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Letters

Human Nature

Dear Editors,
I'm aware that Socialists often have to face the criticism that Socialism is against human nature. According to this point of view human beings are naturally selfish and acquisitive, even when they have enough to satisfy their own needs. There would certainly seem to be plenty of apparent evidence for that point of view. I thought you might appreciate a
section I came across in "The Neurotic Personality of Our Time" (1937) by Karen Horney .
 

"The irrational quest for possession is so widespread in our culture that it is only by making
comparisons with other cultures that one recognises that it is not a general human
instinct, either in the form of an acquisitive instinct or in the form of a sublimation of
biologically founded drives. Even in our culture compulsive striving for possession
vanishes as soon as the anxieties determining it are diminished or removed."

Horney saw "the irrational quest for possession" as one of a number of ways in which people try to cope with feelings of
anxiety, and not as an expression of "human nature".  She rejected over-generalised ideas about "human nature" and recognised how diverse people are in their attitudes and behaviour.
ADAM WATERHOUSE, BRISTOL

Buying Life's Essentials

Dear Editors
The aim of capitalism is to sell. I remember that in the 1939/45 war if we had food, warmth and shelter we wanted nothing, so I try to restrict my buying to essentials.
M. B. A. CHAPMAN, BATH.

We're not too sure about this. If it caught on,
employers would be able to pay us all less.

Humanism

Dear Editors
Permit me to comment on your book review of Postmodern Humanism (November). The British Humanist Association was founded in 1896 and not as stated in 1963. A founding member was Charles Bradlaugh MP and when I ceased to be a member in 1997 there  existed links with South Place EthicalSociety, Rationalist Press Association and National Secular Society. I shall not comment on the reviewer's claim "they still seem to be working out what their positive case is beyond promoting a non-religious but still ethical approach to life". But I do assure you that they have taken an active role in the promotion of a large network of funeral celebrants and likewise for wedding and naming ceremonies.
Whether these activities exist with the same momentum today, no doubt the book's author (as a member of the North East Humanists) is  better able to judge.
E. HIRSCH, HOCKLEY, ESSEX.

According to the British Humanist
Association's own website, they were
founded in 1963. It was another body, the
Ethical Union, with which they are now
associated, that was founded in 1896.