impatient. Yet conservatives—when you examine their behavior and not what they say—are unrealistic and impatient for conservative change. Then too, they do not know (because of not wanting to think about it due to the unpleasant nature of the subject) how dislocative their own actions are. In other words they are transcendentalists who consciously or unconsciously think the invisible hand of the marketplace or divine intervention (deus ex machina) will mend our ways.
Again: they do not possess the impatience to wait for change (as they define change) after ‘all’ other possibilities have been exhausted.

Posted by David Roden  on  08/05  at  03:08 AM

There is a new current in contemporary political thought called “accelerationism”. In it’s “left"versions it combines a sophisticated form of rationalism with techno-optimism and a Marxist analysis of the relationship between economic organization and the forces of production.

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