Man in Marxist Theory. Lucien SÚve 1974

3.1.2 The personality as a living system of social relations between acts

But perhaps it will be considered that, from the rapid analysis of the relations between labour and wages alone, which is certainly important but still very limited, this is to come prematurely to most ambitious conclusions. Is it really possible to genera Itse the lessons which seem to emerge from such an analysis? Is the concept of social relations between acts considered as basic structures of individual life relevant on the scale of the whole personality? Can it reasonably be hoped that it will make it possible to grasp its overall economy and laws of development, and this as far as the most varied personalities in the most varied societies are concerned? It is clear that the theoretical consistency of the definition of this new psychological science, the science of the personality, as a living system of social relations between acts, and with greater reason its pretension to the role of pilot-science on the vast terrain of the analysis of human psychism, depends on the proof that it is actually possible to generalise the resuh acquired in the analysis of the relations between labour and wages. And the only decisive response to this legitimate demand will be the detailed elaboration of all the contents of such a science of personality, respecting which we will try in the following chapter to submit a set of concrete hypotheses. But within the limits of the present chapter, i.e. still at the level of the articulation of psychology with historical materialism and what it implies for the science of personality, it is possible to show that the example of the relations between labour and wages is by no means a special case doomed to being theoretically exceptional and sterile but is rather, on the contrary, a typical case, making possible right away the extension and generalisation of research.

In the first place it is easy to prove that the analysis of the social essence which coruiects wages to labour and consequently a whole aspect of the satisfaction of needs to a whole aspect of concrete activity in individuals who are to be found in large numbers in a great number of societies (the wage-earners of a capitalist type of society) that this analysis makes it possible to pursue much further the theoretical investigation of the general economy of this form of personality and no doubt its laws of development. Indeed, if it is vital to understand that wages are not at all the ‘price of labour’, the natural and immediate result of the concrete productive activity to which they correspond i~ appearance in capitalist society, it is even more vital to understand that all this concrete activity is consequently without a natural immediate result for the individual who carries it out, or more exactly, that a separation, an opposition, appears between its natural immediate result from the point of view of the social process of production and its Purely mediate result for the individual. Whereas labour and the result of labour, productive activity and satisfaction of needs, constitute a cycle immediately closed on itself in private activity, the cycle in wage-labo~ in a capitalist economy is open, or rather there is no real cycle behind the appearances: the needs to which productive activity ‘corresponds’ are no more those of the individual producer than the wages he receives, a social means of having access to the satisfaction of his needs, ‘correspond’ to the labour provided. Through the alienation of labour, in the scientific sense which this concept takes on in Capital, it is the personality in its very foundation which is haunted by objective social contradictions.

There is no point to which Marx comes back more constantly in the course of forty years. Analysing the division of labour characteristic of capitalist production in The German Ideology, he writes:

Never, in any earlier period, have the productive forces taken on a form so indifferent to the intercourse of individuals as individuals. On the other hand, standing over against thcsc productive forces, we have the majority of the individuals from whom these forces have been wrested away, and who, robbed thus of all real life–content, have become abstract individuals, but who arc, however, only by this fact put into a position to enter into relations with one another as individuals.
The only connection which still links them with the productive forces and with their own existence – labour – has lost all semblance of self- activity and only sustains their life by stunting it. While in the earlier periods self-activity, and the production of material life were separated, in that they devolved on different persons, and while, on account of the narrowness of the individuals themselves, the production of material life was considered as a subordinate mode of self-activity, they now diverge to such an extent that altogether material life appears as the end, and what produces this material life, labour (which is now the only possible but, as we see, negative form of self-activity), as the means.

Ten years later, in the Grundricse, Marx takes up the analysis again in the more rigorous ecunomie cunceptualisation that he had worked out in the meantime:

It [the exchange-value of labourj has a use-value for the worker himself only is so far as it is exchange-value, not in so far as it produces exchange-values. It has exchange-value for capital only in so far as it has use-value. It has a use-value, as distinct from exchange-value, not for the worker himself, but only for capital. The worker therefore sells labour as a simple, pre-determined exchange-value, determined by a previous process – he sells labour itself as objecti/ied labour; i.e. he sells labour only in so far as it already objectifies a definite amount of labour, hence in so far as its equivalent is atready measured, given; capital buys it as living labour, as the general productive force of wealth; activity which inreases wealth. It is clear, therefore, that the worker cannot become ru/i in this exchange, since, in exchange for his labour capacity as a fixed, available magnitude, he surrenders its creative power, like Esau his birthright for a mess of pottage. Rather, he necessarily impoverishes himself, as we shall see further on, because the creative power of his labour establishes itself as the power of capital, as an alien power confronting him. He divests himself [entliussert sich] of labour as the force productive of wealth; capital appropriates it, as such. The separation between labour and wealth, is thus posited in this act of exchange itself, What appears paradoxical as result is already contained in the presupposition. The economists have expressed this more or less empirically. Thus the productivity of his labour, his labour in general, in so far as it is not a capacict but a motion, real labour, comes to confront the worker as an alien power; capital, inversely, realizes itself through the appropriation of alien labour.

And ten years later still, in Volume One of Capital, he takes up this basic question again in a particularly suggestive way from the very point of view of scientific humanism:

On the one hand, the process of production incessantly converts material wealth into capital, into means of creating more wealth and means of enjoyment for the capitalist. On the other hand, the labourer, on quitting the process, is what he was on entering it, a source of wealth, but devoid of all means of making that wealth his own. Since, before entering on the process, his own labour has already been alienated from himself by the sale of his labour-power, has been appropriated by the capitalist and incorporated with capital, it must, during the process, he realised in a product that does not belong to him.
The labourer consumes in a two - fold way. While producing he consumes by his labour the means of production, and converts them into products with a higher value that that of the capital advanced. This is his productive consumption. It is at the same time consumption of his labour-power by the capitalist who bought it. On the other hand, the labourer turns the money paid to him for his labour-power, into means of subsistence: this is his individual consumption. The labourer’s productive consumption, and his individual consumption, are therefore totally distinct. In the former, he acts as the motive power of capital, and belongs to the capitalist. In the taller, he belongs to himself, and performs his necessary vital functions outside the process of production. The result of the one is, that the capitalist lives; of the other, that the labourer lives.

But this life is completely dominated by capitalist relations:

The labourer is often compelled to make his individual consumption a mere incident of production. In such a case, he supplies himself with necessities in order to maintain his labour-power, iust as coat and water are supplied to the steam-engine and oil to the wheel. His means of consumption, in that case, are the means of consumption required by the means of production; his individual consumption is directly productive consumpuon.
The mdividual consumption of the labourer, whether it proceed within the workshop or outside of it, whether it be part of the process of production or not, forms therefore a factor of the production and reproduction of capital; just as cleaning machinery does, whether it be done while the machinery is working or when it is standing. ‘I’he fact that the labourer consumes his means of subsistence ldr his own purposes, and not to please the capitalist, has no bearing on the matter. The consumption of food by a beast of burden is none the less a necessary factor in the process of production, because the beast enjoys what it eats.

‘I’hese are very long quotations: but it was necessary to give them because, while they were written a century ago, pages like these, taken from so many others, seem still to have never been read, not by psychologists, of course, hut by psychology. Precisely because they are not confmed to ‘psychology’, these texts, which for us in the twentieth century arc still vitally true, utterly essential for understanding our real life, contain indications of incalculable importance for a real psychological science of personality which have still never yet been perceived as such and at all events have never been made to function theoretically as such. Let us therefore show how much they can be. The characteristic of the wage-labourer in capitalist society is that under no circumstances does he possess the means of pursuing his productive activity – except one: his labour-power. And as the ‘appropriation’ of the means of production, in other words, the working knowledge and activities by which individuals make these means of production their own ‘is itself nothing more than the development of the individual capacities corresponding to the material instruments of production’ ,follows from this that labourers are not able to develop their individual capacities, their growth as personalities, at least as far as their activity is practiced as wage-labour. Their labour-power, therefore their ‘human being’,’ consequently cannot be manifested as a function of their abilities, aspirations and needs: it cannot be free self–expression but must be sold to the capitalist. l’his sale does not mean only that the labourer is deprived of the capacity to use it in his own way hut that it descends from being the expression of the living personality to the position of a commodity – that it loses its concrete existence as a force creative of use-values in order to take on the abstract form of an exchange-value, the magnitude of which is determined before the concrete labour-process, independently of it, except in the phenomenal forms in which it is calculated. At the same time it is also personal consumption which is disconnected with concrete activity and real needs, which itself becomes simply the means of preserving the use- value of labour-power for the capitalist, i.e. its exchange-value for the labourer. Thus the living personality is alienated in all aspects: it is dominated by its exchange-value which is the negation of concrete individuality, haunted through and through by social relations of dependence, split by a fundamental opposition between personal life, which is only able to lodge itself in the pores of the working day, and social life which is nothing other than the strictly determined, abstract means of securing this personal life, To be sure

all production is an objectification [Vergegenstandlichung] of the individual. In money (exchange-value), however, the individual is not ohjectifted in his natural quality, but is a stcial quality )relation) which is, at the same time, external to him.” The worker ‘s own life activity, the manifestation of his own life ... is for him only a means to enable him to exist.’

Let us consider things even more closely. In his personal life the individual is undoubtedly quite able to determine his activity freely and to relate it concretely to his real needs, but as he does not own the forces of production generating the universal development of the individual, as the limits of this personal life are fixed in all respects by the social relations and in the strictest way, as even with this personal activity the reproduction of labour-power necessarily takes priority since it is a condition for the very possibility of living, this real life of the individual is itself transformed into a minor fact, a mere distraction, an appendage of the abstract form of labour-power. In social labour, on the contrary, the individual is confronted with advanced productive forces: in principle, it is here that he could broadly develop his individual capacities. But here everything is reversed! not only is this development not the aim of the activity but it can only even he brought about so far as this contributes to the creation of exchange-value for the capitalist, a condition with which it is continually in contradiction. Concrete labour, the manifestation of the living personality, the condition of its very development, can therefore never freely flower: where it could it does not have the means and where it has the means this is forbidden to it. It is precisely because concrete activity is thus wholly subjected to the requirements of abstract activity that, in so far as it coincides with the reproduction of labbur-power, the satisfaction of needs appears as the natural basis and motor element of the personality. Everyday psychology for which all psychic activity, human as well as animal, aims in the last resort simply ‘to satisfy needs’, is basically nothing else than the naive, ideological expression of the fundamental alienation induced in the personality of the labourers within a capitalist society by the very nature of the social relations. It is very true that here man works in order to live to the same extent that he lives in order to work – instead of being able to work for the job itself as free self-expression, instead of life being the C development of all human powers as such the end in itself, not as measured on a pre-determined yardstick’.

This is why the general schema of behaviour appears in the form of the cycle need-activity-need, N-A-N, consequently implying a homeostatic view (simple reproduction) of the personality – an illusion which constitutes the foundation of nearly all theories of motivation which have been formulated until now – whereas in fact such a shema in no way reflects a naturally given fact in man but on the contrary is the clearest effect, on personalities, of social relations, themselves characterised by an internal tendency to fetter the rapid growth of the productive forces.

Consequently, one can also see that from an analysis like that of the real relations between labour and wages not only does a new sort of relations between acts appear but also that this type of relations provide access to scientific analysis of the basic contradictions of personal life – contradictions between social activity and private activity5 abstract personality and concrete personality, personal consumption and reproduction of the labour-power, etc. – and open up immense perspectives for reflection on the laws of development of personalities. It is this which no conventional theory of learning is able to bring us. In the best eases theories of learning which belong on the terrain of behavioural science can explain to us how the development of activities is brought about in abstraction from social relations between acts, in abstraction from the social structure of the personality, i.e. without taking into account what determines the general course of development of the personality. They are to the laws of development of the personality, the elaboration of which appears possible on the basis of analysis of social relations between acts, what the technological analyses of the development of the productive forces are to economic analyses based on the analysis of the relations of production. This is why they encounter a number of aberrant facts on their terrain which they cannot theorise correctly. And only psychologists who are aware of the limits of behavioural science and who also reflect on what is beyond these limits, particularly if they work on the basis of Marxism, can see in these aberrant facts something which brings the old psychological concepts deeply into question. This is how, in his comprehensive study of learning, J.F. Le Ny, although he confmes himself in all his work on this side of the threshold ‘where psychological activities cease to be common to man and animals correctly points out

What laboratory psychology, particularly interested in the analytic aspect of behaviour, has hardly dwelt on, if at all, is the fact that a whole dialectical structure of reinforcement exists within the environment in concrete psychological life.... ‘In man the importance of the past and of the environment is such in this respect that it is as if beneath the variablity and diversity of ends one can hardly recognise the common foundation of earliest motivations, transformed by personal history. It is to this extent that social conditions assume all their importance. Man does not cease to be biologically determined but his way of being so is to determine himself socially; the individual becomes a person by intergrating in himself every thing which the society in which he lives enriches and impoverishes

But the vast programme of new research which these observations outline cannot be carried through if one does not first of all undertake the scientific analysis, which is not in itself psychological, of ‘the structure of the social environment

The same problem can be approached from another angle as well. A crucial question for any psychology which intends to contribute practically to the maximum flowering of all human personalities is obviously that of the limits of psychic growth, of their nature and origin, and of appropriate ways to make them recede. Such an enquiry may certainly rely on neurophysiological, biological and medical facts: a psychological gerontology must be articulated with biological gerontology. But the least reflection on obvious facts from everyday observation should show that the limits of development of personalities absolutely cannot be understood in some of their essential aspects on the basis of the notion of biological limits. ‘Discordances’, in both senses early fixation of personality or, on the contrary, belated periods of growth – are eloquent proofs by themselves that, beyond all biological determinisms, we are dealing with a phenomenon the essence of which is social. Here again historical materialism plays its role of pilot-science.

In Capital Marx points out the at first sight extremely odd characteristic of the limit of growth of the productive forces which goes against the tendency of capitalism constantly to drive them forwards and which appears particularly in the form of the tendency of the falling rate of profit. Now, this limit is not at all inherent in the productive forces themselves which are perfectly able to grow beyond it, as the replacement of capitalist relations by socialist relations proves concretely. ‘This particular barrier testifies to the limitations and to the merely historical, transitory character of the capitalist mode of production’)° It is due to the fact that in capitalism.

the expansion or contraction of production are determined by ... profit and the proportion of this profit to the employed capital, thus by a definite rate of profit, rather than the relation of production to social requirements, i.e. to the requirements of socially developed human beings. It is for this reason that the capitalist mode of production meets with barriers at a certain expanded stage of production which, if viewed from the other premise, would reversely have been altogether inadequate. It comes to a standstill at a point fixed by the production and realisation of profit, and not the satisfaction of requirements.

In short, this merely historical limit results from the inversion of relations between the ends and means of the development of production, between concrete and abstract activity.

Capital and its self-expansion appear as the starting and the closing point, the motive and the purpose of production; ... production is only production for capital and not vice-versa, the means of production are not mere means for a constant expansion of the living process of the society of producers

It is obviously not a question of mechanically transposing the conclusions drawn by Marx from the tendency of the falling rate of profit in the capitalist economy to the theory of personality. But consider the underlying reason in Marx’s analysis why capitalism comes up against a limit in the development of the productive forces: this limit results from the fact that production is subordinated to the pursuit of profit, concrete activity to its abstract form. This inversion is at the root not only of the capitalist economy but, we have seen, of the personality of the wage-earner in this economy. This is why there is something quite different from a mere analogy between the phenomenon of the non-natural tendency of the productive forces to stagnate and the phenomenon of the non-natural tendency of the human being’s capacities to stagnate in the conditions of these social relations. Should one be surprised if, in a personality in which the development of concrete activity is completely subordinated to the value of labour- power, the corresponding capacities of the individual tend to stagnate to the same extent that the value of his labour stagnates and even depreciates according to the law of impoverishment? Behind the biological and neurophysiological phenomenon of ageing, the effect of which on the personality is certainly not deniable, one can therefore see here an essential social law which appears in the stagnation of countless personalities, often from earliest youth, and at a very much lower level than that which some exceptional personalities prove is attainable in a given society. Ought one not therefore to re-examine in a radically critical way, at the same time as the bourgeois ideology of ‘natural aptitudes’, the deep-rooted and yet so obviously ill-supported idea according to which the few great men of a period are the biological exceptions which chromosomal combinations produce with the forseeahle parsimony of a genetic calculus? Is it not time to have done with the glaring theoretical vacuity of a certain biological mythology of genius by asking whether the existence of great men, accomplished personalities, is not proof that the stage of development reached by the society makes this accomplishment possible in general, and consequently whether the fact that the majority of individuals remain stunted is not the result of the fact that they are prevented from developing, as others are allowed to, by inhuman social relations in the concrete historical sense of the term, which negate for them the possihiities.of flowering implied by the general level of the productive forces and civilisation? Precisel,v in so far as the vast majority of other men are stunted by the social conditions, are not the great men, the exceptions in a period, in a sense the normal men of this period, and is not the norm of stuntedness precisely the exception which ought to be explained? The following chapter will return to these questions which today are irrepressible. At all events, starting from the analysis of the social relations between labour and wages, one can see how reflection gradually and logically identifies the main possible lines of a general theory of the basic structure of the personality and the laws of development which govern it.

But so far it has still only been a question of the wage-labourer in capitalist society, considered only from the point of view of his activity of wage–labottr. In order to go further in the proof that it is possible to genera lise fully the analysis of the personality regarded as a living system of social relations between acts, we must now go into different aspects of personal life, different personalities from that of the wageearner, different societies than capitalist society in the light of the theorisation already outlined.


The preceding analyses concern the individual’s social activity, his labour as the object of political economy. Can we conceive of an indentieal approach to very different psychological problems like those of personal life within marriage and, more broadly, within familial relations? The questions is all the more important because as a whole, ‘humanist’ psychology, in the speculative sense, which knows almost nothing whatever about relations of production, on the other hand places exceptional emphasis on ‘marriage problems’ and love. Moreover one explains the other as Marx clearly observed in connection with Feuerbaeh in The German Ideology: not having grasped

[Men] under their existing conditions of life, which have made them what they are - . . the] stops at the abstraction ‘man’, and gets no further than recognising ‘the true, individual, corporeal man’ emotionally, i.e. he knows no other human relationships’ ‘of man to man’ than love and friendship, and even then idealised.


Seen like this the ‘dialectic of the married couple’ is the pseudo- concrete of an essentially abstract psychology for which real social relations come down to the speculative relation of the ‘Ego’ and the ‘Other’. But even when these problems are tackled in a much more concrete and scientific way, the tendency to treat them as problems of affectivity in the broadest sense of the term, and to valorize them at the expense of problems of social labour and relations of production is nearly always the sign of a philosophic-humanist distortion: this is a veritable theoretical law.

This does not mean that the idea upheld here of the psychology of personality as a living system of social relations between acts implies such a slight attitude towards the problems of love, the married couple and the family that it is depreciatory. No more than the principle of historical materialism, with which it is directly articulated, the principle of such a theory of personality is not reductive: in the first place, because, as the psychology of personality cannot of course be regarded as simply homologous with the theory of society, the host’s of personal activity cannot he reduced simply to the individual’s participation in basic activities of the corresponding society. If, as we shall put forward in the following chapter, the infrastructure of a personality is constituted by the set of activities which produce and reproduce it, then not only social labour figures in it but personal activities and interpersonal relations which, each in their own way, develop capacities, satisfy needs and yield a psychological product. Love, for example, meets these criteria and in this sense belongs to the infrastructure of the personality. After all if social labour appears to us in general to play the most decisive infra structural part in the overall economy of the personality this by no means depends on a ‘Marxist’ mysticism or fetishism of labour but merely on the unchallengeable fact that social labour is generally the activity in which the individual is in contact with the productive forces and the most decisive social relations in the last analysis. But precisely because of their median position, as it were, between properly social activities and purely individual activities in personal life, inter-personal relations can play a specific role of the highest importance. And contrary to a widespread notion, the most valuable contribution of Marxism in this matter is undoubtedly not to strive after a forced assimilation of love to social relations strictly speaking but, on the contrary, to emphasize its extremely profound specificity and at the same time its ambiguity, the source of an unfailing capacity for taking on the most varied secondary functions and meanings: in many ways it may even occupy the place of social labour. Moreover, this is why its position in the infrastructure of the personality is not at all an unchanging natural fact but a feature which is both historically relative and concretely individual. We will come back to it.

In the second place, if interpersonal relations, the life of the married couple and the family, love and friendship, may be thought of as belonging to the base of the personality, it must not be forgotten that the base is naturally no more the whole of the personality than of society; it is the ultimately determining element in the turn of phrase of Engels who, in a letter to Joseph Bloch, adds: ‘More than this neither Marx or I have ever asserted. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract, senseless phrase.

It is obvious that in the life ofa personality just as in that of a society, there are a great number of acts which do not belong to the base but which, for example, play a superstructural role. We will return to this very important problem of the superstructures of the personality in the next chapter. But we can already note that in the profound view of Janet, who was the first to reveal their nature as secondary acts, regulators qf primary activities, the emotions in general, including those of love, are undoubtedly very largely superstructural: in spite of the second-rate philosophical idelogy through which he thought, he thereby outlined the theory of personality as a system of activities structured in time, i.e. he came as close to the solution as is possihle for anyone who knows nothing whatever about Marxism. From this point of view one certainly does not move forward much if one says that in its remarkable multiplicity of aspects, love, in a complex way, takes on a great number of superstructural functions the network of which, of course, is not easy to sort out. In the life of a personality there are also undoubtedly many acts which one cannot relate directly either to the base or the superstructure. To try to work out a true theory of personality by imagining at the outset that every act will necessarily be classifiable under very clear scientific headings would be childishness: we are very fortunate if it becomes possible at last rationally to grasp the principal structures and their general trend. As in all other relations, there is definitely a great deal of this ‘connective tissue’ of activity in married-couple and family relations.

But while these relations may he highly autonomous with regard to what was identified above as the base of the personality, the fact remains that they are relations. And if one takes this notion of relation really seriously, one cannot conceive of it as a purely external and contingent relating of individuals who are themselves defined in a purely antecendent and independent way; every relation itself has an essential reality through which those who are intermeshed in it are determined this is also the whole meaning of the 6th Thesis on Feurerbach and the dialectic. It is therefore a question of studying married-couple and family relations in their essential reality. And what is it to investigate this essential reality scientifically if not to begin investigating the material exchanges which it consists of, or at least, which support it? A materialist, scientific psychology of married-couple and family relations depends on the careful investigation of domestic economy or it does not exist. Such is clearly the approach of the founders of Marxism and all genuine socialist theoreticians, I’hus, analysing the conditions of the social emancipation of women – which in its turn conditions their psychological emancipation and that of relations in the married-couple --. Lenin wrote in 1919 in A Great Beginning that,

Notwithstanding all the laws emancipating woman, she continues to be a domestic slave because petty housework crushes, strangles, stultifies and degrades her, chains her to the kitchen and the nursery, and she wastes her labour on barbarously unproductive, petty, nerve-racking, stultifying and crushing drudgery.

This petty domestic economy is not only characterised by the low level of means of labour, as is believed by the technicist ideology for which the generalising of the vacuum–cleaner and the washing- machine, because they are advances in themselves, ought to be enough to free woman: the development of the productive forces of industry, which is also positive in itself, does not emancipate the proletariat in capitalism by itself however – on the contrary. Even more than the level of the productive forces, it is a system of divicion of labour, rclauons of domestic activity, dependent on the relations of social production, which is directly concerned, and it is on its scientific analysis that the change to a scientific psychology of personality in the married–cottple and the family depends. This is a huge theoretical task to perform, fur it is clear that while, thanks to Marx, we have a remarkably rich and profound theory in political economy, many questions (even if they were asked), are left unanswered on the terrain of domestic economy where, in contrast to what happens for social labour studied hy political economy, the extreme diversity of conditions objectively makes generalisation very difficult. And yet is not this backwardness in the theory of domestic economy precisely the most direct source of the persistence of idealism in a whole ‘married-couple’ psychology?

What must be closely gone into in particular is the exact nature of the exchanges involved in familial relations and their effect on the activities which they govern. In this domain one must of course beware of simple-mindedly putting the domestic labour (of the housewife) and wage-labour, provision of services and selling of commodities, domestic servitude and capitalist exploit ion, all on the same footing: even the bourgeois family is not a sealed-down model of a capitalist society. But that said, problems arise. What is the relation between the concrete domestic labour of the housewife within the family and the abstract social labour bringing in income in the form of the husband’s occupational activity, for example? lt is constantly liable to be directly replaced itself by wage-labour, and dottbly replaced: the same time can he used for paid social labour if the housewife begins to do a job, for example, and the same tasks can be carried out as paid domestic labour if she employs a daily-help. To what extent does domestic labour-rime therefore emerge from the concrete forms in which it is caught up in a domestic economy which by itself does not induce this? To what extent can it begin to play a regulating role in married-couple relations? Although in a specific way, does not a separation also tend to be brought about here between concrete activity as self-expression and immediate relation with others, and a pseudo-abstract form of this activity burdened by the constitutive handicap that as such it is incapable of being exchanged for an income within domestic relations? One can immediately see the perspectives that such an investigation would open up on the forms of individuality which the relations of domestic activity involve, the contradictions in the personality which they induce and which are grafted onto the basic contradictions recalled above, and the source of all sorts of ideological representations that one continually encounters as soon as one looks at the psychology of the sexes and their relations, e.g. the social root of the whole ideology of the essential inferiority of woman. In actual fact it is impossible to deal with this question seriously other than on the basis of an analysis of the practical relations of the married-couple, and more broadly of the family, for in the deep logic of the relation between the man and woman there is the child, the most important element of the analysis, albeit at times by its absence: so, as one says that the woman is the the future of the man, the child is the future of the married-couple. If one is moved by the spirit of materialist science, it is wtthout forcing things that one is referred back from interpersonal relations to material exchanges and from material exchanges to social relations – from psychology to the economics on which it is based, in this domain as in others. After all, in Capital particularly, Marx laid the foundations for the scientific theory of the family articulated with political economy:

However terrible and disgusting the dissolution, under the capitalist system, of the old family ties may appear, nevertheless, modern industry, hy assigning as it does an important part in the process of production, outside the domestic sphere, to women, to young persons, and to children of both sexes, creates a new economic foundation for a higher form of the family and of the relations between the sexes.

This short analysis, which naturally does not claim to solve the problems taken as examples, is undoubtedly enough to show that the concept of the personality as a system of social relations between acts is not an illegitimate and frultless extrapolation from what the analysis of social labour teaches us. On the contrary, it is the richest general basis for reflection on the various basic aspects of personal life. Psychoanalysis today, in its most modern form, tells us that the unconscious is structured like a language: better, it is language. At the point we have arrived at, does it not appear even more well-founded to say that the personality is structured like an exchange; better, that it is basically a complex system qf exchanges?


The analyses from which we set out concern the relation between wagges and labour. Is it possible to analyse the basic structures of personality according to the same principle if we consider the case not of a wage-labourer but of a man occupying quite a different position in capitalist society, whose income is of a different sort for an activity carried out in very different conditions? Without any doubt, Thus, all things being equal, what is true of the relations between labour and wages is equally true of the relations between capitalist activity and profit: the profit of the capitalist is no more the immediate natural result of the capitalist’s concrete activity, whatever it is, than wages are the natural immediate result of the wage–earner’s concrete labour.4’ And to imagine the opposite in both cases restores the same ideological illusion. profit is not the price of the responsibilities of control any more than wages are the price of labour: it is the deduction from the wealth created by living-labour, authorised by the legal status of the capitalist. Although in a different sense, the relation between profit and capitalist activity is therefore no less mediated by social relations than that of labour and wages. In fact it is necessary to go further: the pursuit of profit cannot even be considered as the concrete personal activity of the capitalist with a view to satisfaction of his personal needs:

It must never he forgotten that the production of this surplus-value ... is the immediate purpose and compelling motive of capitalist production. ft will never do, therefore, to represent capitalist production as something which it is not, namely as production whose immediate purpose is enjoyment or the manufacture of the means of enjoyment for the capitalist. ‘l’his would be overlooking its specific character, which is revealed in all its inner essence.

Here, precisely, is the source of a contradiction characteristic of the form of individuality of the capitalist, not a ‘psychological’ contradiction in the everyday sense of the word, but an objective social contradiction and to this extent determinant as far as the personality is concemed. It is the ‘Faustian conflict’ which Marx analyses throughout his work from the 1844 Manuscripts to Capital, the conflict which deveLops in the breast of the capitalist between ‘the passion for accumulation’ and ‘the desire for enjoyment’ to accumulate is to conform to the demand of ‘constantly extending his capital’ which competition compels as ‘external coercive laws ... felt by each individual capitalist’,43 but on the other hand, the capitalist, who is not only capital hut also a concrete individual, ‘has a fellow-feeling for his own Adam’, all the more so as prodigality being an important source of credit, ‘luxury ... becomes a business necessity to the “unfortunate” capitalist [and] enters into capital’s expenses of representation’.But this is tantamount to saying that even the satisfaction of the personal passion for enjoyment in the capitalist tends to become an aspect of the process of expanded reproduction of capital. Marx concludest ‘If to classical economy, the proletarian is but a machine for the production of surplus-value; on the other hand, the capitalist is in its eyes only a machine for the conversion of this surplus-value into additional capital .

This example clearly shows that the relations between social activity and satisfaction of needs, and more broadly the basic relations of the personality with itself, are just as social in the capitalist as in the proletarian, which means that the concept of the personality defmed above is true of the one as well as of the other. In this respect it is perfectly correct to think of the capitalist’s life–process as no less alienated than the proletarian’s, although in a different way: like the proletarian, the capitalist (exists in) ‘relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them ‘,and for both, these capitalist relations bring the relations between the social and the personal aspect of individuality, and the concrete and abstract form of exchanges into contradiction; more generally they subordinate the whole of individual life to society as an estranged inhuman power. In general, in class society, ‘this restricted character of development consists not only in the exclusion of one class from development, but also in the narrow-mindedness of the excluding class, and the “inhuman” is to be found also within the ruling class.

Moteover this clearly confirms the falsity of the speculative-humanist equation of the 1844 theory of alienation with the theory of impoverishment in Capital. In actual fact the still partially speculative character of the notion of alienation in Marx in 1844 appears precisely in this, that very different phenomena are mixed up: the impoverishment of the working-class (is it necessary to emphasise that the capitalist economy does not allow of a law of impoverishment of the capitalist class?) and the general alienation of the relations of individuals in capitalist society as far as their conditions of life and they themselves are concerned, alienation conceived of in a fundamentally new way in 1857 or 1867 compared with 1844, the specific forms of alienation of each class not preventing the identification of an essence common to both.

One can therefore see that here too the idea of social relations between acts as the base of the personality is perfectly generalisable. In order to tackle the investigation of a personality scientifically, it is necessary to start from the theory of the corresponding historical forms of individuality. This theory itself always rests on the science of social relations, whatever class the individuality with which one is concerned belongs. Of course it may come about that the concrete materials for such an investigation are still inadequately worked out: it is clear for example that the detailed analysis of the forms and functions of intellectuals’ labour in contemporary France is far from being as advanced as that of the labour of the industrial proletariat so that in these two cases the theory of forms of individuality and consequently the psychology of personality are in a very different state of objective progress. But this clearly does not mean at all that the psychology of the personality of an intellectual worker could not be developed according to the same general principles as that of a proletarian; quite on the contrary, this proves that obscurely, the psychology of personality as it is outlined here shows, and in a way that is not at all vague the vast extent of the positive research which must be developed.


And we must come to just the same conclusion if we consider the problem of generalising these principles to the investigation of personalities developing in societies different from capitalist society: not only can this generalisation be seen straight away to he possible, but it is the basis on which the fundamentally important problems of the historical transformation of structures of human personalities can finally be approached. In this domain one can find particularly valuable indications in Marx which have nevertheless, it seems, still not been turned to scientific account on the psychological terrain. In analyses which were certainly rapid and sometimes abstract but always wonderfully penetrating and evocative, from The German Ideology to Capital, Marx regularly came back to this problem which he was the first to have clearly seen and stated, the problem of the development of forms of individuality in the primitive commune, the asiatic mode of production, slave societies, the feudal world – with perspectives here and there on socialist society and the communist future. Thus he already tries in The German Ideology to compare modes of relations and types of individuals who correspond to the still ‘natural’ instruments of production such as the cultivated field, and to instruments of production which are ‘created by civilisation’, [like] improved tools and machines.

In the first case, that of the natural instmments of production, individuals are subservient to nature; in the second, to a product of labour, In the first case, therefore, property (landed property) appears as direct natural domination, in the second, as domination of labour, particularly of accumulated labour, capital. The first case presupposes that the individuals are united by some bond: family, tribe, the land itself, etc; the second, that they are independent of one another and are only held together by exchange. In the first case, what is involved is chiefly an exchange between men and nature in which the labour of the former is exchanged for the products of the latter; in the second, it is predominantly an exchange of men among themselves. In the first case, average, human common sense is adequate physical activity is as yet not separated from mental activity; in the second, the division between physical and mental labour must already he practically completed. in the first case, the domination of the proprietor over the propertyless may be based on a persomi relationship, on a kind of community; in the second, it must have taken on a material shape in a third party money. tn the first case, small industry exists, but determined by the utilisation of the natural instrument of production and therefore without the distribution of labour among various individuals; in the second, industry exists only in and through the division of labour.

Even if one must only accept it with reservations, such a text opens up exciting perspectives on a psychological paleontology yet to be created, and the theoretical importance of which in many repsects appears fundamental. After all Marx did not stop at that point. In particular the long section in the Grundrisse with the title Forms which precede capitalist production,contains analyses of the greatest psychological as well as historical and economic interest around the central thesis that the human being becomes an indinidual only through the process of history:

He appears originally as a species-being (Gartungszcesen), clan being, herd animal – although in no way whatever as a city dweller in the political sense. Exchange itself is a chief means of this individuation (Vereinzelung). It makes the herd-like existence superfious and dissolves it. Soon the matter (has) turned in such a way that as an individual he relates himself only to himself, while the means with which he posits himself as individual have become the making of his generality and commonness.

This balanced view in which, let it be said in passing, it is impossible not to acknowledge the basic anthropological aspect of historical materialism, makes it admirably understood on what basis one ought to tackle the problems of the structure of the personality for each period of development of social life. And this is not of importance only to anyone who wishes to study the past of humanity: it is even more the vital problem of the future o/the personality which can find a way of being dealt with scientifically here, At this point in the analysis we go back to the observations stated in the first chapter on the utmost importance of the psychology of personality for the construction of socialism and communism. Too often, to our way of thinking, even when it professes to be Marxist, theoretical reflection on the problems of personality in socialist society proves a failure in getting to the bottom of things precisely because it does not start from a genuinely Marxist analysis of the real bases of personal life in such a society, i.e. from a true economic science of socialism and of the forms of individuality produced by this new type of social relations, as well as their characteristic contradictions. Perhaps this is what is most real and most vaulable in the apparently entirely retrospective theoretical lesson which Marx teaches us when he applies himself to understanding the slow individualiation of man through the early stages of social development: he shows us how ,to think the present and future stages of the process.

Let us sum up. The problem with which we set out was that of the definition of the human personality – and therefore of the science of personality which we wish to constitute – understood in the light of historical materialism and from the standpoint of its relations with the psychobiological sciences; it was to trace rigorously the boundary between the behavioural sciences and the science of personality capable of being articulated with Marxism. The examination of this problem has brought out that if, as is generally agreed, it has not been really conclusively solved so far, this is because two orders of facts which are really completely heterogeneous are constantly confused: namral and social relations between acts. Of course, to say that the science of personality is precisely the science of social relations and not of natural relations between acts may at first sight be considered an unnecessary semantic distinction, just as the fundamental distinction established by Marx between the defmition of wages as the price of labour and his definition of wages as the price of labour-power, must at first have seemed an unnecessary semantic distinction. In point of fact it is precisely because it lets this ‘distinction’ escape that the theory of personality has not so far succeeded in grasping the true nature of the psychological relations which constitute the basis of human individuality, when it does not go astray in searching for it on the terrain of biology. If, on the contrary, one starts from the view that the developed personality is the living system of social relations between acts, beginning with the basic relations, the infrastructural relations which become established in social labour, a boundary appears between psychology of personality and psychobiological behavioural sciences, based on a rational demarcation, and the apparently insurmountable dilemma of markingout this boundary is most cleariy solved. This boundary line does not follow an imaginary dividing line between the objective and the subjective, the physiological ‘simple’ and the mental ‘complex’, or anything at all like this. The object of behavioural science is the totality of psychism, and the psychology of personality does not ground its specificity in a pan of psychism that it would claim to take away from it hut in an order of relations which does not result from acts but which, on the contrary, is induced from outside by the fact of the integration of individual activity in the social world, an order of relations which tends to subcume the whole of psychism and which consequently plays the pilot role for understanding the personality.

In the 1844 Manuscripts Marx wrote: ‘The examination of division of labour and exchange is of extreme interest, because these are perceptibly aliena ted expressions of human activity and essential Power as a species activity and species power’. The concepts here still bear the stamp of speculative humanism. Relations must be inverted: it is not the division of labour and exchange which are the expressions of human activity, but human activity which is the expression of exchange and the division of labour. But once inverted, the idea is of crucial importance. For it is the most careful and objective investigation of the social division of labour and exchange in the general economic sense which provides the key to the science of personality. The fact that the key to this investigation might be outside the domain of psychology is what ordinary psychology could never envisage, but nevertheless it cannot he otherwise if it is really true that the human essence is not inherent in the isolated individual but in the ensemble of social relations and consequently if it is not only psychic faculties but at the same time forms of individuality, the structures of the personality, which develop in man on the basis of humanisation, the appropriation of the social heritage. One can also see what the articulation between the psychobiol~gical sciences and the psychology of personality consists oil Every act can be considered as a concrete material activity of a subject and on this level it is necessarily related to other acts. From this standpoint, acts are biological in their content and socialised in their form: this is the object of the psychobiological sciences. But at the same time since acts are integrated into the world of social relations, and in the first place by way of social labour, they also become something which produces and reproduces social relations, and from this standpoint they are no longer the acts of a subject but of a determinate social formation. They are then social in their content and biological in their form: the domain of the science of personality begins here, It goes without saying that a reciprocal determination exists between these two standpoints and consequently between these two scientific fields. ‘The psychology of personality is necessarily led to rely on the results of the psychobiological sciences. But it is not enough to say that the converse is true. For in so far as the mode of relations between the living being and the environment which characterise the animal are inverted in man and social life-processes become determinant, it is the science of social relations between acts which must itself play the dominant theoretical role, We will reconsider the problems which can emerge here at the end of this chapter. But this conclusion is the only one which makes it possible, on the terrain of the psychological sciences, to give Marx’s prophetic phrase in the 1844 Manuscripts its full theoretical significance: ‘History is the true natural history of man.