Social Theory and Practice

Volume 46, Issue 3, July 2020

Sarah Vitale
Pages 633-655

Beyond Homo Laborans
Marx’s Dialectical Account of Human Essence

This article responds to the critique of productivist essentialism, which is the view that the human is the productive animal, made against Marx. The author argues against this view and holds that Marx introduces a dialectical account of human essence with the notion of species being in the 1844 Manuscripts, which he then develops in The German Idology. This account of essence includes a static and dynamic moment, and in capitalism, the dialectic of essence has resulted in the appearance of the human as the productive animal. Finally, the author argues that Marx’s critique of production and dialectical account of human essence allow us to better think the possibilities for a post-work future.