Marx and Bentham`s Conceptions of Human Nature and Its Influence on Political Views

Marx and Bentham’s Conceptions of Human Nature and Its Influence onPolitical Views

Marx and Bentham’s Conceptions of Human Nature and Its Influence onPolitical Views

From ancient times, the justification of political authority has beenclosely associated with human nature. Many prominent philosophers andpolitical thinkers have had different ideas of how the society shouldbe organized, and this directly influences what they think of anideal political organization. For instance, Plato thought that theideal society would be run by a council of philosopher, given thatthey were the best positioned to tell what is good and what is badfor the society (Sacks &amp Murray, 2009). At the same time,Aristotle believed that humans are political animals and thatgovernments were set up to pursue what is best for the society(Garver, 2011). These are some are some of the thoughts that showthat political acts and impulses are direct results of contact withhuman nature and the society. Different conceptions of human naturehave thus to the present played a role in the thought of prominentphilosophers. Marx (2012) assert that man is a “species being”capable of developing and determining his nature to a degree. On theother hand, Bentham conceives man as a creature susceptible of painsand pleasures governed in all his compartments partly by thedissimilar alterations of passions and self-interest (Bentham, Mill,and Mill, 2013). In fact, Marx and Bentham’s conceptions havehelped greatly to shape the notion of human nature. In this regards,the discourse assesses the suggested conceptions as well as the meansthrough which they shaped the political views of Karl Marx and JeremyBentham.

Marx’snotion of species-beings and Bentham Utilitarianism

Most researchers have demonstrated great interest in Marxism andMarx, but they have failed to show the same attentiveness in theorigins of Marx’s moral thought. In this regards, any interest onMarx should recognize the human essence within the postulation ofMarx. One of the key features of Marx’s philosophy is that it isunites humans with nature, work, other humans and with themselves.All these for elements are united to form what is popularly known as“species-being” (Marx, 2012 Allan, 2010). As such, Marx’sprinciple revolves around alienation, his importance on alienationbeing a suggestion of essential concern. Marx gave an analysis ofhow private ownership of the means of production imposedestrangement, which included products of labor, the process ofproduction and the products (Lacewing, n.d). This notion of speciesby Marx is cryptic and fugitive. The elements that Marx alluded toconstitute species-being included the corporative organization oflabor, the relationship between human beings and the naturalenvironment, formation of the needs and sensory capacities and theemancipation of women (Dyer-Witherford, 2008). Marx never meant thathuman beings existed only because of biological productivity. Heinstead alluded that the power to collectively transform the naturalbiological sense into making life of will and consciousness.

Given this, species-being may be better put as ‘species-becoming”,which is the process of a species whose nature is to be productive inan organized community. It is the work of Karl Marx that advancedcapitalism and capitalistic governments (Marx, 2012). However, onerealizes the quintessence of Marx in the social dominion thus, theprinciple is dependent on interpersonal connection, as determined bythe mode of production. In this regards, Kleingeld (2013) assertsthat Marx criticizes capitalism by asserting that the approach ofproduction is the prerequisite for the prospect of the demonstrationof human quintessence in virtue of the fact that it commands thepractice of an essential connection, manifestation of one’scapacities or labor. In fact, Marx asserts that the inhumanapproaches of production inhibit or misrepresent the manifestation ofthis essence.

Bentham’sprinciple of utility purports that nature places humankind under thegovernance of two independent masters, pain and pleasure (Bentham etal., 2013 Parekh, 2013 Kleingeld, 2013 Kringelbach and Berridge,2009). He believed that the human nature was characterized by totalsubordination to pleasure and pain. This comes down to the claim thathumans are pleasure-pain organisms, and that all humans preferpleasure to pain. He regarded the two as simple and homogeneoussensations, and distinguishes a number of pleasures, ranging fromsensual to intellectual pleasure (Wells, 2010). All these pleasuresare equal in value, and that one could be more valuable than theother could if it only yielded more satisfaction quantitatively.These independent “masters”, which have been given the rulingpowers by nature, govern all the human beings in actions andthoughts.

Atthe same time, Bentham was fully aware that the position of thisideology could be undermined only if avoiding doing the right thingdespite the pain could not make a person feel any better, and did notresult in more pleasure in the long run. Hensel (2013) asserts thatthe principle of utility meant that pleasure and pain were anonymousforces of nature, politics and governance. Bentham does not excludereligion in his conception the overlook of heavenly recompenses andchastisements he embraces under the crown of “self-regardinginterest” and the sacred sensation under that of compassion withGod. However, Habibi (2014) contends that Bentham does not see man asadept at tracking mystical excellence as a culmination of yearning,for the conformism of his own personality to his yardstick ofbrilliance, without expectation of worthy or terror of wicked.Consequently, Bentham does not recognize human liberties in anindividual capacity and, therefore, the notion of impartiality ismerely a subservient facet of value (Bentham et al., 2013). Bentham’sattitude of justice is an implicit portion of usefulness asassimilated in a legislation

Typeof the government system as per Marx

Marx’s ideology touched on capitalism, communism, and freedom.According to his ideology, interaction with people interferes withindividual goals of acquisition, security and such (Marx, 2012). Thismeans that political freedom has a negative implication, that is itis defined as freedom of the individual from the society. Given thatthere is no recognition of the social nature and production, freedomexcludes the concept of equity and social responsibility for thosewho cannot compete in the market (Dyer-Witheford, n.d Kleingeld,2013). Marx`s theory identified five core concepts of politics andgovernance. First, equality is different from liberalism’s moralequality. Secondly, welfare is the importance of which is shown bythe analysis of alienation. The third concept is the importance ofmeaningful creative work. The fourth concept is that the communitydetermines how people’s lives are controlled, and finally, theconcept of history and modes of production.

GivenKarl Marx’s ideology, Fabian (2011) asserts that it would be wrongto associate “communist government” with him. His thought ofhuman nature means that under Marxist communism, there would be nogovernment at all. The government would have shrunk and disappearedunnecessarily under modern communism. According to Evans (2013), a“dictatorship of the proletariat” would be the form oftheoretical government that could be associated with Marx’sideology. This is the type of political government that theproletariat would come up with once it overthrew the bourgeoisie andcontrolled the economy (Vlach, 2014). The former would then go aheadand control the entire society’s politics. According to Marx’sconception of human nature, this government would not be adictatorship, rather a democratic government, with the proletariat incontrol, instead of the bourgeoisie.

Typeof the government system as per Bentham

Bentham had his unique view of human nature and made these views thebasis of his speculation on government (Bentham et al., 2013). Hisutilitarianism ideology, which superseded both the natural right andblind tradition of the lawyers, was the basis of innumerable legaland constitutional reforms in Europe. Kleingeld (2013) contends thatgiven his thoughts on human nature, Bentham felt that the principleof self-interest, which was carried through all state departments,ceased with the source of all political power, which is the electiveconstituency. This means that a government had to be formed accordingto the interest of the greatest numbers (Zhai and Quinn, 2014Habibi, 2014). According to his Utilitarian principles, the generalinterest is man’s personal interest. The greatest number’spleasure was to be considered as the government’s pleasures. Thisis the reason Bentham favored the formation of a representativegovernment, governments that were founded on the entire sacrifice ofthe general community (Zhai and Quinn, 2014). Philosophers afterBentham understood that through his conception of human nature, whichis governed by pain and pleasure, he brought into light politicalorganization, which cleared confusion and misconception, and promotedthe ideals of a perfect government, which reflected the interests oftrustees and the community for whom they held their political powerin trust.

Comparisonof Marx and Bentham’s ideologies

Perhaps the biggest similarity in conception of the human naturebetween Marx and Bentham is that the human society and its legalstructure had to be protected from myths and mysteries. They wereboth opposed to the natural conceptions of rights (McIntyre, 2008).In fact, there postulations do not regard the conceptions ofliberties in people. However, Marx was a revolutionary communistwhile Bentham was a liberalist. One of the most significantdifferences between Marx and Bentham’s conceptions of human natureand is that the former was not concerned with achieving the greatestgood for the greatest number, but achieving human emancipation.

While Marx’s ideology took into consideration individual interests,Bentham’s Utilitarianism would readily violate individual’sinterests in favor of those of the majority interest (Habibi, 2014).As a materialist, Marx does not award individuals equal abstract andassess how much damage it does to other people’s interests, ratherhe considers relationships between individuals to be eitherfunctionally exploitive or not. According to the conception of humannature by Bentham, rights were to be viewed as the product of aparticular society and its legal system. However, Blunden (n.d.)argues that Marx opposed rights that came in the way of socialism.His ideology denounces rights as a fabrication of the bourgeoissociety, which cut out individuals from the rest of the society. Inhis view, an individual is a product of the society, and should notbe separated from the rest of the society when it comes to mattes ofrights. This issue separated the thinking of an ideal government aspostulated by Marx and Bentham.


As the discourse suggests, Marx’s principle of species-being ispredestined to explicate the essence of humanity. As such, Marx seesman as a ‘species-being’ who makes his own species the objectiveof speculative and practical activities. On the other hand, Bentham’sutilitarianism focuses on the concept of utility and the way thisperception ties into administrative practices. The above discussionof the two conceptions of human nature and the notion of politics andgovernance as advanced by Marx and Bentham reveal that the societyfaces almost irresoluble pluralism of ideologies. Given thatdifferent people consider one of the philosopher’s ideologies to bemore applicable than the others’, there cannot be a formal scienceof government, even if a theory of social order would were to belogically constructed from conceptions of human nature. It would notbe possible to identify one way to construct supreme values, whichwould guide the formation of government. However, what the papershows is that different conceptions of human nature by differentphilosophers have a role in shaping a given society’s politicalviews. As suggested, Marx impression of human nature refers to man asa “species being” adept of cultivating and shaping his nature toa great extent. On the other hand, Bentham regards man as a beingvulnerable of pains and inclinations administered in all his partspartly by the different alterations of appetites and self-interest.


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