How is the problem of the laws of development of personality to be seen in the light of all the above? It goes without saying that here it can only be a matter of replying to such a question in the most frankly hypothetical fashion and at the level of the most general considerations. At all events, two basic points appear to be established. First, the search for general laws of development of the human personality, in the sense of an abstract determinism governing the development of a typical man, is without meaning or hope of success. The only general laws of develo~ment of personality that it is possible to conceive are dialectical laws stating the general forms of determination which make it possible to understand the concrete necessity of development in any particular personality; like the topology of the personality to which they correspond, such laws themselves are therefore historically relative. And their essential scientific use consists in providing the theoretical bases of elaboration of the law of activity and growth particular to each individual, or in other words, the singular system of necessities of development which characterise each personality. The deep-seated necessity which is unquestionably at work in every individual life, and without awareness and control of which there can be no question of real freedom, is by no means an abstractly general necessity of which this individual life is a particular illustration, but rather a necessity which is concretely inseparable from the personality the specific logic of which it expresses. But this specific logic cannot be understood if one does not grasp its basic articulations, which themselves refer to an overall topology of the personality, to the forms of individuality which underlie it, and therefore, in short, since they are the basis of the general necessity in which it is inscribed, to the social relations which constitute its real basis.
The second point which seems to be established is that there are three domains in which we can consider investigating these laws: the psychobiological, the psychosocial and the psychological, in the sense in which this term corresponds to the theory of personality strictly speaking. The particular system of necessities of development which characterises each personality arises precisely from the complex and contradictory overlapping of these three orders of determination. The growth of capacities, for example, necessarily takes place via psychobiological determinations of which laws of learning are an impression. At the same time this growth is governed by psychosocial determinations which, in a capitalist society govern among other things the value of labour-power. But this is not all: neurophysiopsychological necessities and social necessities are contradictorily integrated by a personality which, as such, has its own specific logic of growth, in which for example, the acquisition of determinate new capacities occurs as an internal requirement of the use-time. In a general way it is evident that by himself the individual does not have the means at his disposal to free himself from psychobiological or psychosocial necessity; both appear as objective conditions of personal life. But precisely for this reason they do not constitute what can be strictly understood by the term laws of development of personality considered as a specific psychological reality, moved by an internal necessity. In this latter respect there seem to be serious reasons for putting forward the hypothesis that in the dialectical sense of the concept of general law, the most general law of development of personalities is the law of necessary correspondence between the level of capacities and the structure of use-time. The theoretical reasons which lead one to put forward this hypothesis are evident: growth of capacities inevitably tends to induce a change in the activities which put them into effect and consequently a modification of the system of their temporal relations, in other words of their use-time. This is by no means merely a facile transfering of the historical law of necessary correspondence between the level of the productive forces and the nature of the relations of production Onto the psychology of personality but, it should be noted, an objective connection of essence: the real basis of this partial homology of fundamental laws is the juxtastructural position of the personality in relation to society. On the other hand, this partial homology seems to be corroborated empirically by the lessons which emerge from many psycho-pedagogic practices. What an individual knows how to do certainly seems to be not only that which characterises him most deeply, but also that which reveals the way in which he will tend to develop; if he stops lea rning then his personality tends towards stagnation; but if he substantially changes his capacities then his personality itself is stimulated to change in its deep structures. Still, as we emphasised above, this is only a tendential development: the necessary correspondence of use-time with capacities defines the internal psychological requirements of the individual’s development. This harmonisation of the use-time with capacities, which in its turn influences their subsequent development, can only be achieved to a large extent through the mediation of existing social relations. It is here that the internal psychological law of necessary correspondence between capacities and use-time comes up against the psychosocial law of the determination of personal life-processes by social forms of the determination of personal life-processes by social forms of individuality, i.e. by social relations. Since the latter, in the last analysis, determines the overall topology of personalities in sovereign fashion, real use-time sometimes comes into conflict with internal psychological necessities of development, a fact with innumerable consequences: here we are at the heart of the deepest dynamic of personalities, a dynamic which is socially determined and concretely individual at one and the same time.
One can easily envisage just how many biographical problems might be approached in the light of such a conceptualisation. Let us restrict ourselves here to a few suggestions in connection with the most important problem in the whole of the psychology of personality, from the point of view of Marxist humanism, i.e., that of expanded reproduction, in short of the maximum flowering of every personality. It is not difficult to understand that this flowering directly depends on the temporal relations between sector I and sector II of activity – relations the dialectic of which is most complex. On the one hand, absolute increase of sector I can be seen to be an immediate source of development of capacities, but on the other hand, the absolute development of sector I is only meaningful and its actual results real, only in so far as a sector II develops which uses the new capacities effectively, not to mention the fact which in its turn presents numerous problems, that in order to avoid a parasitic type of equilibrium, infantile for example, the activity of sector II must itself then reach a level corresponding to the psychological expenditures implied by sector I. Failing which, the entire personality is marked by the under employment of the capacities, under-employment which in its turn inevitably exerts negative effects on the development of the personality in general and of the corresponding zone of Sector I in particular. Even the briefest examination therefore shows that the development of sector I, the basis of all progress of the personality, involves clearly defmed criteria of proportionality in relation to sector II, and therefore to the general economy of the use-time.
In other words, when one approaches the huge problem of the development of individuals’ psychic capacities, one could not make a greater mistake than to consider nothing but the relatively external obstacles which it is liable to come up against, psychobiological and psychosocial obstacles which in themselves are external to the specific structure of the personality. By psychobiological obstacles here must be understood not so much direct neurophysiological limitations – since, hypotheses for example, with the exception of a limited cases, the capacity of a normal human brain to develop psychic capacities seems to be practically inexhaustible in relation to the present stage of development of the social heritage – but indirect limitations for example the effect of nervous type or temperamental characteristics on individual conditions of learning; these are obstacles moreover, despite their psychobiological character, more often social than than natural in their underlying causality and are subject in the first instance to corrective social changes. By psychosocial obstacles must be understood all the limitations directly imposed by social conditions on the acquisition of new capacities, for example all the economic and social conditions, school and university structures which in a capitalist country make it objectively difficult or even impossible for a child, an adolescent or an adult to pursue with benefit a course of studies or to better his occupational qualifications. These two sorts of obstacles can have considerable importance in the life of an individual. However, looked at from the point of view of the personality considered in itself, they appear as essentially contingent, since they do not derive from the internal characteristics of its use-time and do not necessarily belong to its specific logic. Moreover, this is in fact why the refutation of the bourgeois ideology of ‘natural aptitudes’ remains essentially incomplete if one restricts oneself to proving the social character of the obstacles which the individual’s psychological development comes up against as external conditions, even if they also appear within a psychobiological form: for what then remains unexplained is the internal dynamism of personal growth and its particular characteristics, i.e. that which is essential, within given social conditions but apparently independent of them, to that which we want to understand and which we need to be able to act upon.
Now if we reflect on the basis of all the considerations developed above, this crucial question of the internal dynamism of personal growth and its characteristics is above all the question of what I will call the organic composition of use-time, the relation between the part of use-time which belongs to sector I and that which belongs to sector II. A high rate of organic composition of use-time means that use-time includes an important proportion of learning activities. The development of the personality depends on permanently maintaining a high rate of organic composition of use-time. Abstracting from the biological and social conditions which can influence this rate of organic composition, it is clear that from the point of view of the internal dynamic of the personality it is essentially governed by the general P/N of the activities of sector I. In order to pursue the analysis further, it is therefore indispensable to reconsider the crucial concept of psychological product, and in particular one of the components of the product which in this case is fundamental, namely that which I will designate by the term psychological progress. I call psychological progress any acquisition or differentiation of capacities, any increase in the fixed capital which they make up. The psychological product is the sum of all kinds of effects of an activity on the personality as a whole; psychological progress is any positive effect it may have on its capacities alone. Of course, progress as a motivating element of an activity is a highly variable part of its product as a whole, so that all things being equal, the psychological product of an activity in sector I will vary according to the rate of progress which it involves in the fixed capital of capacities: at the level of the most direct controls this is what finds expression in our hypothesis in the fact that learning activity will appear as appealing in a given individual and in given conditions, whereas in another, or in other conditions, it will appear as irksome. The whole problem is precisely to bring to light the mechanisms of these variations in the psychological progress and product in sector I which are so important.
Reflection on one of the most universal, most obvious and yet, looking at it closely most enigmatic of psychological phenomena, may be of the greatest importance to us: this is what we might call the tendency of the falling rate of progress in the developed individual which is expressed in the very general tendency of personalities to stagnation and ossification as the years pass – a phenomenon which is all the more enigmatic since, while it is very general, it still does not at all have the universal character of a natural necessity. Irrespective of external conditions, the rate of progress may fail because the return from a given amount of learningfalls or because the amount of learning falls, or again because the fixed capital of capacities increases. It seems to me that in order to understand this last point it is necessary first of all to distinguish clearly organic composition of use-time and organic composition of the personality. By organic composition of the personality I mean the extent and degree of an individual’s capacities, the general level of his skill in relation to all the activities which he carries out. Now it is clear that while the rise in the organic composition of the personality directly depends on the rate of the organic composition of use -time, i.e., for example, that the progress of an individual’s skill in a given branch of activity depends on the relative part of his use-time which is devoted to the corresponding learning, conversely, the rise of the organic composition of the personality, in other words its rate of progress. by no means remains constant if the organic composition of use time remains constant. If, for example, phenomenal use-time saving been reduced to real use-time, two out of ten hours of psychological activity are devoted to learning activities, other things being equal the effect of the progress produced by these two hours will be proportionately much weaker on the personality of an adult who already has numerous developed capacities (accordingly, on a personalitY with a high rate of organic composition) than on the personality of a child with a weak organic composition. This is a major, apparentlY spontaneous fact borne witness to by the most constant observation of individual development: a given ‘amount’ of learning of new capacities will cause very little change in the personality structures of a man who already possesses many capacities and the corresponding knowledge, whereas it can mark the turning-point in the personal develoPment of a child for whom it is really new.
This phenomenon of the tendency of the falling rate of progress seems to us to be of immense importance in itself as well as in its general theoretical significance. In the first place, it makes it possible to detect the formidable biologistic illusion which hides behind the apparently harmless and unquestionable notion of ageing. There is certainly no question of failing to recognise the biological reality of the processes of senescence, the mechanisms of which, on the contrary, will certainly become more and, more clear with advances in psychobiological research. But here as elsewhere, the biologistic error starts as soon as one transposes biological senescence into a more or less immediate source of senescence of the personality, thus concealing behind a natural necessity the set of essentially social processes which find expression in psychological ageing, which in most cases is actually so little biological ageing that one can observe it on an enormous scale among young individuals with premature ossification of the personality, whereas it is hardly to be seen in others whose personality remains open to astonishing renewals of growth in spite of their advanced age. The preceding analyses, on the contrary, go some way towards throwing light on the deep social meaning of the phenomenon and consequently on its historical relativity: psychological longevity is also broadly a matter of social regime. For the tendency of the falling rate of progress, the source of the ossification of the relations which constitute the personality, is induced in individuals in the first place and from childhood through the social relations which, both internally as well as externally, qualitatively as well as quantitatively, stand in the way of a high organic composition of use-time: for example, it is the whole problem of a real democratic – and beyond that, socialist – reform of education, of occupational training, of access to culture, which is, among many other things, involved here. But whatever the arrangements which it is compelled to institute, the essence of capitalist society is to stand in the way of the indefinitely expanded reproduction of capacities in the majority of individuals, because one of its most basic traits is to transform labour-power into a commodity and to pay it at its value, in other words according to the minimal conditions of its production and reproduction: in this respect, well before biological senescence indirectly comes into play, capitalist relations exercise an unceasing retarding influence beyond a certain stage on all those human activities which develop capacities in the generally decisive sector of the abstract personality – the product of these activities beyond this stage tending to zero. All the more does capitalism appear unable to solve the still much more difficult problems of the apparently spontaneous tendency of the falling rate of progress: as the fixed stock of an individual’s capacities increases, it seems altogether inevitable that given absolute increase of capacities produces an increasingly weak modifying effect on this fixed capital and thereby on the whole personality. This is equally true of a determinate sector of activity as of the total personality, and is expressed, tendentially in both cases, in the fantastic form of a rapidly growing resistance to progress, a psychological inertia which is almost insuperable beyond a certain limit and which feeds the most tenacious ideological illusions. If, in the last analysis, and from the internal point of view, the structure of the personality depends on the level of its capacities, then there is nothing mysterious in the fact that the spontaneous plasticity of a personality of weak organic composition (a child or adolescent personality) tends to become inflexible as, other things being equal, the rise of the organic composition of the personality brings about a lowering of the rate of progress.
At present in the conditions of capitalism, a phenomenon therefore comes to supplement this tendency of the personality to ossify, a phenomenon which both sums up all the others and in its turn constitutes the most decisive obstacle to further psychological progress, and which I will refer to by the term dichotomy. I call dichotomy of the personality the ensemble of processes of separation and partitioning between its different sectors and above all between abstract and concrete personality, a basic dichotomy which in its turn governs multiple secondary dichotomies, poorly synthesised oscillating use-times. Let us assume that in a developed personality, the rate of organic composition of which is consequently relatively high compared with that of a child’s personality, the social conditions, as is so often the case in capitalism, compel abstract activity to assume the most alienated forms, reducing social labour to the level of tedious forced labour and preventing in a multitude of ways expanded reproduction of labour-power: the pychologicul product of abstract activity, and in particular in sector Ia, therefore blocked by external conditions. The result is that the acquisition of new capacities in this sector loses any appealing aspect for the individual himself, and through a determination which then assumes internal psychological forms which are liable to mask the objective social causes from him, the organic composition of use-time tends to fall in abstract activity as a whole. The psychological product which it produces depreciates from the point of view of its composition itself since it allows of less and less progress, the rate of progress falls off, the entire abstract personality loses its dynamism and adaptability and its separation from the concrete personality deepens. Here, on the terrain of the theory of personality, we again come across Marx’s wholeveconomic analysis of alienated labour: here social labour ceases to be ‘self-expression’ and is reduced to the level of a mere dehumanised means to ‘earning one’s living’. All the remaining dynamism therefore withdraws to the other sector, the sector of the concrete personality, in which the glaring contradictions of the abstract personality, and of the personality tout court, do not find their solution but rather flee their irresolution. Since, for the great majority of men in caritalism, this sector is one of individual activity separated from the modern forces of production, cut-off from mens’ crucial social relations between themselves, this dynamism can only be invested in limited activities, narrow diversions and compensations which themselves may turn out to have a falling rate of organic composition: the individual will no longer learn new ways of ‘expressing’ himself in his concrete life but will content himself with reproducing in Sector II those which he has already acquired. Was this analysis of dichotomy not already suggested in a page of The German Ideology, one of the most profound from the psychological point of view, in which Marx emphasises;
the connection of the enjoyment of the individuals at any particular time with the class relations in which they live, and the conditions of production and intercourse which give rise to these relations, the narrowness of the hitherto existing forms of enjoyment which were outside the actual content of the life of people and in contradiction to it.
And in a passage crossed out in the manuscript, he states explicitly:
In general, the enjoyment of all hitherto existing estates and classes had to be either childish, exhausting or crude, because it was always completely divorced from the vital activity, the real content of the life of the individuals, and more or less reduced to imparting an illusory content to a meaningless activity.’
In the conditions of a pronounced dichotomy, and whatever his biological age, an individual gravitates towards the senile structure of the personality, i.e. a structure in which quadrant lIc predominates without any relation other than an abstract one with the relative importance of quadrant 2a, socially inevitable in anyone having to earn his living: abstract activity is no more than a means of earning one’s concrete living which, far from being an end in itself, plays the part of illusory compensation for the alienation of abstract life. Such a personality is therefore alienated to its roots by capitalist relations which are more or less disguised as psychological ‘facts’. In the last resort, this deep-seated dichotomisation, an insurmountable obstacle to all subsequent progress, merely expresses the primordial separation of the individual from the social productive forces, which splits his very life into two fortuitously conjoined parts between which, if we may put it like this, the soul does not circulate. Add a general unawareness of real, social – and therefore human – relations to that of great superstructural weaknesses and one has the succinct image of the individual who is biographically alienated to the extent of being a willing victim of a form of society which has utterly destroyed his personality. Perhaps this short hypothetical introduction to the interpretation of the narrow life in one of its most characteristic forms in bourgeois society assists the reading of those rich pages in the Grundrisse in which Marx compares the forms of individuality adapted to different types of social relations:
In bourgeois economics – and in the epoch of production to which it corresponds – this complete working-out of the human content appears as a complete emptying-out, this universal objectification as total alienation, and the tearing-down of all limited, one-sided aims as sacrifice of the human end-in-itself to an entirely external end. This is why the childish world of antiquity appears on the one side as loftier. On the other, it really is loftier in all matters where closed shapes, forms and given limits are sought for. It is satisfaction from a limited standpoint, while the modern gives no satisfaction: or, where it appears satisfied with itself, it is vulgar.
But this outline of analysis of one of the forms of the obstacles which the expanded reproduction of the personality comes up against on its path is not an end in itself: its function is to suggest investigations to be undertaken concerning the general conditions of the elimination of these obstacles. For the highest task which the psychology of personality, as we understand it, has to accomplish, is not some ‘classification’ of ‘character-types’ based on more or less phenomenal criteria unconnected with real human life, with a view to giving individuals the wholly contemplative satisfaction of locating themselves in a taxonomy, and indeed more prosaically to facilitate their integration into a socio-educational process or a pre-established division of labour; it is to discover the common roots and particular psychological forms of the limitation of flowering of personalities in a given society, and in relation to the domain of psychology, to point out the conditions of its abolition. How is it that in a given society, side by side with numerous individuals with stunted development who do not even have either the notion or the desire to struggle against the conditions of their stuntedness, there can be others, not unlike them in other ways, whose development gives them a soaring view of human possibilities and who in fact struggle against the actual conditions of stuntedness of the former? And what must be done so that the former increasingly rise to the level of the latter, i.e. so that in the constantly increased diversification of persons, individuals as a whole attain the maximum flowering which a determinate stage of historical development allows? Is not reflection on the phenomena of the tendency of the falling rate of progress, pursued here in a consciously hypothetical and purely indicative way, in a position to provide some elements of a reply to this huge question? Schematically, as we have seen, the tendency of the falling rate of progress results from a threefold determination: biological (loss of learning capacity), social (decrease and even quashing of social instigation to learning beyond a certain point) and specifically psychological (fall in the rate of progress ‘spontaneously’ produced by the increase in the organic composition of the personality). If we leave aside the first, which we are not concerned with, the second appears straight away as a crucial condition, a key to the problem. The social excentration of the human essence, clearly formulated for the first time in the 6th Thesis on Feuerbach, finds expression here in the evident fact that the prospects of flowering of the human personality necessarily involve the radical transformation of social relations: for both the individual and for society the revolutionary transition from capitalism to socialism is the obvious condition of emancipation.
It is because it separates the individual from the productive forces, converts man himself into a commodity, founds social enrichment on the stealing of the labour-time and of the free-time of the vast majority, that capitalism ossifies and dichotomises personalities to their innermost. It is the transition to socialism, even when it is brought about in the least favorable historical conditions and is burdened with the heaviest handicaps, that removes the most decisive obstacle, which does not mean, of course, that it causes the contradictions inherited from previous social formations to evaporate all at once. While it does not abolish every opposition between concrete and abstract labour, nor consequently between concrete and abstract personality, socialism, by putting an end to the legal separation between the individual and the productive forces, through socialisation of the mean of production, by freeing man from the commodity form, and by making the quantity and the quality of labour provided play a real and direct part in the determination of incomes, creates the objective conditions such that this opposition no longer assumes the form of an antagonistic contradiction: if only through that, it also represents a truly historical turning-point for the human personality. In the same way that it emancipates the growth of the social productive forces from the requirements of capitalist profit, it frees the inner development of individual capacities from the external limitation represented by the minimal valuation of labour-power in capitalism. As much through its economic base as through the social, political and cultural measures which it normally involves, begins the immense historical process which will put an end to the dichotomisation of individuals and make social labour and self-expression coincide at a higher level. In this sense, as the most varied observers of socialist reality have so often observed, so long as they were able to show an open heart and mind, this new mode of social relations opens the way for man’s reconciliation with himself and for the flowering of every personality; the juxtastructural relations between objective human essence and individual existence finally start to become concretely reciprocal: here Marxist humanism receives the deepest experimental confirmation. Moreover this is why, avoiding every apologetic concern but also every deprecatory prejudice, the theory of personality cannot devote itself to a more instructive empirical investigation than to study in detail the real transformations of the forms of individuality and the structures of singular personalities induced in individuals by the socialist societies in their different stages, taking into account the particular historical conditions in each country.
But such an investigation would also undoubtedly not fail to reveal how in addition to the lasting after-effects of the preceding social forms, this form of society, a higher stage of human emancipation, nevertheless remains dependent on historical necessities which it could not neglect to even the smallest degree without inflicting the most serious harm on itself and on the individuals who develop within it. In particular if, as Marx frequently repeats, the development of individuals’ capacities results above all from the appropriation of the productive forces to which they devote themselves on the basis of social labour, it is clear that a substantial rise in the greatest number of capacities and therefore the annulment of the ossifying effects on personalities of the tendency of the rate of progress to fall, in the last analysis presupposes a universal development of these forces and their constantly expanded reproduction. This is what Marx already emphasised in The German Ideology hen he made the abolition of individuals’ alienation depend first and foremost on this development – ‘an absolutely necessary practical premise because without it want is merely made general, and with destitution the struggle for necessities and all the old filthy business would necessarily be reproduced.
To forget this key Marxist truth and to imagine as they have done in China that a voluntarist cultural revolution could make consciousness advance broadly beyond the real bases of social life, is a theoretical and political mistake of the first magnitude; and after all the foregoing on the theory of personality which is articulated with historical materialism, it seems legitimate to add that it is also a basic psychological mistake, which is moreover empirically confirmed in its effects. But if the growth of the productive forces, with all the transformations of social relations which it makes possible, is the ultimate objective condition of the growth of individual capacities and the correlative transformations of use-time, it absolutely does not follow from this that both series of processes, through their internal logic, develop at the same rate. On the contrary, as a general rule the rate at which biographical contradictions mature and require solution is certainly much more rapid than that of social develoment as a whole. Schematising in the extreme and leaving aside numerous other aspects of the problem, it seems that in this absence of temporal integration, which is inevitable in socialism itself, one can see a permanent risk of individual capacities reaching a ceiling, of the tendency of their rate of progress falling, and of the ossification and dichotomisation of personalities. Although no longer being inscribed in the very heart of the relations of production, as in capitalism, which represents a huge historical advance and frees existing contradictions from their intrinsically antagonistic character, the Possibility obviously exists in socialism that the law of necessary Correspondence between capacities and use-time might be more or less fundamentally counteracted by the relative slowness of development of objective forms of individuality, and that the insufficient change in the product of abstract activity might divert psychological dynamism towards those narrow forms of life which are so rightly called private/ deprived (privée).
In this respect, and in spite of difficulties on other levels, the ‘heroic Period’ of the transition to socialism appears to be easier than its subsequent complex construction: for the personalities produced in capitalism, victims of its contradictions, this stirring period of the transition in which history temporarily advances as quickly or even more quickly, than the personality itself, offers immense possibilities for speeding up the progress of individual capacities, for reorganising the structures of the psychological product and of the use-time, for reconciling abstract and concrete life and for solving problems of relations with society and of interpersonal relations. But when the new social relations are stabilised things present themselves quite differently for the generations formed within them. The psychological benefit of introducing socialism is then directly bound up with the effective and manysided use of the qualitative superiority which collectivisation, the disalienation of labour and social relations, and the elimination of class obstacles on the path of progress in all domains represent. Certainly the personality still remains determined by an excentric human essence, by social forms of individuality, by an objective logic of use-time, which it is not in its immediate individual power to alter at its own rate or in the direction which benefits it. But it is of the essence of socialism to give everyone the broadest possibilities of participating in the collective efforts to alter them and therefore to divert the psychological dynamism, which the conditions in sector I still do not make it possible to absorb beyond a certain point, precisely towards social activities transforming these conditions: in other words, to open up the most immense field for the basic contradictions of personalities, which socialist relations have not eliminated at a given stage of their development, to express themselves socially and to find a relative solution in militant activities, in the most broad and varied meaning of the term, in creative activities, which each in their own way, contribute to raising society onto a higher level. Generally the essential contradictions of personalities, the bases of which have still not been dissolved by historical development, are either evaded inwardly by dichotomisation and private life or else are pursued outwardly in the conscious excentration of the militant life. Here we can see the really vital importance which, from the standpoint of the psychology of personality itself, attaches to socialist democracy. For living socialist democracy truly concretises the elimination of every class obstacle to the associated individuals taking their affairs into their own hands, therefore making it possible for them, within historically existing limits, to achieve a many sided development of their capacities (including, according to Lenin, the capacity to run the State) and thereby, in fact, to make these limits to the flowering of their personality recede. In contrast, a socialist society which did not make provision for the full development of the corresponding forms of democracy, confining individuals in the contradictions of their personalities, would necessarily push them back towards dichotomisation and its artificial pleasures whatever they may be, i.e. paradoxically, it would regenerate some of the psychological contradictions characteristic of capitalism and, what is worse, without the prospect of the liberating socialist revolution. Once more we can see here how, far from moving away from political analysis, the psychology of personality, understood like this, leads back to it. It is the deepest political vocation of socialism to rely democratically on the masses; the solution to the psychological problems of socialist man also depends entirely on this.
Nevertheless, even if socialism, making maximum use of its higher democratic and humanist potentialities, frees the psychological product of learning activities from every limit other than that of the general level reached in each period by social development itself, and is thereby able to produce exceptionally developed men, the ‘spontaneous’ tendency of the falling rate of progress clearly seems bound to re-appear. In socialism and capitalism alike, the ratio in which a similar amount of learning activities modifies the fixed capital of capacities and maintains the plasticity of personality structures does not cease to fall as the sum of capacities already acquired increases. In this sense must one accept that, independently of the effects of biological senescence, every personality in every society necessarily tends to ossify by the very fact of its progress? If the phenomenon of the tendency to fall considered here was, as it appears to be, really spontaneous, i.e. independent of social structures and their historical transformation, then this pessimistic conclusion would be unchallengeable. But this is an illusion. Thus far we have considered the fixed capital of the personality simply as a sum of identical capacities: but it must also be analysed qualitatively. Thus to restrict ourselves to the most elementary observation, one can obviously not mix up forms of capacities as different as ability in a determinate branch of material production and capacity for scientific research, artistic culture and experience of social organisation, educational talent and athletic training. In actual fact, in so far as the social human heritage through which the individual develops psychically is practically inexhaustible in a human life, the fixed capital of capacities, however vast and varied it may be in a personality, still remains qualitatively incomplete: the organic composition of the personality is intrinsically uneven in every individual. This being so, the fact that in such and such a clearly defmed sector of capacities, for example, skill in carrying out a given occupational activity, a falling rate of progress tends to be brought about as it develops – which is inevitable of course – and that in this sense psychological dynamism tends gradually to retreat from the domain which it has vitalised, does not at all prevent learning activities from shifting to different sectors Hypothesis for a scientific theory of personality with a lower organic composition in which a high rate cf progress therefore still remains possible, thus maintaining the general plasticity of the personality. But this presupposes that the individual has the social possibility of transforming the very bases of his use-time according to the requirements of his personal life. This social possibility cannot be effectively provided for everyone with~ut a universal development of the productive forces, extreme fluidity cf all social relations, and the introduction of enormous means enabling every individual to extend himself in all directions: in short, it presupposes, beyond socialism itself, the material and cultural bases of communism proper.
So long as these objective conditions are not met, the majority of individuals, often for their entire lives, therefore remain more or less riveted to a number of social tasks to the exclusion of all others, and in these circumstances necessarily doomed to a falling rate of progress. The ‘spontaneous’ falling rate of progress is therefore by no means really spoataneous: it is the effect of the subordination of psychological growth to a fragmenting system of division of labour which itself reflects the limits of development of the productive forces and social relations. Not, of course, that the historical movement by which the technical division of labour unceasingly develops appears destined to slow down and retrogress in the future: on the contrary, there can be no question of development of the productive forces and of corresponding human capacities which does not presuppose and entail an increased diversification of activities even if, on the other hand, it simplifies or abolishes their old forms. In this sense, to make the full flowering of future individuals depend on an abolition of the division of labour in general, would amount to declaring it for ever impossible. But communism, making full use of the potentialities of classless society and abolishing the essential differences between manual and intellecual labour, labour in the towns and in the countryside, on the basis of an enormous development of the productive forces, will set men completely free from the conditions which riveted them to fragmented tasks, and will make possible within the diversified system of social activities a regalar versatility and mobility of individuals in relation to the internal requirements of their growth: this is the solution to the contradiction between the necessity of the technical division of labour and that of the whole development of individuals. No doubt this idea is still not expessed very accurately in The German Ideology in which Marx and Engels refer to the abolition of the division of labour without yet having analysed the different aspects of this vast historical phenomenon sufficiently closely. But from The Poverty of Philosophy onwards and all the more in the great mature works, Capital and Anti Duhring things are quite clear. Large-scale modern industry, Marx writes in Capital,
necessitates variation of labour, fluency of function, universal mobility of the labourer; (it) compels society, under penalty of death, to replace the detail-worker of today ... by the fully developed individual, fit for a variety of labours, ready to face any change of production, and to whom the different social functions he performs, are but so many modes of giving free scope to his own natural and acquired social powers.
And in Anti-Duhring Engels emphasises that every individual will have ‘the opportunity to develop and exercise all his faculties, physical and mental, in all directions’ within a society producing ‘a race of producers with an all-round training who understand the scientific basis of industrial production as a whole.
This simultaneous and successive variety and this flexibility of activities which are backed by a basic all-round technical education and constantly extended by the rich utiisation of increasing free time, are the key to the universal development of individuals. Moreover, from the great men of Antiquity to the great leaders of the modern workers’ movement, and the most universal individuals of the Renaissance or of the Eighteenth century, the proof that this is not simply a Marxist fantasy has already been provided many times in class societies themselves, to the extent that more or less by way of exception and necessarily partially they prefigured certain of the social conditions which communism will both realise and make universal. Thus communism, without which there can be no really universal development of every individual but which cannot itself exist without universally developed individuals, opens up magnificent prospects for the struggle against the tendency of the falling rate of progress and for the flowering of individuals. While it is quite true, as Engels noted, that ‘in the division of labour, man is also divided’, his capacities fragmented, his personality dichotomised, the communist form of organisation of social activity, on the contrary, will make possible not only a free development of each set of capacities taken separately but their interpenetration and reciprocal enrichment – practical skill and theoretical reflection, artistic capacities and social responsibilities, etc. constantly raising the rate of progress through a variation of use-time and maintaining the general dynamism of the personality at the highest level. Having escaped from social, and to the same extent from internal, alienation, and freed from all the forms of consciousness or of lack of awareness in which every form of historical impotence is mirrored, such men will truly deserve to be called free men.
But while it is true, as Marx wrote in The German Ideology, that strictly speaking communist society is ‘the only society in which the original and free development of individuals ceases to be a mere phrase’, this does not at all mean that, within the limits and through existing contradictions, individuals anticipating communism cannot, to a highly variable extent, gain real freedom. The extreme diversity of personalities and of their degree of emancipation within capitalism provides striking proof of this variability. Before finishing we will risk a few short remarks about another vast area of the science of personality which could start here: that of the general forms of the dialectic of personal development in capitalist society. There is no question here of surreptitiously returning to a sort of typology, i.e. to an abstract concept of essence; it is a matter of outlining the main logical possibilities through which each biography lays down its particular trajectory. On our hypothesis these possibilities are in actual fact inscribed in the general forms of individuality and in the essential corresponding contradictions which each system of social relations determines. In capitalism they are dominated by the general contradictions between abstract and concrete activity, between the internal logic and the social necessity of the use-time. Certainly, at first it might seem that it is possible for some individuals, mainly in the dominant class, to escape these contradictions, their privileged position in the division of labour and social relations essentially making it possible for their social activity to coincide with their concrete life, for external necessities to harmonise with the internal logic of their use-time. Such cases of balanced and satisfied life, which may be manifested in exceptional personalities, in personalities of a certain stature, allow some superficial observers to imagine that capitalism is not as fundamentally inhuman as Marxists say, or at all events that contrary to what historical materialism maintains, the individual can raise himself radically above social relations; and they are constantly used as examples by humanist ideologies which ignore or camouflage both this necessity and this inhumanity. Nevertheless, looking at the matter more closely, the obvious fact that in capitalism, as in every class society, such harmonious life is always the privilege of a very small minority, the inevitable corrolary of which is the sometimes appalling disharmony in the lives of the vast majority, is expressed within the personalities in question in the parasitic character of the harmony and in the final analysis in the illusory character of the coincidence between abstract and concrete activity. These personalities only seem to surpass the contradictions of capitalism because they happen fortuitously to be well off, often to the extent of not being aware of it. Despite their apparent stature this is their fundamental narrowness; for a satisfied life in capitalism can never be free from philistinism.
The other fundamental form which the basic contradictions of capitalism assume in the personality is dichotomisation and withdrawal into private life. Here we have a personality which is the reverse of the satisfied life, enclosed in the same contradictions but which, instead of happening to be well off through privilege, is familiar with the common lot which it has to shatter. In neither case does the personality succeed in drawing on its basic contradictions and thereby nourishing its dynamism; at one level or another it is doomed to the falling rate of progress and ossification. The only possibility of avoiding to some extent this twofold danger in the very heart of capitalism is that, intensely experiencing the essential contradictions which it is not at all in his power to abolish, the individual nevertheless finds the strength to resist dichotomisation. It goes without saying that such strength cannot be found simply in ‘willpower’, i.e. in a purely superstructural approach, but only at the level of the infrastructure, in a certain specific weight of non-dichotomised activities at the heart of use-time. Can the activities which we described earlier as intermediary, in particular interpersonal relations, which go bey~ond the individual without however being in themselves social strictly speaking – love, friendship – play this role? Yes and no. To the very extent that they are not social relations in the strong sense which historical materialism gives to this notion, interpersonal relations, this partially disalienated sector of psychological activity, this mode of ‘true’ human relations which seem to prefigure a society in which all relations would be of this nature, can, solely through the effort of individuals more or less broadly freed from the alienations which the mode of production imposes on abstract social activity, induce the whole personality to reject the dichotomy and can transmit to it a dynamism which does not leave it trapped either in alienated forms of social activity or in narrow forms of private life. In this case the deep- seated logic of interpersonal relations pushes them towards the militant life, in the very broad sense in which we take this term here. But nevertheless it is essential never to lose sight of the qualitative differences which there are between interpersonal relations in the couple or small-group and social relations proper, i.e. in the first place, the relations of production, the determinant importance of which in the last instance has been proved by historical materialism. Remaining separate from abstract social activity, a fact which facilitates their partial disalientatjon but also narrowly limits their immediate significance, interpersonal relations themselves constantly run the risk not only of not contributing to the struggle against the general dichotomisation of the personality but of themselves being trapped in it in the form of a more or less illusorily non-dichotomised privileged sector, i.e. in actual fact of strengthening it by offering it the compensation of an indecisive pseudo solution and even the pretext for a different form of withdrawal into private life. This is the fundamental ambiguity of relations like love and friendship which either repair or cover over the break between concrete and abstract personality, an ambiguity which is mirrored in the dissertations of philosophical humanism on the relations between the Ego and the Other which have quite a different meaning according to whether they herald a transition to historical materialism or, on the contrary, reveal a relapse into anthropological idealism.
In short, this is why it seems to us that within the present historical limits there can be no solution to the central problem of dichotomisation which does not become deeply rooted in the essential infrastructure of the personality, i.e. in abstract activity, in social labour, in which the individual is in more or less direct contact with the productive forces and the decisive social relations. Certainly it is in the nature of capitalism to separate concrete and abstract labour in the extreme and socially to subordinate the former to the latter. But abstract labour nevertheless conserves its concrete aspect which is not doomed psychologically to be subordinated to its opposite. I put forward the hypothesis that the most determinant infrastructural condition of resistance to dichotomisation is that in a given personality the general P/N of the concrete aspect of abstract social labour is high. It is this condition which is expressed in pride in one’s work. The man who loves his work is able to resist having passively imposed on him the falling rate of progress in the sector of his abstract activity. In other words, in spite of capitalist conditions, he is able to continue to develop his capacities in this sector not for the abstract product but for himself and therefore to enrich his concrete personality by way of this activity conducted in contact with the decisive forces and relations of production; and conversely, he is able to put his use-time and the dynamism of his concrete personality at the disposal of the development of social activity. But since at the same time capitalist relations generally deny these full developing capacities corresponding possibilities of investment in abstract activity, the personality as a whole is objectively driven extremely forcibly to become aware of the social excentration of its bases85 and to divert its unused dynamism towards activity transforming these excentred bases, and this supplies it here and now with a fundamental means of non-dichotomosed development in the very heart of a dichotomising society. Here one can clearly see how deep are the links between frustrated pride in one’s work and the need for a militant life, and what the workers’ movement has established empirically for a long time: a bad worker practically never makes a good militant.
One can also understand why the militant life, meaning by this the active participation in any collective activity of emancipatory transformatbo1a of social conditions, indeed any creative social activity which contributes towards raising society onto a higher level, is as far from ascetic self- sacrifice for the benefit of ‘future generations’ as it is from calculated self-interest: in its healthy forms it is precisely the surpassing of this contradiction, the only partial anticipation which is possible for the individual in class society of what disalienated life will be in the classless society of tomorrow. This is what Marx often suggested in the Grundrisse, in which he provides a crushing refutation of the bourgeois mystification, which has constantly’reappeared up to our own day, according to which proletarians in their own interest ought to renounce their concrete life, to save through self-denial. The proletarian, Marx shows, would thus have ‘saved in every way for capital, not for himself’. If the workers ‘saved’ during relatively favourable periods, it ‘would directly degrade [them]...to the level of the...most animal minimal of needs.
The worker’s participation in the higher, even cultural satisfactions, the agitation for his own interests, newspaper subscriptions, attending lectures, educating his children, developing his taste, etc., his only share of civilisation which distinguishes him from the slave, is economically only possible by widening the sphere of his pleasures at the times when business is good, where saving is to a certain degree possible.
Thus the militant life and self-development are not antithetical but interdependent terms. By depriving in the extreme all those who are at the basis of all creation of wealth, capitalism produces not only its own grave_diggers but psychologically superior men fully able to appraise life for themselves as for all others and fitted to take the fortunes of the entire society in hand in order to raise it to a higher level: the psychological process of the resistence of the personality to dichotomization and ossification which we are analysing here is the corollory of the socio-political process by which the working-class, drawing in also different strata of manual and intellectual workers, becomes the heir to the nation at the same time as the historical decadence of the dominant class increasingly stands out. As The German Ideology already noted more than a century ago, ‘nowadays it looks as if it is precisely among them [the proletarians] that individuality is most developed.
Moreover this is the most immediately tangible experimental proof that, as Marxists assert and as anyone who is not a Marxist is often reluctant to believe, classless society will really transform men to thei1. roots by providing them with (in the acceptable materialist sense of the expression) that extra spirituality which philosophical humanism and religion have proved to be unable by themselves ever to inspire in the broad masses. If anyone wishes actually to glimpse what communist man will be, he should observe and think about the extrapolation of those changes which are brought about before our eyes in the active militants of the modern workers’ movement.
Nevertheless, the anticipatory aspects of the militant life cannot make us forget that by itself it does not have the power to abolish the objective social contradictions to which it is opposed but on which at the same time it remains dependent. A preeminently non-dichotomised sector of the personality, it is also necessarily one constituent element among others of use-time, and for this reason always risks heightening certain other contradictions. If it becomes separated from the concrete and abstract social activity in which it normally takes root, it is thereby threatened with sinking to the level simply of a compensation for unresolved contradictions and even being subordinated to a general dichtomy which has not yet been surmounted, and degenerating into carrying out quasi-abstract tasks or into a variant of interpersonal relations and even simply a withdrawal into private life.
A theoretical pathology of the militant life will definitely be most instructive for the psychology of personality in this respect. However even through its partial relapses the militant life appears as the bearer of the future of the human personality. Of the three broad logical possibilities on the basis of which it seems to us that each personality traces its singular trajectory in capitalist society – relative harmony and satisfied life, dichotomisation and withdrawal into private life, conscious excentration and militant life – the latter is the only one which does not reduce the personality to its narrowly juxtastructural status but, as broadly as is possible at a given historical stage, opens it to the human social heritage, making its very contradictions a dynamic factor of resistance to the tendency of the falling rate of progress and, if the militant activity is really objectively emancipatory, capable of giving its life a non-alienated meaning. Certainly, side by side with the figures of the wise-man, the hero and the saint which are renowned in the portrait gallery of humanism, every society has known militant personalities of diverse forms. But in pre-capitalist societies, in which the contradictions between concrete and abstract labour were far from being as universal and radical as they are in capitalism – and all the more in state monopoly capitalism, the ante-room of socialism – there could be no question of a foreshadowing of the fully developed individual, particularly as a mass phenomenon. It is on both these grounds, on the other hand, that the forms of militant life produced on the basis of capitalism by the modern workers’ movement bear witness to an imposing mutation of the social forms of individuality, a qualitative leap of the human essence: the possibility that all men might achieve a personal flowering limited only by the level of development of the productive forces, social relations and culture is still embryonic and far off perhaps, but from now on it definitely exists. Nothing can confirm with greater depth the fact that in spite of upheavals, of antagonistic phenomena, even of partial regressions, ours is clearly the time of the general transition of humanity to socialism and communism, the true end of the prehistory of the human species, its complete emergence out of original animality and the tangible advent of its freedom. For if humanity only ever sets itself the tasks it can solve, it never fails to prepare to solve the tasks which are set. By visibly producing men, not at all uncommon, who are already so profoundly disalienated in the very midst of the worst alienation, the workers’ movement reveals in a form perceptible to the poet that which an ant’humanist science of man still does not yet know how to see: the world is in the process of basic change. As Marx said admirably in the Grundrisse:
Considered ideally, the dissolution of a given form of consciousness sufficed to kill a whole epoch. In reality, this barrier to consciousness corresponds to a definite degree of development of the forces of material production and hence of wealth. True, there was not only a development on the old basis, but also a development of this basis itself. The highest development of this basis itself (the flower into which it transforms itself; but it is always this basis, this plant as flower; hence wilting after the flowering and as consequence of the flowering) is the point at which it is itself worked out, developed, into the form in which it is compatible with the highest development of the forces of production, hence also the richest development of the individuals. As soon as this point is reached, the further development appears as decay, and the new development begins from a new basis.
On the new basis developing today on a world scale, disalienated man, the fully developed individual, will flower.
These general topological considerations must not make one lose sight of the fact that the ultimate concern of the psychology of personality is the theoretical and practical control of the development of each individual considered in his singularity. This is why it seems appropriate to conclude, in this same perspective, with some brief remarks on the constitution of a real science of biography. We certainiy do not intend to deny that among the immense and varied wealth of biographical works written over the centuries, and especially in our own, there are some which are admirable, nor to minimise the debt owed to them by all those who are concerned with understanding human personalities. But one runs little risk of being contradicted if one nevertheless declares that there is none among them which convincingly solves the extraordinarily complex ensemble of problems with which biography is faced as a result of not being able to look for support to a coherent and complete theory of the development of personality and to a corresponding methodology. Now if we are not in a position to resolve all the problems raised above, could we really solve the general problem of biography or do more than develop more or less deeply some of its partial aspects? Were it not for the persistent immaturity of the theory of personality which makes it easy for us to understand this, it would be strange to note just how few scientific efforts have so far been devoted to this highly important question. What we are offered today as biographical research is too often merely a repetition of earlier endeavours, the contribution but also the limitations and impasses of which have long been apparent. In its very mixture of apparent up-todateness and profound mediocrity an instructive example seems to us to be an essay on Le genie adolescent (Adolescent Genius) which, like so many books today, was practically forgotten as soon as it was published. From the sub–title itself, essai de biographie structurale (an essay in structural biography), the authors allow one to expect a great deal from their work; it is a matter of ‘weaving the first brief outlines of a future science whose laws ought to be found: those which govern human life Correctly noting that ‘with very rare and praiseworthy exceptions, biography as it is currently practised is a literary exercise, indeed a commercial task and not a scientific project’, they assert that, nevertheless, ‘by its very nature it ought to be part of that anthropology which is being developed at the present time through the human sciences, and following the example of the latter, which have thus earned their development and present authority, should submit to extremely strict rules’.
What do we find behind these prepossessing observations in actual fact? A series of biographical notes on twenty ‘adolescent genuises’ placed side by side in the most baldly factual way and crowned with ill considered interpretations taken solely from psychoanalysis. The general thesis is so feeble that one has no difficulty in summarising it without doing it an injustice: the secret of the adolescent genius is ‘the dominant influence of the father = very strong repression of the instincts, and particularly of the sexual drives.‘The smallest common denominator of all the characters studied in this book’ is the Oedipus Complex which ‘positive or negative, determined not only their sexual behaviour but their whole emotional life’. Very strongly inhibited’, all adolescent geniuses ‘are neurotics but only ... potential neurotics’ because they possess ‘a safety-valve, the creative faculty’; they are therefore perfect examples ‘of the efficacy of sublimation’ but also of ‘its risks which may be fatal’. For, ‘left psychologically premature all their life’, they are to know a ‘fate which is sometimes so sad that they are reduced to despair and to invite death. They always feel it coming, they apprehend it, it haunts them’. In short, the adolescent genius results from a ‘strong libidinous charge’ which, to be so strong, ‘must originally arise from an unresolved and therefore repressed infantile conflict’, too As one can see, behind the formality of ‘structural psychobiography”°’ it is simply a matter here of a return to the psychoanalytic idea of sublimation in a form which has become banal and without the authors having discovered anything new to get over the numerous fundamental objections which it has come up against for several decades, a fact which does not prevent it from so far remaining the most frequent recourse of biographers who are badly in need of theory.
Let us leave aside the naive remarks particular to these two authors’ and confine ourselves to the general aspects of their ideas. But how is it possible not to see straight away the gross begging of the question, the sophistic procedure on which the whole thesis rests? We are told that the adolescent geniuses are all neurotics, ‘psychically immature people’ in whom precociousness is merely the reverse of ‘the accelerated development (of) their whole life-cycle”. These assertions, which are presented to us in the final pages of the book as patiently worked out scientific conclusions, are actually purely and simply the very postulate based on which the preliminary division of the material studied had been carried out, and to the proof of which not even a single paragraph is devoted. As a matter of fact, the twenty adolescent geniuses whom the book deals with have been chosen by an arbitrary decision from among famous artists who died between thirty-four and thirty-nine years of age: there is not the least attempt scientifically to legitimate either these age limits or the choice of the twenty names among all the famous artists who equally meet the former criteria, or even the basic fact that the description of ‘adolescent genius’ is reserved, for who knows what reason, for artists who died young. Everything therefore happens as if, having deliberately picked a sample, from the whole set of precociously brilliant artists, which is composed solely of individuals who are more or less open to psychoanalytic approach and whose early deaths were not accidental, our authors arrive without difficulty at results predetermined by the hypothesis of sublimation. But insist on picking the sample less arbitrarily and the whole thesis collapses. For it is not really difficult to draw up counter-lists of adolescent geniuses who were just as precocious as the twenty referred to here and who, being neither neurotic nor exhausted before forty but on the contrary, having continued to live and produce until sixty, seventy, or even eighty years of age, are all refutations of every single one of our authors’ theses. Thus, for example, J.S. Bach, who wrote his first cantata at nineteen, had composed materpieces like the Brandenburg Concertos, the Sonatas and Partitas for single violin or the Passion According to St. John before he was twenty-nine – at the same age, Hugo, who wrote his Odes at twenty, had already composed a number of his best collections of verse, novels like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and nearly all his plays – and, without even mentioning the dozens of short films which he had made before he was thirty, Chaplin made The Kid and The Gold Rush before he was thirty-nine. At twenty-five Goethe had already written Werther and Gotz, and at the same age Picasso painted Les demoiselles d’Avignon. As for Marx, he was twenty-seven when he drafted the Theses on Feuerbach and less than thirty when he wrote the Manifesto. Here, therefore, are some unexceptionable examples of adolescent geniuses. But, contrary to what our authors uphold as a general principle, one would have difficulty in passing them off as neurotics: they were not exhausted before forty, their creative capacity developed and asserted itself into old age, they were not obsessed with death, they were married and had children: in short, they plainly fail to conform to pre-established psychoanalytic schemes and their genius fails to present itself as the sublimation of a repressed infantile sexuality. Does this mean that neurotic adolescent geniuses do not also exist? No, of course not. But it does mean that, understood in relation to the cases from which they are the unjustified extrapolation, our authors’ banal thesis, in the best of cases, is the very epitome of those abstract and unwarranted generalisations which thus remain on the surface of things.
This is not all. For if, on the one hand, nothing justifies one in asserting that ‘all adolescent geniuses are neurotics’, as is done in Le genie adolescent, it is quite obvious, on the other, that the converse is also false: all neurotics are not adolescent geniuses. Therefore, not only does this theory of sublimation not account for the forms of genius which are unconnected with neurosis, but it does not account for its neurot~ forms either and therefore leaves the fact of genius itself unexplained since, if one takes it seriously, it applies equally to neurotic adolescents whether they are geniuses or not. Moreover, how could a psychological theory alone, which says nothing whatever about social relations, elucidate the overtly historico-social phenomenon of genius? Is it impossible to understand, for example, that the fact that a given society may recognise intellectual works bearing the stamp of neurosis as inspired, presupposes a set of socio-ideological conditions, the critical investigation of which is the absolute pre-condition of any really scientific approach to genius? Like every specifically human fact, genius is fundamentally a relation, a social relation. The characteristic of biographical schemas drawn from psychoanalysis, and more generally of every conception of personality which neglects historical materialism, on the contrary, is nearly always a naive psychological realism of genius, a naturalisation, indeed a biologisation of the capacities of the genius considered as inherent in the isolated individual: but even without undertaking detailed internal criticism of such views, one can immediately recognise here the ideological illusion of speculative humanism and vulgar psychology. Therefore one is not surprised to fmd that, while claiming to contribute to the construction of a science of biography, and therefore to a science of the concrete individual, our authors actually approach the problems of the adolescent genius above all in the mystifying terms of the description of a personality type – the adolescent genius in general – of which each of the twenty individuals whom they study is merely a variant. Through all these biographies, they write, they believe they can ‘implicitly [discern] the main features of a unique character-type, the adolescent genius’,’ the structures of which are common to each of them, and the ‘proportions and arrangement’ of which alone constitute the ‘individual personalities’;’ it is only secondarily that there is room for ‘reintroducing that which distinguishes them individually ‘ Thus the object of the ‘science’ is to constitute abstract generalities, and the individual’s concrete singularity, simply a variant of the character type, is relegated to the sphere of empirical contingency: far from contributing to the construction of a science of biography, i.e. a science of the individual grasped in his essence, attempts to ground it entirely on psychoanalysis, attempts which are very common after all, even when they are of much better quality than the very vulgar example criticised here, hopelessly lead us away from it. In this respect is it not Striking to fmd, for example, that Sartre, who in his Problem of Method Strongly reproaches ‘lazy Marxism’ for reducing the individual to a ‘skeleton of universality’ and for being unable ‘to allow the individual concrete ... the person, to emerge from the background of the generai contradictions of productive forces and relations of production’, himself very clearly falls into this misconception in that he tries to ‘generate the concrete individual’ by way of universal, albeit existential, psychoanalytic schemas? In Enfance d’un chef, for example, the attempt is made to convince us that Lucien Fleurier becomes a young fascist at twenty on the basis of a sexual trauma suffered when he was about four years old: abstraction for abstraction, if we had to choose just between these two, we would still prefer ‘lazy Marxism’, which at least situates the ideological and political development of individuals to its essential terrain. Now this is not just a matter, in this relatively early work, of Sartre ‘s inexperienced handling of psychoanalytic themes, these themes themselves being no part of the problem, so that one might discuss to what extent Sartre had overcome this problem in his Baudelaire’or in his later Saint Genét or the study on Flaubert. Beyond the diversity of ways of making use of it, it is in itself that the psychoanalytic thematic, taken as the essential basis of a science of biography, is unacceptably reductive: it postulates the reduction of the essence of the developed personality to an ‘after-effect’ of the infantile psychism, and the reduction of individual singularity to a clinical variant of a character type, defmed in terms of unconscious instincts, an oedipal triangle and a structure of the psychic apparatus conceived as inherent in the individual in his abstract generality.
To our way of thinking it is in the opposite direction that a real science of biography has some chance of being constituted. Unless biography conceptually expresses ‘the specific logic of the specific object’ it does not exist. The theoretical generalities which it needs as its prerequisites therefore cannot be – nor can they be used as if they were – a model of the personality, a skeleton biography, a psychological stencil: such materials are actually merely the products of an ideological representation of man, criticised at length above, which is founded on the psychologisation of the human essence. The legitimate generalities from which the science of biography can start, on the contrary, are first of all those which have their foundation outside the concrete individual as such: psychobiological knowledge on the one hand, psychosocial on the other, in particular the social forms of individuality which underlie all the temporal relations of the individual life. As for the generalities related to the personality strictly speaking, their function is not to teach us in advance what the singular individual is in general, but rather to provide us with general theoretical assistance in elaborating the concept of the singular individual: such, it seems to us, are the views hypothetically suggested here concerning the temporal topology of the personality and provided one makes a careful critical inventory there is no doubt that one can fmd a number of scientific materials of this nature in the domain of child psychology and psychoanalysis. Starting from this the task of the science of biography, as we understand it, is essentially to grasp the structures, the contradictions, the dialectic of the personal life through which the singular personality is formed and transformed and through which activity unfolds: quantitative and qualitative develoPment of the fixed capital of capacities; infrastructures of activity, general P/N and Use-time; superstructures and forms of consciousness; internal necessities of correspondence between capacities and division of time; contradictions with external social necessities and forms of individuality; main effects of contradictions at each stage, taking into account the social conjuncture in which the life in question develops, periodic crises of use-time and possible transformations of the general logic of development.
In this direction a scientific biography seems possible. Certainly this summary list of the points that need to be considered at each stage is enough to show the extent of the problem still to be solved, both in the collecting of biographical data and the general treatment of the phenomena. But at the same time the basic principles for tackling them, and indeed for solving them, begin to take shape. This seems to be true, for example, in relation to a major difficulty which has not yet been solved even in the best of biographical works: among the mass of all the facts which one can think of, which in principle at least is inexhaustible, how does one select the relevant facts? This selection is usually made by the biographer univocally and in terms of a subjective theoretical choice at the level of his work as a whole; thus one can read biographies which are inspired from A to Z by psychoanalysis, by characterology or by a more or less psychologised sociologism – to say nothing of ‘literary’ biographies characterised by pure unadulterated ideological eclecticism. Now the relevance of some domain of phenomena in relation to a biography cannot in any way be the result of a subjective preference of the biographer, but constitutes an objective Property characteristic of the life in question at a given stage in its development, Once the problem is stated like this is becomes obvious that not only is there no reason why a particular domain of phenomena should remain relevant throughout a life, but that the nature of real biographical development is precisely to displace the zones of relevance: if there is one period in which the maternal breast is highly relevant, there are others in which wages, for example, are incomparably more relevant, Undoubtedly nothing shows more clearly how far we are from the adulthood of science in this domain than the fact that this objective point is still in practice misunderstood even in otherwise outstanding biographies. How, for example, can one fail to be astonished by the common naivity of those beginnings in which in order to take the social facts into account’, the biographer tells us in detail about the economic) political and cultural situation as it was at the time of the birth of the individual in question – as if the child could in general have any direct relations whatever with these elements in his first years while the same biographer, apparently rid of social facts’ once and for all, having uselessly referred to society as it was at the time of the birth, afterwards fails to bother about it iust at the time when the individual reaches adolescence or adulthood, i.e. a stage in which these elements play a role of the highest importance. The whole problem is precisely to be able to grasp the real formative elements and the forms which they take in each period of the life in question; for example, beyond ideological confrontations between Psychoanalysis and Marxism, to defme the extent to which what the former refers to as the parental super-ego ought to be reconsidered on the basis of what the latter can teach us concerning the social, familial and thereby personal infrastructures which determine the conditions in which in actual fact a Law can become a relevant element for an infantile personality. More generally it is the articulation of the successive stages of development which must be clarified, without failing to take into account the persistence of the effects of the preceding ones on the later ones but knowing even more how to take into account what the later ones produce that is specific, and their capacity, based on their own essence, to subsume all earlier phenomena.
But to conclude, let us repeat that these observations concerning a real science of biography, and more generally all the theoretical suggestions presented in this last chapter, are to our way of thinking merely indicative hypotheses concerning the possible content of the psychology of personality which is to be constituted. To be aware of the extent of the theoretical and practical undertaking which is involved in this task is at the same time to renounce any dogmatic pretension in the contribution we are trying to make to it. On the other hand, what has the status of an absolutely basic fact, apart from all the hypotheses, is that the theory of the human personality cannot become truly scientific, as everyone is demanding today, without thinking through all the aspects and drawing all the inferences from its uncontestable articulation with historical materialism, the foundation of any science of man.