[This post is the tenth and last in a series drawing on a recent paper of mine, 'Staying Home: G.A. Cohen and the Motivational Basis of Socialism'. The previous posts in the series are here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.]
But, now, what if the 'stuff' of humanity, so to speak, that which shapes and sets limits to human motivation, is not human nature as such but human nature deformed – deformed by capitalism or, more generally, by class and other inequalities? This might then leave it open to humankind to re-form its character by way of changed, more egalitarian, social structures and practices. Thereby the constraints of human motivation for which I have been arguing in this paper might not have to apply forever.
I have two responses here. First, this line of thought makes human character the dependent variable, being determined by societal structures in what is assumed to be a unidirectional relation. I do not, of course, deny that there is a powerful influence of that kind. It is by now a truism that people's make-up is historically and culturally shaped. But how can one rule out, other than purely speculatively, an influence in the other direction as well – from human nature to certain observable social facts, historical regularities among them? If so much of human history, so many types of social order, have accommodated inequalities and injustices of one kind and another, it is hard not to allow weight to the hypothesis that human beings have impulses and aptitudes for taking advantage of one another, for giving priority to their own interests and the interests of those close to them over the interests of more distant others. I will not, though, proceed further with the first response. This is partly because I have already argued in earlier work – and at some length – for a core human nature that is relatively stable and for its 'mixed' moral character.16 But it is also because, in the context of the present paper, I want to cast doubt on whether, even were it achievable on a society-wide or worldwide basis, the camping-trip ideal of other-regarding motivation would be desirable.
We are to imagine, then, in opposition to a heap of accumulated evidence, the possibility of a human type so differently socialized and acculturated that every individual's well-being would depend on knowing that everyone else was thriving to the same extent (at least roughly) as that individual him or herself. This would give us the human so-called family as, affectively, like a real family – though of course a harmonious, and not a warring or dysfunctional, real family – in which the good of each was tied not merely to the good of all but to the approximately equal good of all. Is it an attractive vision?
I am not so sure it is. If we regard human individuality as an important value, and the products of human individuality as a precious achievement of our species, we must surely allow that individual persons need the mental and emotional space to form and pursue their own purposes, to give priority to their own concerns. Yet if each individual is to devote the amount of attention to the well-being of everyone that would be necessary to their being confident of everyone's approximately equal flourishing, how could this not cramp the space left available for their flourishing in an individual way? Think only of the economy of personal time. Each of us has limited time and needs to be able, if individuality is to rank highly, to keep a serious amount of it free for the achievement of whatever ends are deemed by us central to our lives, or indeed merely to our current plans. In a world with many difficulties, personal obligations, frictions, troubles – such as even a socialist world must continue to be – a community spirit or friendly fellow-feeling that knows no boundaries is hard to square with securing those individual needs for mental and emotional space and sheer physical time that a thriving individuality requires. Socialist equality of opportunity is primarily about political, economic and social justice; it is not about universal love, friendship, brotherhood and sisterhood – as excellent as these values are.17
 See Norman Geras, Marx and Human Nature: Refutation of a Legend, Verso, London 1983; Solidarity in the Conversation of Humankind, pp. 47-70; and The Contract of Mutual Indifference, pp. 83-120.
 I am grateful to Eve Garrard, Matthew Kramer and Jonathan Quong for their comments on the paper from which this series has been drawn. None of them is responsible for the positions I take here or the arguments I make.
(This post concludes the series.)