Man in Marxist Theory. Lucien SÚve 1974
He [the individual] himself is not only the organic body ...
In the face of all these creations [art and science, nations
and states, law> politics and religion~, which appeared in the first place
to he products of the mind, and which seemed to dommate human societies, the
more modest productions of the workmg hand retreated into the background ...
All merit for the swift advance of civiltsation was ascribed to the mind, to
the development and activity of the brain’.
So what is this science to be built of, this proposed psychology of personality? We have seen that the question is not only unsolved, but seems insoluble. And the first aspect of this insoluble difficulty is the problem of tracing the boundary of what belongs in principle to the sciences that we can broadly describe as psychobiological and what belongs specifically to an independent psychology, the problem of the real dzfti’rence between these two domains within their unity. And it is this problem to which we must first of all pay particular attention if we want to move forward to a rational demarcation of the field of the sciences in the areo of human psvchism.
The whole question appears to come down to this and to be soluble straight away as follows: there is nothing in psychic activity which is not neural and which consequently dues not fall or will not one day fall within the field of the physiologicol type of sciences. For anyone who holds firmly to a scientific position in these matters and all the more for anyone who is consciously materialist, any attempt to separate off a part of psychisrn which by its nature would escape the physiological approach–whether it be a question of consciousness’, the ‘subjective dimension of activity’ or ‘inwardness’ –– is intrinsically unacceptable one acknowledges unreservedly that psychic life is material through and through or one forgoes all scientific rigour.
In other words, to reach an acceptable solution to the problem it is necessary first of all to take an unequivocal position on this now old but still basic statement of Pavlov:
I am convinced that an important stage of human thought wtll have been reached when the physiological and the psychological, the ohiective and the subjective, are actually united, when the tormenting conflicts or contradictions hetween my consiousness and my body will have been factually resolved or discarded Actually when the objective study of the higher animal, i.e the dog, reaches that stage -- and this ts being accomplished in which the physiologists have an exact foreknowledge under all conditions of the behaviour of the animal, then what will remain of the independent separate existence of the subjective state, which of course is to the animal as ours is to us. is not the activity of every living being, including the human, transformed for our thought into one indivisible whole?
In a sense and the whole problem lies in stating exactly what this sense is this statement of Pavlov’s is entirely uncontestable, It constitutes the necessary premise of every conception uf the human personality which claims unreservedly to belong on the terrain of positive science, which excludes, in Engels’ words, every ‘alien addition’, i.e. every ‘idealist crotchet which could not be brought into harmony with the facts’.’ And from this point of view disdain for ‘absurd Pavlovian psychtslogy’, in Satire’s turn of phrase quoted above, is almost without exception the sign of a lack of scientific and materialist resolution at best. The whole modem development of the physiological sciences, on the contrary, provides striking confirmation of the great principle laid down by Pavlov. But it is particularly the consequences of this principle which must hold the attention here and form the object of a deeper investigation. Indeed, if every conception of psychology as science of a non~phvciological part of psychism, of an activity which is essentially separate from nervous activity or, at least, which definitely ought to be treated methodologically as if it were, which amounts to the same thing – is fundamentally idealist and must be absolutely eliminated from science, not only at the level of armchair theoretical pronouncements hut in everyday concrete research and ideological activity, then this means that a large part of what is still presented today as within the jurisdiction of an intrinsically independent psychology is bound to be re-ahsorbed sooner or later into a ‘neurophvsiopsychology’, a huge complex of psychobiological sciences, the scope of which will extend to the totality of human behaviour from the simple reflex to the most intricate mental operations considered in all thczr depth from their conscious and socialised aspect to their neurological infrastructures. The actual re-absorption of all pseudo-psychology into this materialist scientific complex may take a long time yet, even though the rate at which things are advancing in direction is very fast today ; a technical division of labour, particularly between the behavioural and neurophysiological approaches to psychic activity, may be destined to last for a long time even though their tendency to merge appears to be becoming much more marked; but from the theoretical point of view, one can and must from now on consider this re-absorption and this merging as sure to happen.
To anyone who might regard this prediction as risky we will simply point out that, far from being speculation about the futttre, this inexorable change from ‘psychology’ –- in the sense (still current today in France) of ‘science’ of a psychism regarded as suhstantialy distinct from nervous activity, i.e. in the idealist sense to physiology in the broad Pavlovian sense, is being brought about before our eyes and increasingly rapidly, particularly in the form of the striking development of psychophysiology. Taken as a whole, what indeed is psychophysiology? Accoding to some it is one of those young and appealing pivotal-sciences which everyone knows to be the site of the present rapid advance in knowledge and its impulsive transformations. At first sight this name of pivotal–science, which in itself rests on altogether well-founded epistemological and historical views, appears to correspond to the reality of the concrete situation which we are dealing with here. It seems to imply the genuine recognition of the increasing role of the materialist approach to psychological problems and to rest on a dialectical conception of their connection with physiological problems. Actually, in this particular case, it is a case of an illusion and sometimes possibly a trick – typical of idealism. To define psychophysiology as a pivotal science is in effect to implicitly restrict it in advance to studying borderline pnshlems which confront physiology with a psychology the status of which it does not have the power to transform or all the more the object of which it does not have the power to appropriate. It is even subtly to get it to agree that since it is pivotal then psychology, like physiology, is itself a door actually opening on to a specific and inalienable domain and accordingly onto a psychism regarded as non-physiological; in short it is to define it a restrictive and stotiial was’ under a dialectical and ntodem cloak and consequently to ctsnceal the revolutionary epistemological significance of its rapid advances. in actual fact the growth of psychophysiology is not at all the static enlargement of the investigation of mere zones of contact between an immutable physiology and an immutable psychology on the contrary it is the process of transforinaton of formerly ‘psychological’ problems – - i.e. problems of psychism approached idealistically in the last analysis -- into physiological problems – i.e. into problems of psychism approached, ot, at all events, open to hetng approached, materialistically. It is not the strengthening hut on the contrary the liquidation of the old status quo between the positivist prudenc0 of a phsyiology not venturing to deal with ‘consciousness’ and the spiritualistic arrogance of a psychology not condescending to t*e nervous realities into account. At the beginning of the century behavioural psychology had already dealt a very hard blow to this status quo, this scientifically retrograde dichotomy rooted in the state of the relation of ideological forces in the last century, by showing that although iambus, psychic activity can he studied from a Purely objective point of view. Pavlovism dealt it a still harder and indeed mortal blow by proving that this is true of psychic activity not merely although it is conscious but en so for as it is conscious. The rapid advance in research and discovery on the vast neurophysiopsychologi~~l terrain at the present time, a rapid advance which, beyond the ideological forms and individual incomprehensions by which it is sometimes brought about, has the characteristic of a powerful objective movement towards materialism in the recent history of knowledge, is the conclusive proof. l’he very form of the term psychophysiology, in which only half of the word psychology still emerges from the mouth of physiology, attests that in the broad sense materialist physiology has already in large part consumed outmoded psychology. One may be sure the rest will follow.
All terminological caprice aside, a basic reclassification is therefore essential with respect to present day usage of the words physiology and psychology which is still so frequent and even continues to look obvious to many people, and in relation to the dividing-up of subjects and the demarcation of domains which this usage implies. At the present stage of the analysis the precise nature of a truly scientific demarcation is not yet defined; hut what the term ‘psychology’ can no longer continue to cover over without intolerable equivocation comes out clearly. To take a simple but in fact extremely important example, open any philosophy textbook intended for secondary education at the chapters which deal with ‘psychology’: what does one actualls’ find on nearly all the questions which are tackled? A remarkably incongruous medley which in varying proportions according to subjects and writers can be reduced to two sorts of constituents with nothing in common: on the one hand physiological or psychophysiological facts which, in spite of their more or less pronounced quantitative and qualitative inadequacy, constitute instalments on what a real treatment of the qoestion ought to he like in the light of a general neurophysiopsychology of behaviour – and on the other hand, a kind of sweetening of the pill; when it is not introspectivC banalities guided hy a pre-established metaphysics, it is a concoction of more or less outmoded philosophical theses, more or less relevant literary references and moral considerations, i.e. however ‘modern’ the presentation and whatever interest they may moreover sometimes present, quite simply remnants of the outmoded speculattye way of regarding ‘psychology’.~ This ideological monstrosity is the result of the partiol lnatcroilsi mutation, irresistihlv induced hut secondarils counteracted at the same time by the contradictory moyement of ideas, of a psychology the whole function of which initially, in the scheme of secondary school studies conceived by the bourgeoisie in the last century, was to have it believed that the main theses of spiritualistic metaphysics were immediate given facts of consciousness. The progress which remains to he accomplished there (bre consists in the first place in developing on all sides the clear awareness that as a non scientific complement of the materialist science of psychic activity, psychology is at on s-nd, and that all ideological delaying–actio~5 to save this ‘psychology’ from extinction are lost in advance. It is important to emphasise that in this campaign Marxist Philosophy whole - heartedly supports scientific psychology.
The problem, which has been restated so many times in approximate forms for more than a century, is therefore whether between this houndary of embryonic neurophysiopsychology and the boundary of the science of social relations, including the theory of the general forms of tndividuality – whether, between ‘physiology’ and ‘sociology’ as one says in a too vague but suggestive, traditiotial vocabulary – there exists the subject-matter of a different psychological science as well, a psychological science of personality, irreducible to the materialist science of human behaviour, or whether, on the contrary, the totality of knowledge of this subject is itself appropriately re-absorbed into neurophysiopsychology. Here we are at the core of the problem of the definition of a truly scientific psychology of personality; at the core of the proble~n of the general division of the field of the sciences in the area of human psychism. This means that it is now a question of making it quite clear in what sense Pavlov’s statement on the merging of psychology and physiology is entire/v incontestable, or, what comes to the same thing, whether there is not a different sense in which it is quite unoeeeptahle. On the basis of everything which has been recalled concerning the Marxist conception of man, this second sense is not very difficult to work out. When Pavlov, speaking as a physiologist, declares that if the merging of the psychological and the physiological is realisable for the dog it is for ‘every living being, including man’, he is absolutely right on the point of view of the natural sciences and philosophical materialism: man is nothing other than a natural being. But if, applying this statement to the problem of a psychology of personality, rash exponents of Paviovism imagined that one can solve it – as far as fundamentals are concerned – in the same way as that animal psychology, by the pure and simple reduction of every investigation to the neurophysiopsychology of behaviour, consequently implicitly erasing every qualitative difference in essence between mam and animals, they would be absolutely wrong from the point of view of the soial sciences and historical materialism : man is a natural being but he is a ‘natural human being’, a being whose essence consists of the ensemble of social relations. To imagine that it is possible to erhaust the knowledge of such a being, truly to reach his essence, to grasp his soul, in a way which is basically identical to that which is suitable for animals, is am extraordinary aberration – a phvsiologistie aberration. We will come back to it.
This, then, is how the problem is posed: on the one hand, anything regarded as substantially distinct from nervous activity cam absolutely no longer exist in psychology as science, for such a thing does not exist, and yet, if it is quite true that the human essence is quite different from animal essence, once allowance has been made for everything which neurophysiopsychology can tell us of man’s behaviour, one is still far from having exhausted the study of his own essence; in a sense one has still not even touched on it. Now what is an essence which is not in any degree a thing? It is a relation. In this simple statement lies the whole secret of a psychology of personality actually distinct from the psychobiological sciences and able to reach adulthood, i.e. above all, able to become truly conscious of the nature of its object: the science of personality is concerned with being a science not of any thing by itself but a science of relations. This is what one might have suspected moreover by seriously reflecting on the lessons for all the human sciences which emerge from Marxist political economy, this pilot science. For Marxist political economy, the birth of which marked the completion of the transition of economic science to adulthood, is founded in large pan on the solution to a similar problem. As Engels says emphaticaliy, one can understand nothing in political economy if one does not grasp that its object of analysis is not the production of things themselves – what would then distinguish it from the natural and technological sciences? – but the social relations which become established in the production of these things and which are concealed by them:
Here at once we have the example of a peculiar fact, which runs through the whole of economics and which has caused utter confusion in the minds of the bourgeois economists: economics deals not with things but with relations between persons and, in the last resort, between classes; these relation, are, however, always attached to things and appear as things.
Although in a different sense, should not the same hold true in psychology of personality if the latter is to be a genuine science? Such, at least, is the preliminary thesis upheld here: being the science of the individual whose essence is the ensemble of social relations, the psychology of personality is not concerned with dealing with psychic acts – the concern of neurophysiology – hut with the relations which under/v them in the concrete life of the personality, relations which are social in the last instance but which are always ‘attoehed to’ acts and which ‘appear as’ acts.
What must he understood by this exactly? If it is a question of proving that human psychism hears the stamp of social relations through and through, is this not an already accepted idea in present-day psychology? Was it not introduced long ago in nervous physiology itself by Pavlovism? Thus, did not the theory of the second set of conditioned stimuli (language) in Pavlov bring social relations into the heart of the sciences of higher nervous activity? Is not his theory of neuroses – another significant example – founded on the idea of hypertension, overwork, imposed on the nervous system, particularly by contradictory characteristics of certain social relations? If, therefore, our study has resulted in proving that acts cannot be understood in abstraction from the relations that constitute the social environment within which they take place, it would amount to pushing at a wide-open door. But also, merely to come up with this puny result, one would have to have forgotten on the way the basic lessons of historical materialism in the theory of personality. Indeed it is quite true that in their most scientific pan recent physiology and psychology do pay great attention to the effects which the social environment produces on the acts of human individuals – and thereby in a sense do take social relations into account to the extent that acts regarded as an object in themselves allow and require it. But it so happens, in this way of regarding thing–quite legitimate if one takes up one’s position on the terrain of behavioural science – that social relations are merely thought of as the enz’ironenent by which these acts, bearing their essence of nervous octivitl’ in themselves, are conditioned. In this individual/environment opposition one can recognise a standard element in the conceptualisation of the biological sciences, which should not be surprising since in its broadest sense, behavioural science treats man like an essentiall biological being. The best proof of this is that although it does not at all fail to recognise the qualitative differences which appear on its own terrain between human and animal behaviour, it regards the theoretic~ transition from one to the other as still possible in principle and it constantly makes this transition in practice if nothing happens to prevent it. From this point of view too, Pavlov’s statement recalled above is true of the behavioural sciences as a whole.
But how is it not seen at the same time that by treating acts like a biological reality and social relations like a specific firm of the ~ one has still in no way taken into account what historical materialism tells us of the very essence of man as a developed social being? If one takes the fundamental discovery registered in the 6th Theses on Feuerhoeh really seriously, it must follow that beyond the boundary of behavioural science, a space opens up for a science of human personality, connected with behavioural science of course, but for which social relations are not the environment externally conditioning nervous relations between acts but the basis of a different sort of relations between acts, those non-physiological relations that constitute the bases of the personality in its historieo-sociall sense. And the precondition fur changing over to this new standpoint, without which it is impossible truly to understand the effect produced by society on individuals in all its depth, is the previous investigation of what individuals produce iii society. In other words the science of personality must right from the outset set up camp on the terrain of social production where historical materialism teaches us that men themselves are produced.
If one develops psychological thought on this basis one comes to see a type of relations between human acts quite foreign to the viewpoint of behavioural science. For example, take activities like wood-work or metal-work, mowing a meadow, driving a car, doing the cooking, looking after an injured person, seeking the solution to a technical problem, bringing up a child, giving someone orders, etc. On the one hand these are complex ensembles of acts producing results determined by their concrete nature, Seen in this way their relations with each other and with other acts as a whole belong purely and simply to behavioural science which divides them up according to its methods and concepts, and at first it may even seem that such an approach exhausts their content. But in actual fact this first viewpoint is still thoroughly abstract, for in it one disregards the status of these activities – not as nervous activities – but as the individual ‘s social activities : what position do they occupy in the real life of the personality, i.e. in its relations with the existing social world and with itself? In order to make this point clear, let us assume that instead of being the acts of individuals attending to personol or domestic pursuits – do–it–yourself wood–work or metal– work, driving a car l’or tourist purposes, bringing- tip one’s own children, etc. – these acts are carried out in the occupational setting of a tt’age-earning job in capitalist society –- that of factory worker, taxi- driver, teacher, etc. At first sight it might seem that not only their nature as acts but even their role in the overall economy of the personality is not substantially altered: in one case as in the other they aim at and achieve useful results desired by the individual. It might seem that the wages which correspond to them are their result for the subject just as was their concrete result on the assumption that they were non-occupational acts. Actually this would be to make a decisive ecomomic and therefore psychological mistake, irrevocably barring the way to a true understanding of the structure of development of the personality.
In order to grasp this one must reflect on Marx’s crucial discovery of the true nature of the relations between wages and labour in capitalist relations – a discovery from which the whole of Marxist political economy has come. This discovery is undoubtedly nowhere better set out, from our present point of view, than in the short section of Part Six of Volume One of Capital entitled ‘The transformation of the Value (and Respectively the l’rice) of Labour-Power into Wages’.” ‘On the surface of bourgeois society’, Marx notes first of all, ‘the wage of the labourer appears as the price of labour, a certain quantity of money that is paid for a certain quantity of labour.’t° If this appearance coincided with the reality there would therefore be no basic difference, from the psychological point of view, between an ensemble of acts functioning as personal activity and the same ensemble of acts functioning as wage- labour: the relation of wages to labour would be analogous to the general relation of the result of an act to this act itself, and from the psychological point of view this relation would remain entirely within the framework of behavioural science. But as a matter of fact this is merely a case of an illusion peculiar to bourgeois society.
What is the value of a commodity? The objective form of the social labour expended in its production. And how do we measure the quantity of this value? By the quantity of the labour contained in it. How then is the value, e.g. of a 12 hours’ working-day to be determined? By the 12 working- hours contained in a working-day of 12 hours, which is an absurd tautology.
It is from this impasse that Marx rescues political economy by establishing that what the labourer actually sells to the capitalist is not at all his labour hut his labour-power.
‘l’hat which homes directly face to face with the possessor of money on the market, is in fact not labour, but the labourer. What the latter sells is his labour-power. As soon as his labour actually begins, it has already ceas~ to belting to him; it can therefore no longer be sold by him. Labour is the substance, and the immanent measure of value, but has itself no value
Despite the appearance, wages are not therefore the price of labour for the good reason that, having no value, labour cannot have a price. Of what, therefore, are wages the price? Of labour-power. ‘By labour. power ... is to he understood the aggregate of those mental and physical capabilities existing in a human being, which he exercises whenever he produces a use-value of any description’
Like every commodity, labour-power is sold at its value, determined by the labour-time socially necessary for its production. How is this time determined?
Given the individual, the production of labour-power consists in his reproduction nf himself or his maintenance. For his maintenance he requires a given quantity of the means of subsistence. Therefore the labour-time requisite for the production of labour-power reduces itself to that necessary for the production of those means of subsistence; in other words, the value of labour-power is the value of the means of subsistence necessary for the maintenance of the labourer.
Thus, having paid for the labour–power at its value, it is possible in these conditions for the capitalist to make use of it in such a way that it creates a greater quantity of value than that which he pays to the labourer in the form of wages, and it is this basic difference which makes it possible to understand the whole mechanism of capitalist exploitation, the appropriation of surplus-value from labour behind the immediate oppeara nec of the wage appearing to pay for all the labour provided. Marx comments:
Hence we may understand the decisive importance of the transformation
of value and price of labour-power into the form of wages, or into the value
and price of labour itself. This phenomenal form, which makes the actual relation
invisible, and, indeed, shows the direct opposite of that relation, forms the
basis of all the iuridical notions of both labourer and eapitahst of all mystifications
of the capitalist mode of production, of all its illusions as to liberty, of
all the apologetic shifis of the vulgar economists.
For the rest, in respect to the phenomenal form, ‘value and price of labour’, or wages’, as contrasted with the essential relstion manifested therein, s-iz., the value and price of labour-power, the same difference holds m respect to all phenomena and their hidden substrattim. The former appear directly and spontaneously as current modes of thought; the latter must first be discovered by science. Classical Political Economy nearly touches the true relation of things, without, however, consciously formulating it. This it cannot do as long as it sticks to its bourgeois skin.
One can say of such an analysis that it is crucial not only for political economy but also at the same ttme for the psychology of personality. For it is also from this ‘change of form’ that derive all the illusions inherent in the idea which, as far as it forms one, ordinary psychology develops of labour. And one can say of this psychology, no less truly than of political economy, that it will not succeed in consciously formulating the true state of things ‘as long as it sticks to its bourgeois skin’.
Indeed, being inerested in acts only as behavioural realities and biologically defined activities – the only thing that outwardly exists in human psychological life and not suspecting the quite different problem of social relations between acts, ordinary psychology inevitably sticks to the appearance which human activity assumes ‘on the surface of bourgeois society’. One can clearly see here how those people are mistaken who accredit the abstraction of objective psychology to research in the laboratory compared with real life, when actually this abstraction is already effected at the level of the immediate conception of real life, of which in tins respect the psychology of the laboratory is merely an extension. For such a psychology everything takes place as if wages, which at the level of appearance correspond to a determinate concrete job, i.e. to carrying an ensemble of acts into effect, could fall without ado into something which goes without saying, the category of concrete results which an act has in view and achieves, as it analyses them, for example, in the investigation of learning. And consequently, without generally asking itself questions about this matter through any theory of personality whatsoever, it acts as if one could purely and simply put the relations between labour and wages in the same category as direct relations between concrete acts of work and concrete acts of satisfying corresponding needs, i.e. regarding them as identical with the only relations which it encounters on its terrain: in the last analysis psychological relations in the everyday sense of the term – natural, immediate, concrete relations with regard to which the social environment plays only a conditioning role. When one broaches the theory of personality in this perspective, albeit through conceptions of behaviour and motivations which are most heedful of ‘social factors’, one inevitably drifts towards the idea of a human nature governed in the last resort by psychological laws which are independent, rio doubt not in their form but in their essence, of the social formation in which these individuals work. In other words if one argues like this, the essenn’at fact for the life of a real individual, that a concrete activity is carried out by him as wage-labour rather than as a private pursuit, clearly ceases to have any scientific significance for psychology, which can disregard it as a purely fortuitous event irrelevant to its object. Moreover, much as they might be mutually opposed, methodological approaches to the concrete individual, from the laboratory of the biotypologist to the couch of the psychoanalyst, are in this respect nothing other than different uses of this implictt abstraction of labour and consequently of social relations. But in doing this psychological science remains enclosed in the surface phenomena of human life in bourgeois society: even when it wishes to be a depth psychology it remains the victim of idelogical mystifications which spontaneously obtrude on~ individuals because ‘these are the forms of illusion in which they move about and find their daily occupation ‘, On such a basis, the summoning up of a theory to constitute ‘Ego-World relations’ remains a barren utopia and the problem of the hisrorieo-tocial structure of the personality remains insoluble.
The point from which it is necessary to start if one wishes to understand it clearly is that the apparent correspondence between concrete acts of labour and acts satisfying needs made possible by wages has no economic truth and therefore can only be a psyehologicaj illusion. Depending on social conditions, highly variable wages and, all the more, totally different ways of spending them, may correspond to identical concrete labour: conversely, an identical wage, indeed an identical way of spending it, may correspond to the most varied concrete labour. This is already enough to prove that the correspondence between labour and wages is not a natural, immediate, ‘psychological’ relation in the everday sense and that consequently there is no hope of accounting for it in the terms and on the terrain of behavioural science, It is here that Marx’s analysis is positively irreplaceable in throwing light on the most essential problems of the personality. Indeed it makes it possible to understand that this apparent, direct correspondence of labour and wages is in fact wholly mediated by objective social relations, i.e. that a ‘correspondence’ only exists in so far as it is the bearer of a real relation quite different from the apparent relation. This real relation is what connects wages, not at all with the concrete labour which has been carried out but with the value-form of the labour’power which is expended, i.e. with a form in which human labour takes place as abstract-labour, which is no more reducible to the concrete acts which are its other side than the value of gold considered as money, for example, is reducible to its natural chemical substance, even though one is the support of the other. Here, therefore, at the very core of real psychological life, we are confronted with a ‘psychological’ relation which in point of fact is not a psychological relation but a social relation. Here, as Marx says in the 1857 Introduction, ‘the producer’s relation to the product, once the latter is finished, is an external one, and its return to the subject depends on his relations to other individuals’
And as this social relation is not at all simply a conditioning element of the ‘external environment’ but rather the most internal of all the relations that constitute concrete personal life, we must realise the fact that it is a /undatnental?y new type of psychological relatiorn, a world of quite speet tic structures of the living personality; in short, it is the terrain of a scientific theory of the historico-social personality which comes into view. In other words if one is considering concrete acts (woodwork or metal-work, driving a car, teaching a child, etc.) behavioural science is perfectly right to treat them, as concrete acts, as remaining identical regardless of the social conditions in which they are carried out, for these conditions change nothing in their nature as concrete acts. On the other hand, from the standpoint of the real economy of the personality, there is a gulf between them according to whether they function as wage-labour or private activity; everyone knows this perfectly well without needing to study psychology and what is surprising as a matter of fact is that psychology does not seem to be aware of it. The scientific psychology of personality begins from the time one has understood that it is a question first of all of studying social relations between acts as basis’ structures of individual life.
An elementary comparison may help us grasp the nature of the articulation
between behavioural psychology and the psychology of personality which is oultined
here. Let us consider a puzzle. From one point of view it is nothing other than
a number of cut-out pieces which must be put together into a completed whole.
There is nothing in the whole puzzle which is not a piece, just as there is
nothing in the personality which is not an act. And there is no piece of the
puzzle which does not have connections with others in the order of division
which constitutes it as a puzzle, just as there is no concrete act which is
not related to others in the sense which behavioural science gives this notion
of relation But when one fits in a new piece of the puzzle, and considers not
merely its shape in its interlocking relations with other pieces already fitted
together, but the part of the picture which it bears in its interlocking relations
with the picture already started, one appeals to an order of division and type
of structure – the picture – totally different from those which would
be involved if one undertook to do the puzzle on its back, And one can see to
what extent it would be absurd to attempt to account for the structure of the
picture in terms of the way jp~ which the pieces are cut our. This cut-out is
the support of the other hut the other is in no way its reflection. Quite on
the contrary, it is th~ picture which is prtmarv in all respects and its configuration,
which in itself, has no logical connection with the cut-out of the puzzle into
pieces, in practice is the master-form as far as an essential part of putting
the pieces together is concerned. In a similar, although much more complex,
way one can see to what extent there is little chance of accounting for the
historico-social structures of the personality – i.e. precisely what is
specific in the human personality – on the basis of relations between acts
as they appear on the neurophysiopsychological terrain. Or rather, the new type
of personality sturctures, which the analysis of an example as central as the
relations between labour and wages brings out, is not only fitted to provide
the foundation of the scientific theory of personality; although in a sense
it is supported by behavioural science this theory of personality itself does
not at all come to be added to it as its natural conclusion: its origin is elsewhere
and it is highly likely itself to constitute the pilot-science in the solution
of numerous problems difficult to understand in behavioural psychology
– the problem of motivations, for example, the complexity of which obviously goes beyond the theoretical capacity of behavioural science alone.
How can one not see that the real life of the personality is inwardly deeply haunted by abstract things like money, labour-time or wages; now these abstract things are nothing else than the reified forms of social relations, i.e. human relations, of which biological facts are the individual support but are as little their cause as the cut-out of the puzzle into pieces is the cause of the configuration of the picture. The relation between labour and wages, with all its immense consequences for the life of the individual, does not depend on the nervous system but on the social system. This is why the theory of personality considered as constituted by social relations cannot be constructed by mistaking for a basis psychological facts elaborated by behavioural science which are not the real basis of the personality. It is necessary to invert the relations assumed until now: it is social relations which, by way of the real life of the historico-social personality, constitute the basis of all sorts of relations, the projection of which, enigmatic in itself, behavioural science merely encounters on its terrain. At its most lucid, as a matter of fact, contemporary psychology of personality has undoubtedly recognised that division into acts, permissible on its own level, is not relevant as a division of the personality; but the division which it tries to substitute for it, the division into roles, for example, in spite of their interest remain prisoner to most of the usual psychological illusions because it has still not become clearly aware of the prerequisite necessity to radically invert the primacy of Psychological concepts: thus the concept of role is already a psychologi~~i concept (albeit from ‘social’ psychology) whereas the real basis is at the level of social relations which in themselves do not have a psychological form. This necessary inversion, the precondition for a scientific psychology of personality, is basically nothing else than the psychological corrollary of the Marxist inversion of the speculative conception of the human essence, And the inversion of the speculative conception of the human essence in the last resort is itself the reflection by science of the objective inversion constituted by the transition from animality to humanity, i.e. the transition from living beings bearing their essence in themselves as a biological heritage to others bearing their essence outside themselves as a social heritage. ~ In a sense the views put fo~ard here on the theory of personality are nothing else than the necessary consequence of everything which the modern trend of the sciences has taught us concerning the essence of man and which has strikingly confirmed the teaching of the 6th Thesis on Feuerhach, If one takes these experimentally confirmed lessons wholly seriously, it is impossible not to see that in a sense human psychology must be the reverse of animal psychology. We still look in vain for any trace of this reversal in a science which in essentials considers itself as a cousin of biology at the same time as it knows nothing about political economy and which, without too much disquiet, is satisfied with the same name as animal psychology. If ‘human psychology’ refers to the human branch of a science a different branch of which is concerned with animals, it is clear that it can only understand in man that which is not radically different from what one observes in animals. And if this defines the perfectly conceivable field of a behavioural, or more broadly, a human behavioural science, this unpassable limit has been precisely the stumbling-block up till now to the undiscoverable scientific theory of human personality.
At this point it is not a comparison with a puzzle, for example, which is necessary but, better than any comparison, it is the lesson of historical materialism as the articulation-support for the psychology of personality which is most illuminating. Historical materialism was born precisely of the discovery by Marx of the fundamental part played in the development of human society by a categor~ of relations which had not up till then been clearly separated from concrete relations between the conditions of social life: the category of the relations of production. Indeed if one studies the world of production of material wealth itself, i~ seems that one first merely encounters concrete labour-processe5 between which a multiplicity of relations exist, as well as relatiom between production and its natural conditions (for example, between agricultural production and climatic conditions, industry and mineral wealth, etc) and technical relations within production itself (for example, between production of consumption goods and production of means of production, between the level of the productive forces and the technical division of labour, etc.). From this point of view the investigation of the production of material wealth constitutes a vast domain which takes its materials from the natural and technological sciences. But it is only a step from that to imagining that all relations of production and more broadly of social life are relations of this nature, a step taken by all pre-Marxist conceptions which, as the case may be, deviate towards geographical, racial and technological theories of historical development. Without even mentioning their irrepressibly fragmentary nature in opposition to one another, these theories, just like current theories of personality, absolutely fail to give an account of the essential in concrete historical development because they do not understand that one has no more exhausted the analysis of basic relations with natural or technical relations of production than one has accounted for the picture which the puzzle bears with the cut-out of the puzzle into its pieces. On the other hand, from the time when Marx defined in all its rigour the concept of relations of production – i.e. not additional natural or technical relations but relations which men enter into in production, consequently, although belonging to the same social formation and connected with the former (which the comparison with the puzzle does not express), relations of a quite different category – the basic dialectic of social development becomes comprehensible, and comprehensible for the same reason that before the discovery it remained incomprehensible. Natural and technical facts are by no means rejected but rather situated as facts in relation to which the social labour-process – accordingly, the relations of production – while being conditioned by them, plays the role of regulator, and on which it increasingly produces its own effect. Thus not only does the science of social relations alone make it possible to understand relations whicb absolutely cannot be clarified on the natural or technical terrain – like the relation between labour and wages, capital and profit, land and ground-rent – but it equally becomes the pilot-science for grasping all the other relations and their general laws of development as a whole.
To confuse behavioural science and the science of social relations between acts behind the fallacious unity of the word ‘psychology’ is the same kind of mistake as the one which consists in confusing technology and political economy under the ambiguous expression ‘science of production’. And it is in a position which is homologous to that of political ecvnomy that the science of personality, articulated with historical materialism, must be constructed beyond behavioural psychology.