Marx’s “Theses on Feuerbach” #3
and so we continue….
“The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of changed circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who change circumstances and that the educator must himself be educated. Hence this doctrine is bound to divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.”
In this third thesis, Marx returns to the closing theme of his first critique, “revolutionary practice. ” Here, Marx offers an explicit rejection of determinism in general, and materialist determinism in particular. This fact is particularly notable, as it sets Marx apart from the “economicly deterministic” reading of his later writings on communism. Against those who will later argue that the economic super-structures of society move towards an inevitable end (telos), Marx here insists that meaningful historical developments are only possible through the intentional acts of human subjects: “human activity or self-change.”
Furthermore, it is not simply economic “super-structures” which Marx targets but instead, if this language can be used here, structuralism in general. Marx challenges any division of reality (society) into two parts, “one of which is superior to society.” In place of these pseudo-Platonic dualisms, Marx posits a mono-cosmism. There is no “superior” super-structure governing a subsidiary reality of human life (sensuousness), but a single reality, that of human activity.
It is because practical human life encompasses all that is real–or as we saw in thesis #2, true–that “revolutionary practice” is validated as the principal cause of societal change. If sensuous activity is understood as the principal component of reality, then it can likewise be recognized as the principal force behind any developments or changes within this society.