The world we live in isfull of contradictions, we have food that we have produced by using modern technology yet there are nations that starve to death. He named this theory as a theory of alienation, in this theory he explained that human behaviors that lie behind impersonal forces basically dominate the society.He explained that the world we live in today may seem natural but it is the result of past human activities. Marx showed that not only the activities of people shape the society but also society shape the people.
He explained how people are both “world determined” and “world producing” at the same time. Unlike other people like Hegel and Feuerbach, he said that alienation was not rooted in religion, morals, and values but rather in the material world. He also explained alienation as something that is related to loss of control regarding the labor. In Marx, theory labor played an important role (Cox). Alienation can be of basic four types:
- Alienation of worker from product
The worker is paid less and has no concern about the product that he makes. He is not able to ever use his own product because it is either too expensive for him or is simply out of reach. For example, a person who works at a shoe factory is not able to afford shoes because they are too expensive for him.
- Alienation of worker from act of producing
The person has no control over the conditions that he is working in, mental conditions as well as physical conditions. For example, a worker is given a room with dim light and low temperature and is still asked to increase the efficiency.
- Alienation from fellow human being
A human look at their fellow human as superior or inferior. They are linked with each other through objects rather than social settings. For example, the tailor is linked to the consumer as a person who stitches the clothes as so he is considered inferior.
- Alienation of worker from human nature
They are the people who cannot see the consequences of their actions in long run, their personal interest is not incorporated in the work that they do. For example use of products that increase global warming and deplete the ozone layer (Mészáros).
In feudal societies, Land was the source of production and was seen as a symbol of power and men use to see themselves not just as independent individuals but in relation to the land. This process was described in the philosophical and economical manuscript by Marx. The first born inherit the land, like the throne. Marx explained how fate is not in the hand of man but the circumstances that he is born in. Peasants took and step and started working on their own, just enough for their own needs. Marx explained that although social relationship existed but dominate and subordinate relationship overshadow the social relations most of the time (Cox).
Feudalism is completely different from capitalism, in capitalism first time the concept of money was given, a concept that anything can be bought and sold for money. This gave rise to another class, a class of landless labors who were entangled in a new form of labor called wage labor. This denies the direct access of mean of production as well as survival. Capitalism brought a revolution is a feudal world, changing and challenging many concepts like power, time and worth were changed. This brought a chaos, men were now a slave of their own doing. They were not masters as they were once, they were now bound.
This concept was welcomed at first because labor realized that they were masters of their own doing, this was the same time when workers were not paid in money but soon great repression proved them wrong explaining that the production belongs to the people who own the factories and so they were paid in the form of money. This gave the concept that labors were not a product and so they can’t be sold in the market. Workers were replaced by machines and so Marx compared craftsman to machines (Essay).
Four aspects of alienation
According to Marx, there are four aspects of alienation that paved the way for capitalism.
Product of labor
The first element is the product of labor. In other societies the worker produces the product and use it or sell it according to his own use but in capitalism Marx explained that worker is isolated from his product because he does not own the product, only the capitalist own that product, so no matter how hard the worker has worked in order to produce the product he can’t use it even when he needs it the most. (Essay)
This is the second element, this actually points out the lack of control in production. He said that we have no control over the conditions we work in neither physically nor mentally. So this uncontrolled condition decreases our working capacity. The most important things are that the work conditions are controlled by non-other than capitalism, they try to maximize the efficiency by exerting pressure on the worker. This pressure destroys the talent and individuality of the labor. Now the modern methods have further fragmented the labor process.
This has further decreased the value and increase the hatred towards the white color job. This has also strengthened the monopoly of control over the labor. Everything is predetermined, from the hours of working to the place we work in and the amount we receive, the human is treated as machines. In this world full of machines, the qualities of human are just considered as errors, on the other hand, machine adjusts in this mechanical world very well (Thompson).
Fellow human beings
The third element explained that we are different from our fellow being. This difference is not natural but created later, from hate, dislikes, division of labor and class. He said that we are different from the people who steal our rights and control the production. He said that we are connected and touched by our fellow beings every day. the clothes that we wear, food that we eat and homes that we live in are made by our fellow men, this makes us feel connected, what divides us is that we refer people to the objects rather than attributes. These objects ivied us, we see each other as superior and inferior rather than equal. Marx said that mass production of goods produces needs, this does not make us powerful but exploit us for their own interest and profit. This situation has changed us and we now only see people in the form of loss and profit, superior and subordinate etc. (Thompson).
This is the fourth element, Marx named our species as being because of this element. He said that due to capitalism the work we do is not because we want to do it, there is no passion and interest, it’s just forced labor. The work we do, no longer bears any relation to our person’s interests, though the division of labor has helped in increasing the wealth the workers, the true owners of this wealth are deprived of their right. He explained that we, human have the ability to work together collectively. We know how to plan our work but this division into class and ownership has ruined us, so although we can plan our work but we are unable to control the nature and see the consequences (Mészáros).
Marx repeatedly rendered money as a universal pimp. He explained that money is a product through which all other products are balanced and still represented. He explained how capitalism and its development brought in more problems of how to evaluate different services on the basis of money. The relationship between the labor and his product has now developed into just a materialistic relation. Money has become a mediator between the man and his desires, the value of money has masked every other valuable thing. People who explain money can’t buy everything still, can’t deny the power of money.
Money masks the aesthetic as well as a common sense of an individual that is involved in this process, he ignores important things just for money. Marx explained that our sense of possession is so strong that we appreciate things only when it works for us when it satisfies us, money has sunk deep into our individuality and personality (Mészáros)
Cox, Judy. “AN INTRODUCTION TO MARX’S THEORY OF ALIENATION.” quarterly journal of the Socialist Workers Party (1998). <http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/isj79/cox.htm>.
Essay, Monalisa M. Alienation: Definition, Nature, Marx Theory of Alienation and Other Details. 2016. <http://www.politicalsciencenotes.com/essay/alienation-definition-nature-marx-theory-of-alienation-and-other-details/1283>.
Mészáros, István. Marx’s theory of alienation. Aakar Books, 2006.
Thompson, Lanny Ace. “The development of Marx’s concept of alienation: An introduction.” Mid-American Review of Sociology (1979): 23-38.
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