Following on from Part 1 yesterday, it is time to consider whether there are any innate or conditioned psychological factors which can counteract the hold of capitalism over our psyches and identities…
A Social Brain
To answer this question we may go in search of something akin to innate, or core values to see where psychological barriers to capitalism may lie. Literature and philosophy are full of speculation on such matters and we do not have to go far to find a definition of self contrary to the solitary, competitive animal of the market place. “Man is by nature a social animal…Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.” Aristotle’s view of man is of course well known but to what extent does this fit a more contemporary profile?
Most of us would instinctively agree that as humans we have an innate need for social contact. Few great achievements are done in isolation and we have long known that collaboration is fundamental in helping us to surpass what we may succeed in doing alone. Our development as functional human beings takes place in an environment of social stimuli, as interaction with parents, siblings, teachers and peers all leave their mark on our formative personalities. Vygotsky and the social constructivists made a strong case for arguing that education is a social tool, with learning taking place as a result of cultural, social and linguistic interaction. In this model, learning is acquired and assimilated in a social context before being internalised. Learning is therefore best realised in social and collaborative environments.
But it is not just learning which is fostered by social interaction, but early identity. A wealth of research in the literature is available to support this notion but much of it likely confirms our instinctive feelings and personal experience in this regard – that working together can achieve more than working alone, and that social interaction and collaborative tasks are important factors in the development of cognitive operations.
Our natural predisposition to social interaction is not just the result of circumstance. Neuroscience suggests that our brains have evolved to support increasingly complex social cognition. The larger neocortex in the human brain in comparison with other mammals is linked to our ability to engage in behavioural, linguistic and emotional actions beyond those of other animals. We experience empathy and have the tools to process complicated emotional issues. In other words, we have a ‘social brain’.
I will continue this tomorrow in Part 3, looking further into the clash between the social brain and the capitalism-influenced identity. This is the basis of the ‘Inner Class Divide’ and I will be exploring how this may impact on the longevity of popular left wing movements like Syriza and Podemos.
I will also post a list of sources and references at the end of the final part of the article on Friday.