In Estranged Labour, Karl Marx sets fourth his conception of human nature as a species being. According to Marx, human beings are universal beings because of their ability to live in any environment by changing and preparing their surroundings. Marx differentiates human beings from animals in that animals produce only when doing so is necessary to their survival. Moreover, they produce only in ways that are fixed by their nature.
However, human beings can produce many kinds of goods and in many different ways. According to Marx, human beings are unlike animals in that they engage in "free, conscious" productive activity. Their productive activity itself is a product of their will and they can make choices about what and how to produce. Therefore, "man is capable of producing according to the standards of every species and of applying to each object its inherent standard; hence, man also produces in accordance with the laws of beauty". All four possessions from which we are alienated are related, in one way or another, to our productive activity.
As beings who must be productive, human beings must interact with nature and other human beings to make things and effect changes in the world around them. This seems to be the central feature of human life for Marx. Thus to be alienated from our species being is to be distanced from our fundamental nature as productive beings. Within a capitalist society, work is done for someone else and the worker lacks autonomy. Therefore, human beings are alienated from their species being. They derive no personal satisfaction from their work, in which they must engage to acquire the things they need.
Work is not a source of self-fulfillment because it is non-rewarding and non-creative. People do not think of themselves as free, conscious, social producers but rather as being bound by the necessity to do unpleasant work that brings them into conflict with other people. Alienation from species being, then, is essentially misunderstanding the basic nature of human beings. Essential to Marx's account of human nature is the notion that people are not lazy - the notion that people enjoy work that challenges and encourages them to produce better products more efficiently. Unfortunately, the predominate worldview that portrays people as lazy slobs who would not work if food, shelter, education, health care, etc. were the guaranteed rights of all people comes to the surface in discussion after discussion of The Communist Manifesto. A worldview perpetuated to divide those lucky enough to find low paying dead end jobs from those not so lucky.
However, according to Marx, Luck has nothing to do with it - those who are advantaged in the relations of production will always frame things in a way that perpetuates that advantage. Marx regards an objective and universal conscious activity as the main ontological character of human being, a species being. Each man represents other men, i.e. each man as an individual contains mankind in his human essence. For Marx, every organism has internal relations with other existence through its objective activity. However, while the objective activity of animal is essentially limited, that of a human being as a conscious species being has universality, which reaches, to the whole world. Man produces not only his purpose and his enjoyment but also those of the whole world including his own species and other species.
Marx considers that this universality of man leads us to be a free being. Unlike Locke, Marx does not incorporate a necessity of God in his theory of human nature. Marx takes a materialist conception which begins with the proposition that "the production of the means to support human life... is the basis of all social structure". Therefore, an individual's equality in relation to others is compliant in relation to the social relationship, which they are in. Locke's theory of the state of nature is that human beings are born in "A state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons... ". and "A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another". Locke believes that because human beings are created by God that man = man = man = man.
Therefore, we have rights to those goods that everyone in the state of nature seeks - life, liberty and property. Locke's argument is that we are all the workmanship of God. Thus, we are morally equal and should treat each other, as God would have us be treated. Thus, the law of nature must be equal: it must give every human being the same rights and duties. The status of a human being, in Locke's time, was based on sameness and the predominant worldview at that time meant that you had to be male, white, and protestant. Therefore, women did not share equal status with men.
Women were human like but because they are different from men, they are not quite human beings. Therefore, Locke believed that males should rule in the state as well as the family. If women were to be considered human beings, they would have a right, in the state of nature, to retaliate against their oppressors and aggressors. God creates all men being equal to each other and as a result, no man has the right to be supreme over any other. Because men are the workmanship of God who has created him, all men are morally obligated to follow the law of nature, which prohibits taking anyone's life, liberty and property.
Furthermore, man in the state of nature has an obligation to not harm others or another's property. No one has any authority or right to exercise power over anyone else. In addition, if person A tries to injure person B, then person B has a right to retaliate and if detained against his will, punishment up to and including death is permitted. Moreover, because we are all equal, an attack on one man is an attack on all of mankind; therefore, all of mankind has a right to punish.