You may have heard this line of reasoning used against anarchists from people who are mired into the mainstream capitalist doctrine. Greed will always be with us, so the argument goes, therefore establishing a society that goes against greed is utopian. People will always want to compete and accumulate power. Any attempt at an egalitarian society is doomed to failure.
In fact, this argument is so widespread that it has led the libcoms to reject any concept of human nature outright, preferring to dump the theory of evolution and its powerful ramifications rather than even leave open the possibility that greed is natural.
But rejecting human nature altogether is not a viable answer. It demands that we follow magical thinking: that man’s personality and character somehow magically spring from his upbringing, without any mediation of the brain. Libcoms will counter this by saying that they really do believe in biological needs, instincts, and other evolutionary traits, but that they don’t believe in man’s nature being innate anyway.
This is why it is important to define exactly what we mean by “human nature.” We are not talking about people’s tastes in clothes or their choice of a job. We are talking about nothing less than that which is fundamental to being human, that which is always at the core of everything we do, starting with our basic drives (nourishment, sexuality, security, play, etc), our biological needs and our cognitive biases. While we humans express these drives in all sorts of complex ways, they exist in most social species.
There is nothing that can compel an individual to do anything without the need, drive or bias already being present within himself. This is why human nature is so important and why people seek to understand it. It’s what advertisers, movie editors and politicians’ speech writers use to “press our buttons.” Anyone who rejects the notion makes himself vulnerable to such manipulations, and they are everywhere.
At any rate, the idea of rejecting the concept of human nature itself because of misunderstandings or misrepresentations is as silly as rejecting the concept of atoms because some people (especially Christian presuppositionalists) misrepresent it. It is obviously not true that man is infinitely malleable. All throughout history, we return to the same concepts, the same drives, the same conflicts, no matter how much our societies change. The study of these constants must be part of the education of any serious student of politics.
What about greed? Greed is the desire to have more than one’s equal share, to be more than associates of each other. Greed is ultimately the desire for domination. It is therefore very much related to my previous entry on atomistic individualism, as a greedy person (within his pursuit, anyway) sees others as means to an end, not as fellow human beings.
I think this is the crux of the misconception. Capitalists believe greed is natural because they believe it is individualist. Communists cannot object because they already agree with this premise. But there’s nothing individualist about greed. Greed is the natural result of people seeking security and material possessions in a system which indoctrinates them to do so and makes the competition of all against all the precondition to that security and those material possessions. The current system is full of games conditions. The faster we eliminate them, the faster sanity will be restored to society.
Some libcoms, on the other hand, propose that greed should be seen in its entirety, as the struggle for a richer life, and that the pursuit of material wealth is only one small part of it. In that perspective, greed is not only good, but vitally necessary for the accomplishment of communist aims.
We have no doubt that people are corruptible, but we know for ourselves that there are things more tempting, more seductive, than money, capital, and Power – so much so that no genuinely greedy human being could possibly resist their allure – and it is upon this corruptibility of man that we found our hopes for revolution. Revolution is nothing other than the self-accelerating spread throughout society of this more profound corruption, of this deeper seduction. Currently, greed is always pursued and associated with isolation and privatism simply because everyone under the reign of capital is condemned to pursue greed in this narrow way. Greed doesn’t yet know its own potentiality.
We say once again: the present forms of greed lose out in the end because they turn out to be not greedy enough.