The theory of alienation

The Writings of Bertell Ollman Alienation: Brought under the same rubric are the links between one man, his activity and products, his fellows, inanimate nature and the species.

The theory of alienation

Yet never before have we felt so helpless in the face of the forces we ourselves have created. Never before have the fruits of our labour threatened our very existence: For the first time in history we can produce enough to satisfy the needs of everyone on the planet.

Yet millions of lives are stunted by poverty and destroyed by disease. Despite our power to control the natural world, our society is dominated by insecurity, as economic recession and military conflict devastate lives with the apparently irresistible power of natural disasters.

The more densely populated our cities become, the more our lives are characterised by feelings of isolation and loneliness. To Karl Marx these contradictions were apparent when the system was still young. On the one hand, there have started into life industrial and scientific forces, which no epoch of the former human history had ever suspected.

On the other hand, there exist symptoms of decay, far surpassing the horrors of the Roman Empire. In our days everything seems pregnant with its contrary. Machinery, gifted with the wonderful power of shortening and fructifying human labour, we behold starving and overworking it.

The new-fangled sources of wealth, by some strange weird spell, are turned into sources of want.

The theory of alienation

The victories of art seem bought by loss of character. He showed how, although aspects of the society we live in appear natural and independent of us, they are the results of past human actions.

Marx developed a materialist theory of how human beings were shaped by the society they lived in, but also how they could act to change that society, how people are both The theory of alienation determined' and 'world producing'. For Marx, alienation was not rooted in the mind or in religion, as it was for his predessesors Hegel and Feuerbach.

Instead Marx understood alienation as something rooted in the material world. Alienation meant loss of control, specifically the loss of control over labour. To understand why labour played such a central role in Marx's theory of alienation, we have to look first at Marx's ideas about human nature.

Marx opposed the common sense idea that humans have a fixed nature which exists independently of the society they live in. He demonstrated that many of the features attributed to unchanging human nature in fact vary enormously in different societies. However, Marx did not reject the idea of human nature itself.

He argued that the need to labour on nature to satisfy human needs was the only consistent feature of all human societies, the 'ever lasting nature-imposed condition of human existence'. The labour of humans, however, was distinguished from that of animals because human beings developed consciousness.

Marx's theory of alienation - Wikipedia

Marx gave a famous description of this at the beginning of Capital: A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality.

At the end of every labour-process, we get a result that already existed in the imagination of the labourer at its commencement. He explained how, because we act on nature consciously, we build on our successes and develop new ways of producing the things we need.

This means that we have a history, whereas animals do not: Marx frequently reinforced this idea, as in the following quote from Capital: He develops his slumbering powers and compels them to act in obedience to his sway.

Marx called our capacity for conscious labour our 'species being'. Our species being is also a social being, as Marx explained in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts In the Grundrisse, Marx emphasised the point: What happens to the process of work, therefore, has a decisive influence on the whole of society.

Our ability to work, to improve how we work and build on our successes, has tended to result in the cumulative development of the productive forces. One such development gave rise to class society. When society became capable of producing a surplus, it also became possible for a class to emerge which was liberated from the need to directly produce and could live from its control over the labour of others.

This process was necessary in order to develop and direct the productive forces, but it also meant that the majority of society, the producers, lost control of their labour. Thus, the alienation of labour arose with class society, and Ernst Fischer has given a brilliant description of how it reversed the limitless potential of labour: The first tool contains within it all the potential future ones.

Philosophy, One Thousand Words at a Time

The first recognition of the fact that the world can be changed by conscious activity contains all future, as yet unknown, but inevitable change.

A living being which has once begun to make nature his own through the work of his hands, his intellect, and his imagination, will never stop. Every achievement opens the door to unconquered territoryThe theory of alienation is the intellectual construct in which Marx displays the devastating effect of capitalist production on human beings, on their physical and mental states and on the social processes of which they are a part.

Alienation is an idea developed by the young Marx in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and later developed in his critique of political economy in . Rise and Development of Alienation: Since alienation is an important part of Marx’s philosophy the scholars have displayed active interest in its various aspects.

George Lukacs is of opinion that Marx’s theory of alienation can be traced to Hegel’s Protestantising Critique of positivity. 1 In general, Marx’s theory of alienation belongs to his earlier philosophy (the chapter “Estranged Labor” in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of , an unfinished work that was unpublished at the time of his death), and his theory of exploitation belongs to his later philosophy (in Capital).

It is a matter of scholarly debate. In a nutshell Marx's Theory of Alienation is the contention that in modern industrial production under capitalist conditions workers will inevitably lose control of their lives by losing control over their work. Marx's theory of alienation (Entfremdung in German), as expressed in the writings of young Karl Marx, refers to the separation of things that naturally belong together, or to antagonism between things that are properly in harmony.

In the concept's most important use.

AN INTRODUCTION TO MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION