Marx’s theory of alienation
- Alienation is the transformation of people’s own labour into a power which rules
them as if by a kind of natural or supra-human law. The origin of alienation is
commodity fetishism – the belief that inanimate things (commodities) have
human powers (i.e., value) able to govern the activity of human beings.
- refers to the separation of things that naturally belong together, or to put
antagonism between things that are properly in harmony. In the concept's most
important use, it refers to the social alienation of people from aspects of their
- He believed that alienation is a systematic result of capitalism.
- For Marx, the main aspect of alienation is the separation of work or labour from
the worker, and separation of the products of labour from the worker. Both end up
being taken by employers and controlled by them, dominating the worker.
- Marx uses alienation in several ways. Initially, and as part of his historical and
philosophical concerns, Marx referred to religion whereby "God ... had usurped
man's own position."
- great contribution in the Manuscripts was to show how alienation is rooted in
human labour and the material world. That is, it is not initially an individual
problem or state of mind, but is an objective, observable feature of the manner in
which human labour is organized and exercised.
- According to Marx, alienation refers to the split between a human's existence
(material) and essence (soul).
- When life becomes a means of life, which means that a person's existence and
essence are split, man (the waged worker) is alienated. A worker is alienated in
four aspects. The first is the alienation from his products. The more a worker
produces, the less inner world is left for him. Therefore, he "alienates the
products of his material activity in the form of commodity and money." (Petrovic,
1963) The second is the alienation from his production process. He alienates his
labor activity because this activity is not free and does not belong to himself, that
is, he cannot have control over his productive activity by his will and
consciousness. Put in a more vivid way, "He is at home when he is not working,
and when he is working he is not at home."(Marx, 1844) The third is the
alienation from his essence, which is the self-alienation. As I mentioned above,
Marx believes that man's essence is to produce. A worker uses his labor not for
producing but for earning money; he is acquisitive but not productive. The fourth
is the alienation from other men-his species beings. Economic growth and
prosperity do not increase workers' own income, because capitalists will set the
wage as the subsistence of workers strictly. The wealth that workers produce is
not relevant to their own livings.
- Based on these arguments, Marx contends that the dehumanized workers are
the sacrifice of Capitalism and he believes the Communist society, a society with
no private property, is the only way to provide human freedom and
independence. He contends that with the emergence of the consciousness of the
proletarian class, the state will disappear and the "true human history" will begin. - (1) Marx argues that the worker is alienated from his laboring activity, because it
is not the expression of himself but rather a means to prolonging his physical
- (2) The worker is alienated from the product of his labor, because it belongs to
the capitalist and so the worker’s labor increases the power of the capitalist
whose interest is in so many ways opposed to the worker’s.
- (3) The worker is alienated from nature.
- (4) Most importantly, he is alienated from the human essence, and so from his
fellow human beings
In On the Jewish Question Marx calls for “the emancipation of society from
Judaism.” What is the underlying theme of this essay?
Marx claims that emancipation is divided into two forms: political and human. He makes it clear that human is the more
important of the two, while political is the more easily achieved. Political emancipation, to Marx, is the point at which man is
free with relation to the state. For example, political emancipation is reached when all men within a state are treated equally
under the laws of the state. This would be in contrast to the Germany of Marx's day, where Jews has special laws restricting their
political and legal participation. Marx was here speaking mainly about the state and religion, and thus claimed that political
emancipation was not sufficient because it merely deferred religion from the state to society. Religion c