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Encyclopedia > Marx's theory of alienation
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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, it refers to the alienation of people from aspects of their "human nature" (Gattungswesen, usually translated as 'species-essence' or 'species-being'). Marx believed that alienation is a systematic result of capitalism. His theory relies on Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity (1841), which argues that the idea of God has alienated the characteristics of the human being. Stirner would take the analysis further in The Ego and Its Own (1844), declaring that even 'humanity' is an alienating ideal for the individual, to which Marx responded in The German Ideology (1845). Marxism takes its name from the praxis (the synthesis of philosophy and political action) of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. ... Image File history File links Karl_Marx. ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ... Das Kapital (Capital, in the English translation) is an extensive treatise on political economy written by Karl Marx in German. ... The Civil War in France was a book written by Karl Marx as an address to the General Council of the International, with the aim of distributing to workers of all countries a clear understanding of the character and world-wide significance of the heroic struggle of the Parisian Communards... Class consciousness is a category of Marxist theory, referring to the self-awareness of a social class, its capacity to act in its own rational interests, or measuring the extent to which an individual is conscious of the historical tasks their class (or class allegiance) sets for them. ... In Marxist theory, commodity fetishism is an inauthentic state of social relations, said to arise in complex capitalist market systems, where social relationships are confused with their medium, the commodity. ... Communism is an ideology that seeks to establish a classless, stateless social organization based on common ownership of the means of production. ... Cultural hegemony is a concept coined by Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci. ... The rate of exploitation is a concept in Marxian political economy. ... Marxs theory of human nature occupies an important place in his critique of capitalism, his conception of communism, and his materialist conception of history. Marx has sometimes been held to deny the existence of any human nature, though this view is now generally accepted to be mistaken. ... Political Ideologies Part of the Politics series Politics Portal This box:      An ideology is an organized collection of ideas. ... The proletariat (from Latin proles, offspring) is a term used to identify a lower social class; a member of such a class is proletarian. ... Reification (German: Verdinglichung, literally: ver-, over + ding: thing + -lichung: as english, -ify) is the consideration of an abstraction or an object as if it had human or living existence and abilities; at the same time it implies the thingification of social relations. ... Relations of production (German: Produktionsverhaltnisse) is a concept frequently used by Karl Marx in his theory of historical materialism and in Das Kapital. ... Socialism refers to a broad array of doctrines or political movements that envisage a socio-economic system in which property and the distribution of wealth are subject to control by the community. ... Note: Marxian is not restricted to Marxian economics, as it includes those inspired by Marxs works who do not identify with Marxism as a political ideology. ... Labor power (in German: Arbeitskraft, or labor force) is a crucial concept used by Karl Marx in his critique of political economy. ... The law of value is a concept in Karl Marxs critique of political economy. ... Means of production (abbreviated MoP; German: Produktionsmittel), also called means of labour are the materials, tools and other instruments used by workers to make products. ... In the writings of Karl Marx and the Marxist theory of historical materialism, a mode of production (in German: Produktionsweise, meaning the way of producing) is a specific combination of: productive forces: these include human labor-power, tools, equipment, buildings and technologies, materials, and improved land social and technical relations... For the specific theoretical justifications behind the Great Leap Forward and the Five Year Plans, see Theory of Productive Forces. ... Surplus labour is a concept used by Karl Marx in his critique of political economy. ... Surplus value, according to Marxism, is unpaid labour that is extracted from the worker by the capitalist, and serves as the basis for capitalist accumulation. ... In Karl Marxs economics the transformation problem is the problem of finding a general rule to transform the values of commodities (based on labour according to his labour theory of value) into the competitive prices of the marketplace. ... Wage labour is the socioeconomic relationship between a worker and an employer in which the worker sells their labour under a contract (employment), and the employer buys it, often in a labour market. ... While anarchism and Marxism are two different political philosophies, there is some similarity between the methodology and ideology of groups of anarchists and Marxists, and the history of the two have often been intertwined. ... The capitalist mode of production is a concept in Karl Marx’s critique of political economy. ... Class struggle is class conflict looked at from a Marxist, libertarian socialist, or anarchist perspective. ... The dictatorship of the proletariat is a term employed by Karl Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program that refers to a transition period between capitalist and communist society in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. The term refers to a... Primitive accumulation of capital is a concept introduced by Karl Marx in part 8 of the first volume of Das Kapital (in German: ursprungliche Akkumulation, literally original accumulation or primeval accumulation). Its purpose is to help explain how the capitalist mode of production can come into being. ... A communist revolution is a social revolution inspired by the ideas of Marxism that aims to replace capitalism with communism, normally with socialism (public ownership over the means of production) as an intermediate stage. ... International Socialism redirects here. ... World revolution is a Marxist concept of a violent overthrow of capitalism that would take place in all countries, although not necessarily simultaneously. ... See also Marxian economics Marxist philosophy or Marxist theory designs work in philosophy which is strongly influenced by Karl Marxs materialist approach to theory or which is written by Marxists. ... Historical materialism is the methodological approach to the study of society, economics, and history which was first articulated by Karl Marx (1818-1883), although Marx himself never used the term (he referred it as philosophical materialism, a term he used to distinguish it from what he called popular materialism). Historical... According to many followers of the theories of Karl Marx (or Marxists), dialectical materialism is the philosophical basis of Marxism. ... Analytical Marxism refers to a style of thinking about Marxism that was prominent amongst English-speaking philosophers and social scientists during the 1980s. ... For other meanings of autonomism, see autonomism (disambiguation) page Raised fist, stenciled protest symbol of Autonome at the Ernst-Kirchweger-Haus in Vienna, Austria Autonomism refers to a set of left-wing political and social movements and theories close to the socialist movement. ... Libertarian Marxism is a school of Marxism that takes a less authoritarian view of Marxist theory than conventional currents such as Stalinism, Trotskyism, and other forms of Marxism-Leninism, as well as a generally less reformist view than do Social Democrats. ... ‘Young Marx’ is one half of the concept in Marxology that Karl Marx’s intellectual development can be broken into two board categories, the other being ‘Mature Marx’. There is disagreement though as to when Marx thought began to mature, Lenin claimed Marxs first mature work as “The Poverty... Karl Heinrich Marx (May 5, 1818, Trier, Germany – March 14, 1883, London) was a German philosopher, political economist, and revolutionary. ... Friedrich Engels (November 28, 1820, Wuppertal – August 5, 1895, London), a 19th-century German political philosopher, developed communist theory alongside his better-known collaborator, Karl Marx, co-authoring The Communist Manifesto (1848). ... Karl Kautsky (October 18, 1854 - October 17, 1938) was a leading theoretician of social democracy. ... G. V. Plekhanov Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov (Георгий Валентинович Плеханов) (December 11, 1856 – May 30, 1918; Old Style: November 29, 1856 – May 17, 1918) was a Russian revolutionary and a Marxist theoretician. ... “Lenin” redirects here. ...   (Russian: Лёв Давидович Троцкий, Lyov Davidovich Trotsky, also transliterated Leo, Lev, Trotskii, Trotski, Trotskij, Trockij and Trotzky) (November 7 [O.S. October 26] 1879 – August 21, 1940), born Leon Davidovich Bronstein (Лёв Давидович Бронштейн), was a Ukrainian-born Jewish Bolshevik revolutionary and Marxist theorist. ... Rosa Luxemburg Rosa Luxemburg (March 5, 1870 or 1871 – January 15, 1919, in Polish Róża Luksemburg) was a Jewish Polish-born Marxist political theorist, socialist philosopher, and revolutionary. ... “Mao” redirects here. ... Georg Lukács (April 13, 1885 – June 4, 1971) was a Hungarian Marxist philosopher and literary critic in the tradition of Western Marxism. ... Antonio Gramsci (IPA: ) (January 22, 1891 – April 27, 1937) was an Italian writer, politician and political theorist. ... Karl Korsch (August 15, 1886 - October 21, 1961) was a German Marxist theorist. ... Ernesto Guevara de la Serna (June 14,[1] 1928 – October 9, 1967), commonly known as Che Guevara or El Che, was an Argentine-born Marxist revolutionary, medical doctor, political figure, and leader of Cuban and internationalist guerrillas. ... Max Horkheimer (front left), Theodor Adorno (front right), and Jürgen Habermas in the background, right, in 1965 at Heidelberg The Frankfurt School is a school of neo-Marxist social theory (which is more akin to anarchism than communism), social research, and philosophy. ... Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre (June 21, 1905 – April 15, 1980), normally known simply as Jean-Paul Sartre (pronounced: ), was a French existentialist philosopher and pioneer, dramatist and screenwriter, novelist and critic. ... Louis Pierre Althusser (Pronunciation: altuË¡seʁ) (October 16, 1918 – October 23, 1990) was a Marxist philosopher. ... This article is on criticisms of Marxism, a branch of socialism. ... ‘Young Marx’ is one half of the concept in Marxology that Karl Marx’s intellectual development can be broken into two board categories, the other being ‘Mature Marx’. There is disagreement though as to when Marx thought began to mature, Lenin claimed Marxs first mature work as “The Poverty... Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach (July 28, 1804 - September 13, 1872), German philosopher, fourth son of the eminent jurist Paul Johann Anselm Ritter von Feuerbach, was born in Landshut, Bavaria and died in Rechenberg (since 1899 a district of Nuremberg). ... This page is a candidate for speedy deletion. ... Human beings are defined variously in biological, spiritual, and cultural terms, or in combinations thereof. ... Johann Kaspar Schmidt (October 25, 1806 - June 26, 1856), better known as Max Stirner (the nom de plume he adopted from a schoolyard nickname he had acquired as a child because of his high brow [Stirn]), German philosopher, who ranks as one of the literary grandfathers of nihilism, existentialism and... The Ego and Its Own (German: Der Einzige und sein Eigentum; also translated as The Individual and His Property; a literal translation would read The Sole One and His Property) is the main work by German philosopher Max Stirner, published in 1844. ... The German Ideology (1845) was a book written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels around April or early May 1845. ...

Contents

Types of alienation - the different ways in which people are alienated

Alienation in the labour process

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. Workers thus cease to be autonomous beings in any significant sense.


Marx argues that alienation in capitalist societies is due to the fact that in work we each contribute to the common wealth, but can only express this fundamentally social aspect of ourselves through a production system that is not social but privately owned, for which we function as instruments, not as social beings: In economics, a capitalist is someone who owns capital, presumably within the economic system of capitalism. ... In classical economics and all micro-economics labour is a measure of the work done by human beings and is one of three factors of production, the others being land and capital. ...

'Let us suppose that we had carried out production as human beings. Each of us would have in two ways affirmed himself and the other person. 1) In my production I would have objectified my individuality, its specific character, and therefore enjoyed not only an individual manifestation of my life during the activity, but also when looking at the object I would have the individual pleasure of knowing my personality to be objective, visible to the senses and hence a power beyond all doubt. 2) In your enjoyment or use of my product I would have the direct enjoyment both of being conscious of having satisfied a human need by my work, that is, of having objectified man’s essential nature, and of having thus created an object corresponding to the need of another man’s essential nature. ... Our products would be so many mirrors in which we saw reflected our essential nature.'" (Comment on James Mill)

In this work, written in 1844, Marx attempts to show how alienation arises from private labour, from commodity production: Objectification refers to the way in which one person treats another person as an object and not as a human being. ... It is proposed that this article be deleted, because of the following concern: Limited information sources, article is object for nothing but original research If you can address this concern by improving, copyediting, sourcing, renaming or merging the page, please edit this page and do so. ... For other uses, see Human nature (disambiguation). ... Commodity is a term that refers to goods that are mined or agriculturally produced. ...

'Let us review the various factors as seen in our supposition: My work would be a free manifestation of life, hence an enjoyment of life. Presupposing private property, my work is an alienation of life, for I work in order to live, in order to obtain for myself the means of life. My work is not my life.' (Comment on James Mill)

The significance of alienation in Marx's thought

Alienation - a concept from Hegel and Feuerbach

Alienation can be seen as a foundational claim in Marxist theory. Hegel described a succession of historic stages in the human Geist or Spirit, by which that Spirit progresses towards perfect self-understanding and away from ignorance. In Marx's reaction to Hegel, these two idealist poles are replaced with materialist categories: spiritual ignorance becomes alienation, and the transcendent end of history becomes man's realisation of his species-being (i.e., our triumph over alienation; the establishment of an objectively better society). This teleological reading of Marx, which was supported in particular by Alexandre Kojève before World War II, has been criticized by Louis Althusser, in particular in his latter writings concerning "random materialism" (matérialisme aléatoire). Althusser claimed that this reading of Marx, which made of the proletariat the subject of history (as in Georg Lukacs' famous History and Class Consciousness, published in 1923 after the fall of the Hungarian Soviet Republic), was in fact tainted by Hegel's idealism and, more generally, by the "philosophy of the subject" that had been in force for five centuries, which was criticized as none other than the "bourgeois ideology of philosophy". Geist - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia /**/ @import /skins-1. ... This article primarily focuses on the general concepts of matter and existence. ... In philosophy, transcendental/transcendence, has three different but related primary meanings, all of them derived from the words literal meaning (from Latin), of climbing or going beyond: one that originated in Ancient philosophy, one in Medieval philosophy and one in modern philosophy. ... Philosophy of History is an area of philosophy concerning the eventual significance, if any, of human history. ... Teleology (telos: end, purpose) is the philosophical study of design, purpose, directive principle, or finality in nature or human creations. ... Alexandre Kojève (Александр Владимирович Кожевников, Aleksandr Vladimirovič Koževnikov) (April 28, 1902 – June 4, 1968) was a Marxist and Hegelian political philosopher, who had a substantial influence on Twentieth-Century French Philosophy. ... Combatants Allied powers: China France Great Britain Soviet Union United States and others Axis powers: Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Chiang Kai-shek Charles de Gaulle Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tōjō Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead: 33,000... Louis Pierre Althusser (Pronunciation: altuË¡seʁ) (October 16, 1918 – October 23, 1990) was a Marxist philosopher. ... Subject (philosophy) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia /**/ @import /skins-1. ... Georg Lukács (April 13, 1885 - June 4, 1971) was a Hegelian and Marxist philosopher and literary critic. ... The Hungarian Soviet Republic was the political regime in Hungary from March 21, 1919 until the beginning of August of the same year, and it is the second Communist (or soviet) government in world history, after the one in Russia (1917). ...


Alienation and Marx's theory of history

In The German Ideology Marx writes that 'things have now come to such a pass that the individuals must appropriate the existing totality of productive forces, not only to achieve self-activity, but, also, merely to safeguard their very existence' [1]. In other words, Marx seems to think that, while humans do have a need for self-activity (self-actualisation, the opposite of alienation), this will be of secondary historical relevance. This is because he thinks that capitalism will increase the immiseration of the proletariat so rapidly that they will be forced to make the social revolution just to stay alive - they probably wouldn't even get to the point of worrying that much about self-activity. This doesn't mean, though, that tendencies against alienation only manifest themselves once other needs are amply met, only that they are of reduced importance. The work of Raya Dunayevskaya and others in the tradition of Marxist humanism drew attention to manifestations of the desire for self-activity even among workers struggling for more basic goals. The proletariat (from Latin proles, offspring) is a term used to identify a lower social class; a member of such a class is proletarian. ... The term social revolution may have different connotations depending on the speaker. ... Raya Dunayevskaya (1910 – 1987) was a Ukrainian born immigrant to the United States of America who was a member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). ... The term Marxist humanism has as its foundation Marxs conception of the alienation of the labourer as he advances it in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844--an alienation that is born of a capitalist system in which the worker no longer functions as (what Marx terms) a...


Alienation and class

In this passage, from The Holy Family, Marx says that capitalists and proletarians are equally alienated, but experience their alienation in different ways:

The propertied class and the class of the proletariat present the same human self-estrangement. But the former class feels at ease and strengthened in this self-estrangement, it recognizes estrangement as its own power and has in it the semblance of a human existence. The class of the proletariat feels annihilated in estrangement; it sees in it its own powerlessness and the reality of an inhuman existence. It is, to use an expression of Hegel, in its abasement the indignation at that abasement, an indignation to which it is necessarily driven by the contradiction between its human nature and its condition of life, which is the outright, resolute and comprehensive negation of that nature. Within this antithesis the private property-owner is therefore the conservative side, the proletarian the destructive side. From the former arises the action of preserving the antithesis, from the latter the action of annihilating it. (Chapter 4 of The Holy Family- see under Critical Comment No. 2)

Further reading

Alienation is a theme in Marx's writing that runs right throughout his work, from the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, to Capital - especially the unpublished sections entitled Results of the Immediate Process of Production. An online archive of almost everything written by Marx can be found at the Marxists Internet Archive- at which you can search for 'alienation'. Another good way to approach Marx's original writing is through a good collection - Karl Marx: selected writings (second edition), edited by David Mclellan clearly indicates sections on alienation in its contents. Key works on alienation include the Comment on James Mill and The German Ideology. An example of characterisation of alienation in Marx's later work (which differs strongly in emphasis, if not in actual content from earlier presentations) can be found in the Grundrisse. Marx's work can sometimes be daunting - many people would recommend reading a short introduction (such as one of those indicated below) to the concept first.


Secondary literature

  • Introductory article on alienation - from the Encyclopaedia of the Marxists Internet Archive.
  • Short article on alienation - drawing mainly on the earlier works (from Lewis A. Coser, Masters of Sociological Thought: Ideas in Historical and Social Context, 2nd Ed., Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1977: 50-53.)
  • G.A. Cohen (1977) discusses alienation and fetishism in Ch. VI of Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence.
  • Part I: Alienation of Karl Marx by Allen W. Wood in the Arguments of the Philosophers series provides a good introduction to this concept.
  • Why Read Marx Today? by Jonathan Wolff provides a simple introduction to the concept. It is especially clear differentiating the various types of alienation which Marx discusses.
  • Marx and human nature: refutation of a legend by Norman Geras, a brief book, contains much of relevance to alienation by studying the closely related concept of human nature.
  • Alienation: Marx's conception of man in capitalist society by Bertell Ollman. Selected chapters can be read online but you should do it [2].
  • Alienation and Techne in the Thought of Karl Marx, by Kostas Axelos
  • Marx's theory of alienation by Istvan Meszaros
  • Shlomo Avineri, Hegel's Philosophy of Right and Hegel's Theory of the Modern State
  • Lukacs' The Young Hegel and Origins of the Concept of Alienation by Istvan Meszaros.
  • Ludwig Feuerbach at www.marxists.org
  • The Evolution of Alienation: Trauma, Promise, and the Millenium, edited by Lauren langman abd Devorah K. Fishman. Lanham, 2006.
  • "Does Alienation Have a Future? Recapturing the Core of Critical Theory," by Harry Dahms (in Langman and Fishman, The Evolution of Alienation, 2006).
  • Marx's Theory of Alienation by István Mészáros
  • Alienation in American Society by Fritz Pappenheim, Monthly Review Volume 52, Number 2

This article needs to be wikified. ... Gerald Allen Cohen, (born 1941) is the Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory, All Souls College, Oxford. ... István Mészáros (born 1930) is a Hungarian Marxist philosopher, and Professor Emeritus at the University of Sussex. ... Shlomo Avineri is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. ... There are very few or no other articles that link to this one. ...

See also

In Marxist theory, commodity fetishism is an inauthentic state of social relations, said to arise in complex capitalist market systems, where social relationships are confused with their medium, the commodity. ... Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach (July 28, 1804 - September 13, 1872), German philosopher, fourth son of the eminent jurist Paul Johann Anselm Ritter von Feuerbach, was born in Landshut, Bavaria and died in Rechenberg (since 1899 a district of Nuremberg). ... This page is a candidate for speedy deletion. ... Georg Lukács (April 13, 1885 - June 4, 1971) was a Hegelian and Marxist philosopher and literary critic. ... Class consciousness is a category of Marxist theory, referring to the self-awareness of a social class, its capacity to act in its own rational interests, or measuring the extent to which an individual is conscious of the historical tasks their class (or class allegiance) sets for them. ... Reification (German: Verdinglichung, literally: ver-, over + ding: thing + -lichung: as english, -ify) is the consideration of an abstraction or an object as if it had human or living existence and abilities; at the same time it implies the thingification of social relations. ...

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