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A concept (Gattungswesen) employed extensively by Hegelians in Germany in the 1830s and 1840s, used primarily to argue for the absolute uniqueness of man due to man's possession of consciousness: not just consciousness of self, which other social animals possessed, but rather consciousness of species or essential nature. Hence man was sui generis in his ability to reflect about his own species and also in the ability to make his own nature an object of thought. The contemplative life was distinctly and exclusively human. Indeed, man was taken to transcend a merely animal individuality in thought and for some, like Feuerbach, this meant that human individuality was not selbst‐sein, being oneself, but mitsein, being with another. Marx extended the concept of species‐being. While he accepted that man was unique, he also believed that the distinctively human attribute was not thought or consciousness per se, but rather free and conscious material production. It was, therefore, free labour which constituted man's active species life.

John Halliday


Subjects: Politics.

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