Lecture 2: Marx’s theory of Alienation
General background on Alienation
a) Hegel: German Ideologist and philosopher
He called the dialectic of master and slaves.
Karl Marx applied what Hegel said.
Talks about classes in a society: makes distinction between mental labour (master
perform–higher wages) Vs. manual labour (slaves/servants perform–working/lower
―Masters are master in intellectual and slave in physical world‖ & ―slaves are masters
in practical and slaves in intellectual world‖.
Positive: the more you own, less physical labour you do, wealthy, consume
lots of material, make profit, speak different languages- education, and acquire
lot of knowledge.
Negative: become slavish, have knowledge but not practical knowledge (high
intellectual knowledge, low practical knowledge), dependent on other people
for food, shelter etc., if own a factory – know how to be a boss but don’t know
how to function or fix it. Vulnerable, perish, don’t know how to survive on
Conclusion: real master- someone who is independent. Human master is
completely dependent on other people, not self-sufficient, ignorant.
Manual labour (slaves in terms of physical world):
Positive: lot of practical knowledge, lower intellectual knowledge, direct
relationship with mediate world. If they revolt for long-period of time…they’ll
survive, servants have the power (in reality)—control basic aspects that needs
society to run. Eg. Transportation, food supplies etc. If servants take away their
labour-system will collapse.
Negative: identity is underdeveloped because dependent on the masters, no
time to read – illiterate, reduced to being a mere physical being – Karl Marx
called them animals.
Conclusion: need to find a way to harmonize mastery and slavery. For
democracy to work, people should have some practical knowledge. Everyone
should have access to intellectual knowledge. Everyone should be both
―master‖ and ―slaves‖. Still society is based on masters and servants
(patriarchy, gender etc.)
Types and dimensions (when you have all 4 dimensions together, high level of alienation)
Dimension #1: Alienation from the Product:
Loss of reality
2 sides to human action:
We make and do things and putting it out in social world
It will come back to us (product returns) …object subject Karl Marx said – objectification is not a bad thing. You can’t escape being objectified.
We define ourselves as human beings by externalizing ourselves. World we live in =
world we produce. This is human nature.
Marx: we make our world. ―We are doers and makers‖. It’s in work and making
things, we become alienated. We become de-realized.
Karl said: the more you objectify yourself, the better the result will be. Example: the
more you objectify yourself, the better your paper will be.
Humans produce and objectify stuff.
The more we are reflective on our society, the more advance we become.
System of ownership
We don’t get to keep the things we make – we sell our labour for the wages –
products/goods now belong to someone else – this is alienation.
Wages decrease, workers become more like animals.
We create stuff that belongs to others.
We externalize with them, we are identified with them but we are alienated.
Example of how we are alienated: Oshawa – wrong to drive a car other than
general motor car because they are produced there